April the 16th marked the annual battle of Cal vs. Cal in the Spring Game, and for the first time since 2012 it resembled an actual game. This was a scrimmage, with seven series for each team, with a certain disdain for extra points. Two sets of series were hurry up, being at the end of their respective halves. In this game, the Blue team came out on top, besting the Gold team 38-37 on a 19 yard fade route from Ross Bowers to Brandon Singleton. We have your stats here, courtesy of Connor Letourneau:
Your spring game stats. pic.twitter.com/WflqUjYJLz— Connor Letourneau (@Con_Chron) April 16, 2016
Melquise Stovall is listed twice, so his final stats are 7 receptions for 128 yards with 2 TDs.
What can you take from this game? In the first half, each of the quarterbacks had two series. Forrest couldn't get going early, faltering on the first drive after starting with a nice 12 yard completion on an out route to Jordan Veasy. Bowers got the next drive, but the early going was dominated by Patrick Laird and Billy McCrary. Laird had the first two touchdowns of the day for the Blue team, finishing with 10 carries for 54 yards (and those 2 TDs), while McCrary provided some explosiveness after being converted from defensive back. He finished with 4 carries for 100 yards, with 60 of those coming on a break all tackles run where he almost pulverized his way through the defense. These two were helped by the absence of Khalfani Muhammad, getting pretty much every carry from the running back spot for the blue team.
Vic Enwere provided the rushing fireworks, showing some breakaway speed on an 80 yard TD run:
Melquise Stovall was the shining start for the receiving core, scoring on two touchdown passes from Zach Kline. The first came on a bullet from Kline to end the first half, weaving through the defense to score. The second came on a 39 yard rainbow where he got behind the defense. Stovall looks to be the next star receiver for the Bears, showing the shiftiness and playmaking ability that has writers raving about him. Even when thrown a pass where he wasn't ready, he made a catch 3 yards out and turned it into a 12 yard gain. Let's look at some more positives and negatives of the game.
Zach Kline is at the top of my list. His stats were impressive, completing 15-16 for 202 yards and 2 TDs. The only incompletion came on a ball he threw away due to pressure. Kline passed the eye test for a lot of people, with his throws coming out crisp and quick, showing his arm strength and his understanding of the offense. There was one deep ball he threw to Worstell that hung up a little ended up being a completion anyway, but that feels like nitpicking. If there's one knock on his performance, it's that there were couple plays where he held the ball too long in the pocket. Those can partially be attributed to good coverage, but Kline will need a bit of work in that area. He had an excellent game today, and should make the coaching staff think twice about starting him when the Bears head to Hawaii. Let the American flag bandanna live on
The running game in general was a big plus. The offensive line seemed shored up, blocking very well and picking up large chunks of yards despite having only one running back who played in multiple games last year getting carries. Vic's run was telling of that, getting a massive hole and going 80 yards untouched. The offensive line in general did well in the pass game, with a return to the 3 point stance aiding in the general game. Only one sack was allowed, coming on a linebacker blitz from Derron Brown.
Derron Brown and Noah Westerfield were bright spots on the defense, showing high levels of activity and getting their name called on the PA a lot. Brown is excellent at the Will spot, in a rover type role. He adds a lot of flexibility to the defense, and get in quick on blitzes as demonstrated by his sack. Westerfield also got around quickly, holding a few runs to short gains when he could. He still needs to contribute more on the pass rush, but he's a very consistent tackler and run stopper.
Trey Turner had a great diving interception on an errant pass from Bowers. It was an athletic play on a great read by a guy who will lead a revamped secondary over the next three years.
Jordan Veasy and Vic Wharton impressed me a lot as well. With Veasy, you have a guy who can consistently make the kind of plays we'll miss from Darius Powe. He got the ball on a lot of out routes and a couple of crossing routes, often getting the extra few yards needed for a first down. Not exactly flashy, but he was extremely consistent. Same goes for Wharton. Closer to the end of the scrimmage, Wharton started to get the back shoulder timing down on the four verticals play, which is the ultimate counter to tight man coverage and is a staple of the offense. This only adds to our depth at receiver, where we could easily see 9-10 rotating in this year at the various wideout positions.
Each of the other quarterbacks did something well today. Chase Forrest showed why he was the frontrunner when he got going in the second half. He got into an excellent rhythm, throwing ball after ball to the right receiver (mostly Veasy and Chad Hansen). Every completion started to feel inevitable, much like with Goff. His TD pass to Ashton was a textbook example of how to extend a play. He did start a bit slow and out of rhythm, but it picked up a lot as the day went on. Max Gilliam showed off his scrambling ability, running like a gazelle on a couple of solid gains, and started to find his rhythm in throwing the back shoulder to Wharton. He still needs work on his out routes, getting picked by Luke Rubenzer on a two point conversion. To Gilliam's credit, he chased Rubenzer down for some QB on QB violence. Bowers had a bit of a shaky day, going 11-21 and throwing an interception. Like the other QBs, he improved as the day went on, ending the day on a beautiful pass to Brandon Singleton to end the scrimmage with a win for his Blue team.
The lack of a pass rush is something that has been beaten to death over the years, but the issue still remains. It's hard to judge from this scrimmage, since there were many absences and the defensive line was very thin. The line needs to be able to generate pressure from their base four man rush for defensive success. This seems like a work in progress and today may not completely be representative of the whole.
The defensive backfield still needs work, as there were a lot of openings for the receivers on the afternoon. Turner and Rubenzer made great plays on the ball, but there were other times where they DBs got burnt by Stovall, has pass interference called, and failed to make solid tackles. They do deserve credit for some coverage while Kline was in, forcing him to hold the ball for too long.They are also a work in progress.
There was no punting, and only one field goal attempt on the day, which begs the reminder that punters are people too. No one got to hear onomatopoeian punt from Dylan Klumph, and that is a shame.
It was an excellent afternoon for football, showcasing what may be seen this fall. This is only the prelude to an interesting season of Cal football, and they showed reason to be excited
Here are your postgame interviews: