For our Five Questions, Five Answers feature this week we tracked down Jeff Faraudo, who covers the Cal Bears for the Bay Area News Group. You can find Jeff on Twitter @JeffFaraudo.
1. What has been the buzz around Berkeley with Sonny Dykes taking over at Cal?
Initially, there was significant upbeat buzz about Dykes and his Bear Raid offense. Certainly he had fans at Memorial Stadium on his side in the opener against Northwestern when the Bears pulled off a fake field goal for a touchdown on the first series of the season. Since then, as the season has unraveled, the buzz has waned. Some fans understand this team is beat up and young, probably a year away. But there is less patience among others.
2. The Bears have lost five in a row, but — to be fair — against some top competition (Ohio State, Oregon, Washington State, UCLA, Oregon State). What’s the general state of the team at this point? Are there reasons for optimism that they can get out of this slide?
For all their problems, quitting on themselves has not been an issue. The team is still playing hard for Dykes and the buy-in to his approach has been good. But I’m not sure it’s realistic the Bears will reverse this slide anytime soon. There are too many injuries, too much change, and too little genuine confidence at this point to expect a significant turnaround this season.
3. Jared Goff seemed to have a nice enough start as a true freshman thrust into a major role. What have been his issues lately? And what does Zach Kline offer as the new potential starter?
Goff has been, at times, spectacular. Threw for a school-record 504 yards against Washington State, and twice more topped 450. But he’s turned the ball over 11 times, including three each against Oregon and Oregon State. There seems little doubt that Goff’s confidence has taken a hit. I’m not sure Kline is a better quarterback, but he’s not so emotionally beat up at this point and gave the team a little spark off the bench against Oregon State. If he’s named the starter, he’ll bring aggressiveness, a strong arm and some ability to move around to Husky Stadium. At this point, there’s probably no reason not to give him a shot.
4. Any thought that the Bears can — or at least can try — to run the ball more or better going forward?
Cal would like to run the ball. At Louisiana Tech last year, Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin had a fairly balanced attack, including a freshman running back who scored 27 touchdowns. They do not intend to be Washington State under Mike Leach and throw the ball 89 times in a game. But the offensive line, which was seriously shuffled this week, has not provided enough push to generate a consistent run game, and Brendan Bigelow’s performance was such that he’s been moved to slot receiver. The run game is a work in progress, and it’s been a significant issue in the red zone.
5. What have been the biggest issues with the defense?
Without a doubt, it’s been injuries. At one point a couple weeks ago, the Bears finished a game without seven players on defense who were projected as starters when fall camp began. Several of their best players on defense — end Brennan Scarlett, linebacker Nick Forbes and safety Avery Sebastian — have hardly played. As a result, inexperienced players have been elevated to significant roles and depth is almost non-existent at linebacker and in the secondary.