Coming off a loss is never easy (especially when it’s Southern Cal), but the Bruins still have one more game to play. UCLA takes on Berkeley this Saturday at 4:00, and both teams have an identical 4-7 record. At this point, depending on how the bowl committee sees things, both teams might be fighting for one last chance at an invite to a lower tier bowl game. Let’s take a look at the Bears’ offense.
Senior Davis Webb transferred from Texas Tech this year and was touted as one of the top quarterback prospects for the 2017 NFL draft. He replaces first round draft pick Jared Goff, who is finally getting decent playing time with the Los Angeles Rams. Depending on who’s board you check, Webb is right about in the third or fourth position at this point. He is an All-American candidate that is on watch lists for the Maxwell Award honoring the nation's top college football player as well as the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and the Manning Award recognizing the top quarterback. Webb earned Holiday Bowl Offensive MVP honors in 2013 after Texas Tech’s route of then #14 Arizona State. Unfortunately, he was plagued by injuries his sophomore year and benched his junior year. After graduating from Texas Tech, he decided to give his football career one last shot and ended up at Cal. He had originally committed to Colorado back in January, but decided on Cal instead. According to a Fox Sports article by Bruce Feldman back in May, a big factor was Cal hiring new offensive coordinator Jake Spavital in February. Spavital is a protege of Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury, and Webb said that their systems are similar. They run many of the same plays, although the verbiage is different, and Cal’s signature “Bear Raid” offense is deal for Webb’s arm. In Mercury News in August, Head Coach Sonny Dykes said his work ethic is unparalleled. According to Webb, “...I come here every day at 7 at the latest and don’t leave until 10 or 11, so I’m prepared to play my best every Saturday … I want to make sure I have no regrets.”
Webb has a 61.2% completion percentage, and that number goes up to just over 63% when the Bears play at home. Kingsbury has said Webb has the tools to be a top-five overall NFL Draft pick because of his size, arm strength and mind. He was named a semi-finalist for the Earl Campbell Award on Tuesday, the award that goes to the outstanding Division I college football offensive player with ties to Texas who was either born in state, graduated from a Texas high school or has played at a Texas-based junior college or four-year college. Earl Campbell was known for his integrity, sportsmanship, teamwork, and tenacity to overcome obstacles in the pursuit of his goals.
Sophomore walk-on Addison Ooms out of Mater Dei High School should receive the start at center. He barely edged out veteran Dominic Granado for the starting position, and it was technique and intellect that got him the starting nod. After high school, he wasn’t getting the acknowledgement he wanted from BCS schools, even though he was racking up the accolades and played on a top-ten high school team. He contacted Coach Dykes in 2014, and was given a chance as a walk-on. During his freshman year, he played in three games, and by the end of spring ball this year, he was getting a majority of the reps. On the left, senior guard Chris Borrayo will start alongside junior tackle Aaron Cochran. Borrayo is one of four returning starting offensive lineman and actually grew up a soccer fan 20 minutes from the USC campus. You have to love the guy, because after finally getting involved in football in middle school and eventually receiving offers from several major Division I schools, he picked Cal and learned to hate Southern Cal. In a recent Bear Territory article, he says, "I don't remember the score, but I remember the ass-kicking we got my freshman year. Ever since then, the goal, every week when we play USC, is to make sure to beat the crap out of them, or die trying. It was a pretty nasty game, my freshman year, and those guys, I don't know if you guys understand anything about USC, but class is not in their name. It's just something important to me, and something that's very important to our team. When we go out against USC, we're going out to try to win." I have to respect this kid if nothing more than his hatred for the Trojans. On the right, Cal will start junior guard Dwayne Wallace and senior tackle Steven Moore. Wallace, a mid-year enrollee who began at Cal in January of 2016, is in his first season with the Bears and played with the first unit at right guard during his first spring practices. Wallace spent the previous two seasons anchoring the offensive line at Riverside City College. Moore was a preseason candidate for all national honors presented to offensive linemen including the Outland Trophy and Vince Lombardi/Rotary Award. He has started in 36 games in his career and represented Cal at Pac-12 Football Media Days along with head coach Sonny Dykes and defensive end DeVante Wilson. Since protection is in his nature, he actually wants to be a police officer upon graduation, and his desire to join the force has only strengthened in the wake of negative media attention directed at our police force. He says, “I want to be a cop people can trust and a cop who helps people.” I’m sure Jared Goff would agree, since Moore was protecting his right side for so many years.
When Davis Webb committed to Cal earlier this year, the lingering question was who was going to catch his passes? Six of Cal’s top receivers were leaving, and the cupboard was all but bare. Enter Chad Hansen, a 6'3", 205-pound pass-catching machine who has clocked a 4.41 in the 40-yard dash. He didn’t play football until his Junior year at Moorepark High School, and he only had one scholarship offer to Idaho State. Although he accepted, it turned out to be a bad decision. When Hansen wanted to transfer to a different school at a higher level, the situation turned ugly but was ultimately granted the release. After contacting numerous coaches (including those at UCLA), only Cal gave him a bite. It was a graduate assistant that saw game film and something that could be developed. The bond with Webb was instant and the rest is history. He now has 82 catches for 1,083 yards and 11 touchdowns. Freshman Demetrius Robertson has jumped right into a prominent role in his first season at Cal with 20 receptions for 338 yards and five touchdowns in his first six games games with five starts while adding eight kickoff returns for 152 yards. He surpassed Keenan Allen for the school freshman record for receptions last weekend against Stanford and now has a total of 761 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Redshirt senior Bug Rivera has 35 receptions for 347 yards and two touchdowns, and has played both running back and wide receiver in his career. Hansen and Robertson will definitely need good coverage by our secondary in order to avoid disaster. They are both quick and prone to circus catches, so proper tackling and follow through will be a must with these guys.
Yes, even the Bear Raid offense has a run game. Senior Khalfani Muhammad leads the corps, and currently has 123 carries for 711 yards and two touchdowns. At the beginning of the season, he led the team in most major categories including rushing yards, rushing yards per carry, rushing yards per game, receptions, yards receiving, touchdown receptions, total touchdowns, points, total offense, all-purpose yards , all-purpose yards per game, kickoff returns, and kickoff return yards. And that isn’t everything. His bio is a veritable Cal record book, and Muhammad also lead all active Cal players with a total of seven plays of 50 or more yards including six from the line of scrimmage. Not far behind him is junior Tre Watson. Watson has 126 rushing attempts for 631 yards and four touchdowns, and has also recorded 234 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns. They must have an offensive line that can make a lane for the run game. Huh...
With nothing to lose, I’d expect both teams to leave it all on the field. You have two quarterbacks that are potentially playing their last game and two teams with losing records that might possibly be looking for an invite to a, well, let’s face it, crappy bowl game. The difference will be in the offensive line and the run game. I believe our receivers have comparable talent, but with a run game that has all but stalled out, as I’ve said in previous weeks, this will definitely hurt us, along with the traditional dropped passes. We can’t go three and out and have our defense on the field for 45 minutes and expect success.