Keegan is out for Golden Spotlight as he prepares to move back to the Bay Area, so I'm filling in with a hodge podge of the good gamefilm I could muster from Saturday's game.
First of all, you should start by reading this excellent breakdown from Cal football strategy of the reads Goff was making with the Washington defense that set up the balls-to-the-wall awesome touchdown to Bryce Treggs. Go read that and come back here.
In-game highlight: Jared Goff connects with Bryce Treggs for TD
Jared Goff to Bryce Treggs: ON TARGET for the Cal Bears.The Bears are rolling 20-7 right now, and you can check them out on Pac-12 Networks and Pac-12.com/now!Posted by Pac-12 Conference on Saturday, September 26, 2015
And now, time to gush about Jared Goff for 2000 words. Sounds like fun, doesn't it?
When you have a special player like Jared, it's crazy the type of things you can do with your offense. You can open it up, you can run new plays, and you can often let Goff take the reins and let him figure out what to do. It's what Oregon had in Marcus Mariota, it's what Stanford had in Andrew Luck, it's what Cal had a decade ago with Aaron Rodgers. Goff is on that level of excellence now. All the stats bear it out.
PFF passing grade of Jared Goff: 14.6 in 2015, 6 points higher than next QB. Marcus Mariota 2014 grade was 12.1 https://t.co/YbDyg5D0A0— Avinash Kunnath (@avinashkunnath) September 25, 2015
Per @PFF, Jared Goff is: #1 QB Rating #2 Accuracy % #1 Deep Passing #5 Under Pressure #1 Play Action #119/130 on time given in the pocket— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) September 25, 2015
We're running out of games with him. Let's see what he's grown into these past three years, shall we?
The Bear Raid high five offense: The mesh concept
One of the coolest plays from Washington was the low five touchdown CGB commenter Rose Bowl Oski pointed out (HT minesweeper for the GIF). Kenny Lawler appeared to low five Trevor Davis on his way to catching Jared Goff's Cal career-tying record touchdown to the end zone.
It might seem like a pure act of randomness, but it actually runs a little bit deeper. This is the mesh play, a staple of the Air Raid, and Davis and Lawler are high fiving each other plenty in practice because this is by design. The mesh play is dependent on this close proximity of each receiver so a defender doesn't try to sneak in and make a play inside, and so that the receiver slows up enough to avoid running into the defender and drawing a flag for an illegal pick.
The low five is a way of establishing the proper separation between the two and allow for the intended receiver (Lawler) to break free while the secondary receiver (Davis) gets in the way of Lawler's defender. You can see the Husky linebackers (all in zone coverage) waiting to pounce on a mistake from Goff, and Davis draws enough attention. Eventually one breaks contain and Lawler is left with an easy score.
Interestingly enough, this touchdown probably doesn't happen if Goff doesn't draw in Travis Feeney with even the slightest threat of running. Impeccable footwork in the pocket. And it's still amazing how Goff lofted that ball to Lawler while being wrapped up at the ankles. The football arc'ed like a frisbee.
The mesh dates back to Mike Leach's days at Texas Tech, when Leach would refine the mesh play he ran with Hal Mumme in the early Air Raid prototypes (Brian Anderson has a good review of this play at CougCenter). Dykes was of course a receivers coach of Leach's at Texas Tech, and he's incorporated those looks into his offenses at Arizona and Louisiana Tech. Here's our longtime Coug buddy Jeff Nusser explaining the concept.
And yes, we can expect to defend the mesh on Saturday to test the ability to play zone. Hopefully we perform a little better than last year.
Take what the defense gives you
Attacking on the immediate routes were a big key to Cal's success on Saturday: I wasn't able to track all the successful uses, but Washington was content to let Cal dink and dunk around the field in exchange for keeping the Bears in front of them (if it sounds familiar, remember that Washington linebacker coach Bob Gregory employed that scheme for years as Jeff Tedford's defensive coordinator). The Huskies planted their two safeties deep to prevent Goff from having too much success deep in a mainly Cover 2/3 shell, the linebackers zoned up the rest of the field, and felt like they could achieve enough pressure rushing three or four. It nearly worked.
You can see how deep the safeties are playing here, literally 12-15 yards back from where Stephen Anderson caught the football on a 10-12 yard catch. Washington respected Goff's deep ball that much.
Putting those two safeties deep took away most of the throws, but it came at a cost for Washington's defense, as the Bear Raid picked apart the middle of the field and hit the stick route with pretty solid frequency. Goff's quick release and ability to get the ball out fast negated most pass pressure and allows him to still get the majority of the throws he wanted.
The Cal offense pressured linebackers in constant mismatches with the Cal wide receiver corps, and the Bears had some of their best gains on the day that way.
Here's Darius Powe dragging down the middle of the field as Goff waits patiently for the linebackers to vacate their zones on the delayed blitz.
Goff also recognizes the man to man coverage (one of the few times the Huskies played straight up rather than zoning), waits for Ray Hudson to drag the nickel inside, and then lofts it up to Powe.
Full GIF below of the play unfolding.
