BERKELEY — Jared Goff admitted his confidence was a bit shaken when the California freshman quarterback was benched in the first quarter of last week’s loss to No. 2 Oregon.
Goff, who began his college career by becoming just the second player in school history to throw for more than 400 yards in back-to-back games, fumbled twice in the rain and completed only 3 of 7 pass attempts before Golden Bears coach Sonny Dykes made the switch to redshirt freshman Zach Kline.
The two quarterbacks split time with Cal’s first-team offense in practice this week, but Dykes said Goff will be back in the lineup Saturday when the Bears (1-3, 0-1 Pac-12) host Washington State (3-2, 1-1).
“It took me a day to get my confidence back,” Goff said. “Sunday was a little rough for me. But after that I was fine.”
Before his stumbles against the Ducks, Goff had been the one bright spot in an otherwise rocky start to Dykes’ first season at Cal.
Despite not playing the final three quarters against Oregon, Goff is still seventh in the nation in passing and is third in the Pac-12 in completions per game.
Dykes has not ruled out using both quarterbacks against Washington State but said he is satisfied with the way Goff responded after getting benched.
“He had a good body of work thus far other than the beginning of the Oregon game,” Dykes aid. “I just wanted to see how he responded. You never know with an 18-year-old kid how he’s going to handle when things don’t go his way.”
Here are five things to watch when the Bears host the Cougars:
Old friends, new rivalry
Dykes and Washington State coach Mike Leach have a long history together dating back to 1997 when both were assistant coaches at Kentucky. Dykes was also the receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator at Texas Tech from 2000-06 when Leach was the head coach of the Red Raiders. The two remain close friends and Dykes credits Leach with teaching him the nuances of the ‘Air Raid’ offense Cal currently uses. The most important lesson Leach taught him, however, was about treating players. “Mike doesn’t put on airs and I’ve always respected that,” Dykes said. “The biggest thing (was) just teaching me about being authentic. Players can see through bull and there’s no bull with him.”
The Bears have won eight straight in the series between the two conference rivals, matching an eight-game streak they had against the Cougars from 1920-29. Cal last lost to Washington State in 2002 — when Goff was 7 years old. Leach, however, got the edge on Cal in 2004 when Texas Tech beat the then-fourth-ranked Bears in the Holiday Bowl.
Part of Cal’s problems defensively have come from a lack of a pass rush. The Bears had just one sack in the back-to-back blowout losses to Oregon and Ohio State, and have just four total all season. That could change this week against Washington State, even though the Cougars have allowed just nine sacks in five games. Three of Cal’s first four opponents have featured running quarterbacks, but Washington State QB Connor Halliday is more of a traditional drop-back passer.
Air raid defense?
As much success as the Cougars have had throwing the ball this season, they’ve been equally impressive in defending the pass. Twice this season — against Auburn and USC — Washington State has allowed fewer than 100 yards in the air. Overall, the Cougars are giving up just 159 yards passing per game. Cal quarterbacks, on the other hand, are averaging 373 yards.
Kicker vs. kicker
The game features two of the Pac-12’s top kickers in Cal’s Vincenzo D’Amato and Washington State’s Andrew Furney. D’Amato, who has made nine of 10 field goal attempts this season, leads the conference and is third nationally in field goals made, including a season-high 46-yarder in the rain against Oregon last week. Furney has made five of six tries and hit the game-winner in Washington State’s 10-7 win over USC earlier this season. Furney is also second on the Cougars career list for field goal percentage.