Though a focus on fundamentals is sometimes considered boring, fundamentals are the foundation upon which success is built. In football, mastering fundamentals allows a player to react correctly and instinctually in the most difficult situations, enhancing their chances for success. Jared Goff's fundamentals - footwork especially - were on full display on Saturday night, allowing him to enter a zone down the stretch of the game where he appeared unstoppable. Specifically, Goff's fundamentals allowed him to consistently avoid and defeat Arizona State's onslaught of pressure. This was never more clear than on his spectacular completion to Chad Hansen on Cal's game winning drive.
First, let us take a look at basic quarterback fundamentals against pressure. There are many ways to teach a quarterback to evade pressure, but when I teach quarterbacks, I like to simplify pressure as coming from four positions (assume a right handed quarterback): (1) to your back shoulder from your front side (a pass rusher running towards the quarterback's right shoulder from the offense's right side), (2) to your front foot of your front side (a pass rusher running towards the quarterback's left foot from the offense's right side), (3) to your back shoulder from your back side (a pass rusher running towards the quarterback's right shoulder from the offense's left side), or (4) to your front foot of your back side (a pass rusher running towards the quarterback's left foot from the offense's left side).
The rules for escaping are as follows (again, assume a right handed quarterback): (1) back shoulder from your front side, step up in the pocket and escape to the right if necessary; (2) front foot of your front side, step back and escape to the right; (3) back shoulder from your back side, step up on the pocket and escape left if necessary; (4) front foot of your back side, step back and spin while losing ground to the left side.
On the following play, Goff executed (2), then (1), then (3), all the while keeping his eyes down field. The play looks spectacular, and it was - but it was the result of thousands and thousands and thousands of repetitions that CAUSED Goff to react correctly. I emphasize CAUSED because it was not a conscious choice - Goff's reactions are so well trained that there was no option to do anything else - the fundamentals had become instincts.
A lesson to young players: "boring" makes great in football. Joe Montana spent countless hours dropping back and "evading" pressure - by himself and with no ball. Jerry Rice spent countless hours running routes - by himself and with no ball. Every position can do so - getting out of stances, making moves against air, over and over and over again. It pays off.
As we all know, many scouts consider Goff to be this year's top draft eligible quarterback. When those scouts analyze his positive attributes, this may be the first play they show. Poise in the pocket at key times, the ability to defeat pressure while maintaining vision down the field, and instinctive footwork are traits that define high level pocket quarterback play. Those traits can only be achieved through a constant focus on fundamentals. In this game, those traits powered what may have been Goff's most impressive outing yet, and drove the Golden Bears to victory.