Running back Daniel Lasco has a vivid image of Cal quarterback Jared Goff’s demeanor in his debut game as a freshman last season against Northwestern.
“He was very timid. He had a lot on his plate. Just nervous. He was afraid to make mistakes – that was the biggest thing I saw in him,” Lasco said Tuesday as the Bears continued preparation for this season’s opener at Northwestern in Saturday.
That “timid” freshman actually acquitted himself nicely in the Bears’ 44-30 loss. Forced to pass the ball 63 times, Goff threw for 445 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also was sacked four times and threw three interceptions, two of them returned for touchdowns in the fourth quarter by linebacker Collin Ellis.
“For the first time out, I thought it was a heck of a ballgame,” Cal coach Sonny Dykes said. “Hopefully we’re not going to put that kind of pressure on him. He’s a different player.”
“I can’t even put it in words the difference from the Jared Goff in 2013 and right now,” Lasco said.
Goff said he feels more comfortable now, and said everything on the field has slowed down. He’s nervous before every game, he said, but less so now than a year ago.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” he said of his debut.
How does he think he performed? “Not well enough to win,” Goff said.
Goff’s teammates saw enough offseason growth in Goff that they elected him one of five team captains. “Last year his voice wasn’t as powerful as it is now,” Lasco said. “It’s real comforting knowing we can look to him for leadership and he can go out there and make those big-time plays.
“And not be afraid to make mistakes – that’s the most important thing.”
Safety Stefan McClure said fooling Goff with coverages is much more difficult now.
“He has a lot more control and command over the offense,” McClure said. “He’s reading the defense a lot faster. Even when we try to disguise, he’s picking up that stuff on the run.”
Saturday’s weather forecast in Evanston, Illinois calls for thunderstorms and an 80-percent chance of rain. Goff, who struggled with a slippery football in a downpour at Oregon last season, said he hasn’t decided whether he will wear gloves for the game.
Dykes isn’t losing any sleep over the forecast. “In my next life,” he said, “I want to come back as a weatherman.”
Both coaches steered clear of last year’s controversy when Dykes hinted the Wildcats feigned injuries in the second half to slow down Cal’s no-huddle, uptempo offense.
Dykes was quoted afterward saying, “It was unusual. It seemed like every time we got a first down, they had an injury. I hadn’t seen that, wasn’t expecting to see that, was disappointed that I saw that.”
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald took exception to those comments at the time, telling the Chicago Sun Times, “If anybody were to question the integrity of myself, our program or our players, I question theirs,” Fitzgerald said. “But if our guys get dinged up, they’re instructed to go down not hobble of to the sideline.”
A year later, both men declined to be drawn into the conversation.
“I haven’t thought about it. There’s not much you can do about that,” Dykes said.
Big Ten officials will call the game, but Dykes said they don’t have much influence on such things. “If someone’s injured, they’re injured,” he said. “I don’t anticipate it being an issue.”
Asked about it on the Big Ten coaches teleconference call Tuesday, Fitzgerald said, “We haven’t talked about it at all.”
There were no real surprises on Cal’s first depth chart of the fall.
Absent from the chart is cornerback Darius White, who has been limited by a shoulder injury. But Dykes said he expects both White and safety Avery Sebasatian (quad) be on the travel squiad.
Eleven true freshmen — including running back Patrick Laird and receiver Matt Rockett, both walkons — are included on the depth chart, and Dykes said he expects most of them to make the trip.