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Roundtables: Undefeated QB

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Early on in our 3–0 season, we chat about that record, the QBs, and more.

Idaho State v California Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Thoughts on the win and starting 3-0?

Alex Ghenis: Hooray for us! Our defense has been dominant except for later in games, when we are either working to hold onto the lead or in garbage time and playing second- and third-string guys. The offense is finally starting to come together—including the QB situation—and working through the depth at running back (Marcel Dancy and Christopher Brown Jr. were solid when they played on Saturday). There are still concerns about depth—especially at linebacker—so we can’t really afford many injuries in that part of the field. I’m looking forward to Oregon in a couple of weeks, considering that Oregon will be coming off a tough home game against Furd and some of our guys will either be back or a bit more at full speed. Fingers crossed for Kanwai Noa, Patrick Laird (if something injury-wise was slowing him down this week), and maybe even Cameron Goode.

atomsareenough: Good to see a more comfortable win against an FCS opponent this year, but there were lots of mistakes and missed opportunities that we need to clean up, because that’s the sort of thing that will absolutely come back to haunt us against superior competition. That said, our defense absolutely looks legit and starting 3–0 means we’re on track for the kind of season I was expecting we would have. I’m concerned about the depth at inside linebacker, however. Although Evan Weaver is playing like a man possessed, he and Jordan Kunaszyk took almost every snap until late in the fourth quarter in a game where I was really hoping to see Colt Doughty and Evan Tattersall get their feet wet a bit. Anyway, I think this is a good time for a bye week because we’ve taken care of business in non-conference play, but we have some things to work on.

ragnarok: The Bears handled an FCS foe as they are supposed to with a comfortable, if not awe-inspiring, win. The Bears started 3–0 last year, too, and look where they ended up, so at best, I am cautiously optimistic.

Still, there are reasons to think this year won’t turn out like last year’s 2–7 conference campaign. First off, the defense is better—good enough that the Bears should be in pretty much every game this year. Absent the offense proving more explosive than they have so far, I predict A LOT of one-score games this year.

There’s certainly both lots of room for improvement and plenty for Cal fans to complain about, but 3–0 was not a given to start the season and a lot of teams (such as those based in Los Angeles) would love to be complaining about a flawed team with a still-unblemished record.

boomtho: My thought is that winning games is more fun than losing games and winning three games is pretty fun! Specifically for this game, I thought it was a comfortable win, which is what you’d hope for vs an FCS team—even if it took the offense about a quarter to warm up. Like Nick said in his weekly article, this one hit most of the high points you’d want from a C-level game —oung guys getting playing time, a stress-free fourth quarter, and positives in all three phases. It’s also great to see continued strong play from the defense, as they’re the main hope for Cal to have a successful conference run this year.

Piotr T Le: The offense started slow with the usual starters from last year showing decreased athleticism. Then as the game went on, the team got much better. The worrying thing is the fact that the offense had to rely on fourth-down conversions to sustain drives. Against FCS defenses that allowed 400+ yards per game last year, this is worrying.

Mike Foiles: The offense did not execute as well as I had hoped for, but Chase Garbers’s steady improvement is nice to see and the starting rotation on defense continues to play very well. Not too discouraged by the fourth-quarter TDs given many of those guys are very deep on the depth chart and the four-game redshirt rule enabled Wilcox to put in just about anyone. Thrilled to be 3–0.

Rob Hwang: I’m thrilled at the end result, but man oh man do we have a lot of unanswered questions moving forward. Its insane to me to think in just one full season we've turned from a completely offensive team to a completely defensive team. Our defense will get us the stops we need and the opportunities for our offense, but will we able to capitalize? How long before terrible PI calls against our stellar DBs start affecting our defensive confidence? Those are the two biggest questions for me. BUT. 3–0. UNDFTD? I will take it and run. #BYUShouldntBeRanked

What group needs the most improvement in this bye week?

Mike Foiles: Just want to see guys like Patrick Laird, Vic Wharton, and Ray Hudson find their grove offensively. The first two are proven players and I am really rooting for Hudson to start making critical catches.

