Some insights on Cal from beat writer Jeff Faraudo.
Continuing our weekly get-to-know-your-opponent series, here are five question and five answers from Cal beat writer Jeff Faraudo of the the Bay Area News Group. You can follow Jeff on Twitter and read his work online here. Many thanks to Jeff for his insights on Cal.
1. Cal is 3-0 for the first time in four years. What’s the feeling down there about this team here Sonny Dykes’ third season?
There is growing optimism, but Cal fans – by their nature – seem to always expect the sky to fall. So they are hopeful but probably want a little more evidence before they are completely convinced. This week could go a long way toward selling Cal fans on their team. They all remember what happened last year when the Huskies came to Berkeley and whipped the Bears 31-7.
2. Two years ago, the Bears had one of the worst defenses in conference history, allowing 45.9 points per game. Last year, the numbers were a bit better, and this year there seems to some encouraging signs. What’s working on defense … and where are there still some leaks?
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Cal’s defense against the run is improved, although it doesn’t show statistically because Texas dual-threat quarterback Jerrod Heard made them look silly at times Saturday, running for 163 yards. As good as young Jake Browning is, the Bears will be happy they don’t have to chase a quarterback with 4.2 speed in the 40. Pass defense remains a work in progress, and depth at cornerback is an issue. But this team at least makes some plays on defense – something we rarely saw the past two seasons. They just need to make a lot more of them.
3. Jared Goff is having another fine season, and pro scouts seem to be drooling over him. How good has he been so far this season?
Goff has been terrific. He’s completed at least 70 percent of his attempts in every game, has nine touchdowns and his only two interceptions deflected off the hands of his receiver. He is decisive in the pocket and is tougher to sack because he gets rid of the ball quickly. Moves around well in tight spaces and continues to see the field. And he has a great comfort level with his receivers. He even ran 12 and 14 yards for two first downs last week and punted four times out of the shotgun.
4. With Goff throwing the ball, it’s easy to overlook Cal’s rushing attack. Daniel Lasco might be the most underrated running back in the Pac-12, and all Khalfani Muhammad is doing is averaging 12.1 yards per carry. How important has the development of the run game been for the offense? Is there an effort there to be more balanced this season?
Cal rushed for 280 yards at Texas – most ever in the Dykes era at Cal — despite the absence of Lasco (hip muscle strain), who is likely to return this week. Muhammad, a former California high school sprint champion, finally is translating that speed to the football field and played his best game at Texas with 164 yards. Sophomore Vic Enwere, a 230-pounder, also has been effective. Still, the Bears struggled to run the ball in the fourth quarter at Texas, allowing the Longhorns to rally from a 21-point hole before losing 45-44. Dykes said being able to close out a win with the running game is the next step for his offense.
5. What do you see as the Bears’ biggest advantage against UW? Biggest disadvantage?
Cal’s experience should be an advantage. Goff has played 27 games to just three for Browning. The Bears’ receiving corps is mostly seniors and juniors, and the offensive line is stronger and more mature. But the Bears still must deal with the fact that the Huskies whipped them at the line of scrimmage a year ago. A lot of talent left for the NFL, but Dykes said the Huskies appear to be playing effectively in the same defensive scheme with new players.