Welcome to Bruins Nation’s preview of the U.C. Berkeley Golden Bear offense. For the second straight week, the UCLA Bruins football team will play on Thursday night on national television. After last Thursday night’s debacle at The Farm, UCLA will resume play against U.C. Berkeley at the Rose Bowl on October 22, with a 6 p.m. PT kickoff. Although both teams are coming off losses last week, the Bruins are trending down while the Golden Bears are trending up. #4 Utah beat Cal by 6 points at home, while UCLA was really never in the game at Stanford. The Golden Bears are ranked in the top 20. UCLA is outside the top 25. How does the Cal offense match up with a UCLA defense that is rife with injuries, but has also been under-performing even with adjusted expectations due to such injuries?
U.C. Berkeley is 12th in the nation in total offense, averaging 517.7 yards per game. On average, 162.3 of those yards are on the ground, good for 77th in the nation. The Golden Bears, however, are 8th in passing offense under junior, Jared Goff, with an average of 355.3 yards per game. UCLA is 67th in total defense, yielding an average of 391.8 yards per game. UCLA’s rushing defense is an abysmal 113th in the nation, allowing an average of 215.7 yards per game. UCLA is 20th in passing yards allowed, yielding only 176.2 yards per game.
Based solely on the stats, it appears that this is a good match-up for UCLA. U.C. Berkeley’s strength is its passing game, which is also UCLA strength on defense (if UCLA's DBs would learn to read the eyes of the opposition receivers and turn around to make plays on the ball, the passing defense could be even better). Statistically, the Golden Bears appear to be weaker at rushing the ball, and rushing defense has been UCLA's Achilles heel.
Like Josh Rosen this season, Jared Goff started as a true freshman back in 2013. The new Head Coach at the time, Sonny Dykes, saw something in Goff and decided to start him from the get go. That is paying dividends now. Although Goff had good numbers (3,508 yards passing, 18 TDs and 10 INTS), the Golden Bears went 1-11 in 2013. Last season, Cal fell just short of a bowl bid, going 5-7. Goff started every game and had a fine season, throwing for 3,973 yards, 35 touchdowns, with just 7 INTs. This season, Goff is on pace for roughly the same amount of yards and touchdowns as last season, but has already thrown 9 picks. Goff’s passer rating has steadily increased each season. Although he can run, Goff is a pocket passer.
Chase Forrest, out of Mater Dei High School, is listed second on the depth chart. Forrest redshirted last year and had some playing time in U.C. Berkeley’s blowout of FCS Grambling State in Strawberry Canyon. Forrest was 10-18 with a TD and an INT. Forrest also threw one pass (incomplete) in the Golden Bears’ rout of SDSU.
Goff is the leader of the offense. As he goes, Cal goes. Despite UCLA’s defensive ranking against the pass, the DBs have not looked good for several weeks. If guys like Jaleel Wadood, Tahaan Goodman, Ishmael Adams, and Marcus Rios (who had a HUGE pick to seal last year’s game against U.C. Berkeley) don’t play big on Thursday, it could be a long night for the Bruins.
Four U.C. Berkeley running backs have in excess of 30 carries this season. Sophomore, Vic Enwere, leads the team in carries, with 63, gaining 290 yards on those carries, for an average of 4.6 YPC. Enwere, at 6’1" 230 lbs., is Cal’s goal line back, with 5 TDs. Khalfani Muhammed, a junior, leads the Golden Bears in rushing yards with 375, on 43 carries, an average of 8.7 YPC. Listed at 5’9," 170 lbs., Muhammad presents a totally different package than Enwere. Senior Daniel Lasco has 169 yards with two touchdowns, and sophomore Tre Watson has 137 yards and two TDs.
Although statistically, U.C. Berkeley does not appear to have solid ground game (at 77th in the nation in rushing yards), this is largely a result of Sonny Dykes "pass first" offense. Cal has a number of solid backs and, although it would go against his offensive philosophy, Dykes could alter his typical game plan to feature a more run-heavy attack, in order to take advantage of UCLA’s weakness defending the running game.
Wide Receivers/Tight End
Six Cal wide receivers have caught touchdown passes this season. Junior Kenny Lawlor has emerged as Goff’s favorite target this season at the "Z" position, with 34 catches for 465 yards and eight touchdowns. Senior Trevor Davis plays the "X," snaring 15 balls for 342 yards, a whopping 22.8 yard average. Look for him to go deep. At the "H" position is senior Bryce Treggs, who seems like he has been playing for a decade. Treggs has 18 catches for 277 yards, and 2 touchdowns.
Although listed as a tight end, senior Stephen Anderson plays the "Y" position (like Thomas Duarte), and has 23 grabs for 297 yards. Anderson has not found the end zone this season.
Jared Goff has a stable of very capable receivers. He likes to spread the ball around. UCLA will need to generate some pass rush and force bad decisions. I don’t see a lot of "coverage sacks" in this game, so Coach Tom Bradley will need to work some magic with the group he has at his disposal.
The Golden Bears start two seniors and three juniors on the offensive line. Redshirt junior center, Dominic Granado, Jr. is in his first season atop the U.C. Berkeley depth chart. Maybe Kenny Clark can force some bad snaps like he did in the Arizona game. Jordan Rigsbee, a senior, slots in at right guard. Rigsbee has a ton of experience and has started every game of his career. He’s played left guard, right guard, and right tackle throughout his career. Chris Borrayo, a junior, should start at left guard and, before this season, started 16 games in the prior two seasons. The only game he missed last season was the UCLA tilt.
Junior Steven Moore should start at right tackle. Prior to this season, Moore played in all 24 games of his freshman and sophomore seasons, starting 23 of those games. Senior Brian Farley will protect Jared Goff’s blindside at left tackle. Aside from the center, Granado, Farley has the least amount of experience of U.C. Berkeley’s offensive lineman, starting only two games (in 2013) at right tackle. Farley is very tall at 6’7", which may create pass rushing matchup in favor of Deon Hollins.
This game is a toss-up in my book. Maybe I have "Battered Bruin Syndrome," but the last two performances by the UCLA football team have not inspired any confidence. Although the statistics can be read to match up in favor of UCLA, the same could be said of the statistics before the Arizona State game, and we all know how that game turned out. The defense has to step up, pure and simple. I’m not sure if they are up to the task of stopping a Sonny Dykes’ offense led by a very experienced quarterback, and which has considerable depth (although no real stars) at the running back and wide receiver positions.
Nevertheless, I will be watching on Thursday night and rooting hard for a Bruin victory.
That’s it for the preview of the U.C. Berkeley offense. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below
And, as always GOOOOO BRUINS!!!