Goff - very good at giving his targets YAC opportunity. Leads him perfectly on big 3rd and 5 gainer vs. delay blitz: pic.twitter.com/yTnvmdAuCH— Connor Rogers (@CRogers_NFL) September 28, 2015
Aside from Powe, it was Stephen Anderson doing most of the damage on inside routes. On this clutch 3rd down conversion, Cal ran empty set (something they did a couple of times) to put one wide receiver on a linebacker. With Washington in man-to-man coverage, Anderson drew the linebacker and Goff found him immediately for a 1st down.
Reading them and blocking them vertically
Cal didn't just run the mesh route to try and gain separation from a physical Washington secondary. They also utilized rub routes on the outside to try and get a few big plays and find holes in the Washington zone.
We used a lot of Stack on Sat - more than I remember seeing all year. Here's Hudson/Treggs to the top in Stack pic.twitter.com/5yAoAHRfa9— Nam Le (@AGuyNamedNam) September 27, 2015
Nam noticed that Cal went to a semi stack with the outside wide receiver with the inside wide receiver on both sides numerous times--something you'll often see Oregon do to gain a numbers advantage somewhere on the field and force defenders into a situation they're less comfortable with--thinking. Do they crash, do they stay, or do they drop back?
On the first play of the game, Goff read the linebackers, drew them in with the handoff, brought it back out, then went immediately to his hot read Powe for a huge gain.
The critical underrated play came on a 3rd down early in the 4th quarter, when Cal ran a little rub route out of a mini-stack formation to set the Bears up for a field goal and a two possession lead. It's not quite as cool as the high-five offense, but it's just as vital to Cal's victory.
Here, Treggs will roll to the outside while the outside receiver (either Lawler or Davis, can't quite tell) does a little jig and blows by his defender, then runs with Treggs down the sideline. He then turns to the inside and rubs off Treggs's defender to get Treggs the separation he needs to catch another dime from Goff. It's similar to mesh in that there is no (or limited) contact by the receiver on the defender, but it's enough to give Treggs the edge over the cornerback in the tight man-to-man coverage Washington is showing.
This is Bryce's calling in his offense--he's not quite as quick as Lawler or Davis to play a pure outside receiver role, but he is one of the few receivers dangerous enough to switch to outside routes from an inside position (Anderson and Powe are pretty much inside guys). He's still our most versatile receiver and he'll be used often to try and exploit the right mismatches.
Finally, the 4th down playcall, whether it's better to be lucky than good
At first I thought this was great.
This was apparently a run-pass option with Goff choosing to take it and go with it. If he'd been more patient though, he'd have seen he had a huge advantage. Because...
Washington had only ten men up and watching the play!
Dante Pettis was back deep prepared for the pooch punt! Cal had 11 on 10! And no one audibled into a hot read for Lawler with one-on-one coverage?
Instead, Goff ended up running, and got hit by two guys at the line of scrimmage simultaneously, stayed on his feet, and dived for the clinching first down in a pile of Huskies.
This play was ballsy and awesome and still nearly botched in all sorts of different ways. Goff could probably have thrown to Lawler or Powe and they would have gone streaking for six uncontested, but Maurice Harris blocked downfield (meaning if Goff had thrown it the throw would have come back for pass interference). Goff probably saw that and tucked it and went. Powe's free release allowed the Husky defender come in to try and cream Goff short of the sticks, but Jared went for it and got it.
This was weird and great but also clumsy and terrifying. One of those games where grit really won the day for the Bears.
After his sublime performance in Austin, Goff didn't have a great game by his standards. It was solid, but not great.
He made some mistakes, like pulling out of a zone read that Vic Enwere might have gone bursting for 20-30 yards. He missed some receivers streaking down the field wide open to hit guys in tighter windows, although the receivers dropped a bunch of footballs too. The interception is a bit whatever, I'm not sure if that was Franklin's call to air it out deep or Goff's--sure felt like Tony. And that 4th down decision worked out, but he also made it harder than it should have been.
To be fair, Goff probably played it safe to avoid getting hit about a half-dozen more times, as his pass protection was spotty at best and negligent at worst. Cal's offense became a little bit limited as Aaron Cochran stepped in for Brian Farley and Washington had trouble guarding both edges (Steven Moore had a particularly rough day in pass protection, and Cochran really needed help near the end).
Additionally, Daniel Lasco's impact was felt in short yardage downs or obvious running situations. Enwere had much smaller holes to work with and generated most of his offense after contact and breaking tons of tackles. But neither Enwere nor Muhammad are the potent pass catcher Lasco is out of the backfield, and they were generally ignored by the defense when they got out to block.
And of course, when you throw footballs like this...
You are quite content with "solid Jared Goff performance". Because his average is better than most people's best.
Washington has a well-coached defense full of talented players and they did their best to disrupt things offensively for the Bears. Their back line is extremely fast compared to Cal's, and they will give plenty of offenses trouble (Oregon better not play the way they did last week against UW or the streak will end). It did provide a nice first test for the Bears as Utah, UCLA and USC figure to be just (if not more) formidable with talented secondaries and front sevens all over the place.
There is a lot the Cal offense has to tinker and work with. But at least they can have confidence that they can beat a good Pac-12 defense now. That confidence will be vital in the weeks to come.
Away we go Goffense.