We caught up with Cal Golden Blogs writer boomtho to talk about tomorrow’s game between No. 18 Utah (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) and Cal (2-2, 0-1 Pac-12) at California Memorial Stadium.
Block U: Despite losing the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft in quarterback Jared Goff, the Cal offense is still flying high with Texas Tech quarterback transfer Davis Webb. How are Webb and Goff similar, and how are they different?
boomtho: Goff was a pretty transcendent talent, and it’s really a huge testament to Webb that he’s even being mentioned in the same breath.
Now onto specifics… Webb does not have the same responsibility (so some would infer ability) to make a full spectrum of adjustments at the line (new plays, run/pass option, change protections, etc). Webb doesn’t have the same touch and accuracy on intermediate balls that Goff does. Last, Webb doesn’t have the same ability to move around the pocket, make rushers miss, and deliver the ball downfield.
However, Webb does have better arm strength than Goff, and has a greater ability to hit Cal’s stable of speedy WR’s deep down the field. Webb also, while less agile/mobile in the pocket, is more of a running threat than Goff was.
Block U: Chad Hansen is leading the nation in receptions and second in the nation in receiving yards. Was this expected from him or did this come out of nowhere?
boomtho: It came completely out of nowhere. Cal lost 5 or 6 of last year’s WR’s to the NFL, so it’s understandable why Hansen didn’t really have a shot last year. However, Hansen was a pretty unheralded recruit, who started his college career at Idaho State before securing a transfer to Cal to be close to an ailing family member.
That being said, after getting a chance to shine, Hansen really looks like a complete receiver. He’s got good hands and size, runs good routes, and can accelerate past DB’s and break downfield. He also is a good blocker, which is pretty crucial to Cal having any success on the edge.
Block U: The recruiting battle for wide receiver Melquise Stovall came down to Cal and Utah with Stovall ultimately choosing the Golden Bears, how has he looked so far?
boomtho: Stovall looks great, as good as you can expect any freshman WR to look. He’s already the #3 threat on the team (behind Hansen and Robertson) and seems to have a good ability to use the space created by those two guys to get open. He hasn’t had a ton of chances to showcase the shiftiness and open-field wizardry he showed in HS, but there’s certainly time for that to develop.
Block U: Who are a few players for Cal that Utah fans should know that they might not have heard of?
boomtho: Hmm, given Utah’s solid ground game, I’ll go with some of the defensive players whose play will be crucial to slowing the Utes down. DT James Looney is a huge body who can come close to taking over games, LB’s Devante Downs and Raymond Davidson will be the players Cal hopes can fill the gaps and stop running plays from being too successful.
Block U: In last year's game, Utah running back Devontae Booker ran for over 200 yards on the Cal defense. Has their run defense improved this year?
boomtho: HAHAHAHAHAHHA…oh wait, you’re serious. Cal’s run defense is still very susceptible to potent rushing attacks – see the whole SDSU game (Donnell Pumphrey ran for 280+ yards!), the first half of Texas, and the second half to ASU.
To be fair to DC Art Kaufman, the team has actually improved statistically – after allowing 4.5YPC last year, we’re down to 4.0 this year. Still, I would expect the Utes to have more success running the ball than passing the ball.
Block U: Will Sonny Dykes still be Cal's coach in 2017?
boomtho: Yes, I believe so. He’s made amazing strides with the academics and team culture, shown a pretty great ability to pull talent from Texas and the South (even if we still are not winning at the rate we’d like in California), and has gotten the team engaged with the Cal community in a way Tedford’s team never were.
Tactically, Cal is also a mountain of debt for the Memorial Stadium retrofit/renovation and Dykes is under contract till 2019. Barring some huge collapse and reveal of skeletons in the closet, Dykes will be around next year.
Block U: What are your keys to this game for Cal to come out victorious?
boomtho: Davis Webb has to avoid costly picks (the two late picks vs ASU killed our chances), the WR’s have to win 1:1 vs physical Utah corners, and we have to do a good enough job against the running game to force some 3rd-and-mediums or 3rd-and-longs.
Block U: What is your bold prediction for the game?
boomtho: Vegas opened with Cal -1, which feels pretty optimistic given how Utah closed vs USC and how Cal faded vs ASU.
I’ll go Utah by 6, in a game that stays close well into the 4th. Hoping I’m wrong though – GO BEARS!
We want to say a big thank you to boomtho for answering all of our questions about Cal. To check out more of his stuff and much more on the Golden Bears, head over to Cal Golden Blogs.