Piotr T Le: The WRs. With Vic fighting a case of fumblitis and Noa out from the game with a mysterious injury, the WR group is getting thin with Moe Ways, Monroe Young, and Nikko Remigio coming in next for the offense. We saw that Remigio has the speed and quickness to make game-breaking plays and I look forward to seeing him take the field. (I still do a double take when his #25 flashes.)

boomtho: I’ll go with the OL here. You’d hope that a Power-5 team, especially one that hopes to compete within the conference, could physically dominate at the line and create large holes for the RBs. For the most part, that didn’t really happen. I know everyone is (rightfully) praising Dancy for his elusiveness, but it would have been even better if he hadn’t had to avoid as many tackles in the first place! To their credit, they did a great job in pass protection—but it really does seem like we’ll be challenged to run the ball effectively this year, even if playmakers other than Patrick Laird emerge.

ragnarok: Can I say the whole running game? Cal doesn’t have a 100-yard game from a running back yet this year and while I don’t know if Oregon is the team you’re going to break that streak against, the Bears have to be able to move the ball on the ground. Laird has definitely struggled the last couple games and while Dancy has some nice runs against Idaho State, putting up 80 yards against an FCS foe falls squarely under the “need to see more data” heading.

atomsareenough: I think it’s clearly the receivers and tight ends. There were multiple drops, muffs, and missed opportunities in the passing game—and it was mostly not on the quarterbacks. Hudson had a year away from football, so he’s been rusty and he took a big hit on that interception, but I’d like to see him get back in the groove and hanging onto the football a little better. Wharton’s sure handed–ness has suffered of late as well. That said, Jordan Duncan has stepped it up, Jeremiah Hawkins had a decent week, and Ian Bunting caught some passes, which was all encouraging to see. I’d like to see a little more of Ways and Remigio in the rotation as well, especially if Noa’s dinged up.

Alex Ghenis: This is probably not a “group” in the general sense, but the crew that needs most improvement is the offensive playmakers from last year who have lost their groove. Wharton and Hudson are dropping balls when they shouldn’t be and Laird doesn’t seem to be running with as much certainty as he did in 2017. There are other guys on the team who are stepping up (Bunting, Dancy, Remigio, etc), but it’s hard to lose the skill and experience of the guys that were change-makers last year and earlier. Other than that situation, the group that needs to step up is the second- and third-stringers at linebacker and d-back… I’m worried about depth and hopefully we can find some in practice and on the field, especially before the really tough final few games of the year.

Rob Hwang: This is so difficult to choose, but its definitely not any group on the defense. Heck. I’ll just say it. The ENTIRE offense. No one is playing well and we clearly don’t have an identity of how we want to win games. Are we a run-first team? Are we an RPO team? Are we a West Coast Offense? It’s still unclear and hopefully we can establish that over the next two weeks.

Chase Garbers played well as the starter against ISU. Is he your unquestioned starter come Oregon?

Alex Ghenis: Yes. His stat line was downright amazing—even against an FCS team—and as one of the football aficionados noted on Twitter, even the five ”incompletions” hit receivers in the hands and were at least somewhat catchable. I say we keep using the 2-QB system we’ve been rolling with, as it’s starting to come together and bring back a semblance of offense.

atomsareenough: Definitely. Garbers has shown the most all-around ability; he’s been able to connect on a variety of pass types, he’s mobile, and he showed good pocket awareness this week. I’m on board with having him as the starter with a heavy dose of Brandon McIlwain as a change-up. I didn’t think I’d be in favor of a 2-QB system, but they’re making it work so far. I’ve always been in favor of giving the back-up some snaps whenever possible and if the offense works better with both of them playing, why wouldn’t you keep mixing it up? It keeps both players’ heads in the game; makes them feel like they’re contributing; gives them both experience and room to develop; and if one goes down for whatever reason, the next guy isn’t completely green.

ragnarok: At this point, I don’t know why you’d go away from Garbers—barring injury—though it seems like we’re going to get McIlwain in moderate doses for the rest of the year (at least as the match-ups dictate). I don’t know if we really saw enough from Ross Bowers this year to judge where he is relative to those other two guys, but Garbers seems to be at least managing the game well while still able to make plays with his legs. Now that Garbers has the starting gig, at the very least he hasn’t done anything to warrant giving Bowers another shot.

boomtho: 100% yes. Garbers’s natural arm talent is only becoming more apparent, especially his accuracy and ability to make both short and long throws on target. He also brings a ton to the run game (maybe not quite as much as McIlwain), which really opens up more possibilities to keep the defense off balance. I think a more interesting question is whether McIlwain’s usage will look more like it was against ISU or BYU—my guess is that Garbers will comfortably get ~70%+ of the snaps and McIlwain will really be used on running downs.

Piotr T Le: Yes, however, with this staff it is a week-to-week proposition. He showed good command of the offense and feel within the pocket.

Mike Foiles: Yes, Garbers is my unquestioned starter. I am surprised how adept he is as a runner and his improvement as a passer since Week 1 is easy to see. McIlwain will certainly play, but I think we can see he is just not a good enough passer and does not read the field well enough to be the starter right now.

Rob Hwang: Not knowing why Ross only played a single half is still very much a question mark for me, but Chase hasn't warranted another change at QB. He’s played as you would expect a freshman QB to play. I wonder if we dial up the playbook and start opening up longer passes for him.