Cal Football: Bears' Prospects Going Forward Rely on Progress from the Offense
Was it a good thing that Cal quarterback Chase Garbers rushed for a career-high 70 yards in the 23-17 win over North Texas on Saturday?
It was definitely not a good thing that Garbers was limited to 129 passing yards.
This is not an indictment of Chase Garbers, who directed Cal a 3-0 start, including a second straight game without a turnover — a first in the three-year Justin Wilcox era.
The absence of giveaways is paramount to the Bears, especially as they continue to play a close-to-the-vest style that relies on stout defense and minimizing offensive errors.
“We won by one (point) last week and this was a one-score game,” Wilcox said. “That’s the difference.”
But as the Bears prepared to visit hot and sticky Ole Miss next Saturday before jumping in to the heart of their Pac-12 schedule, the offense isn’t where it needs to be. Not even close.
“We’ve got to do better,” Garbers said.
Absolutely, but getting there is going to be tricky.
Cal is without two injured starting offensive lineman — Gentle Williams and Will Craig — for the rest of the season. Versatile junior Valentino Daltoso sat out Saturday with an ankle injury and it’s unclear when he will play again.
That left Garbers with less time to find receivers and the run game without a consistent push up front.
He finished 9 for 22 for 129 passing yards, including a 36-yard touchdown to Nikko Remigio.
But in the Bears' past three games against FBS opponents -- dating back to their Cheez-It Bowl appearance against TCU -- Garbers has passed for just 333 yards and one touchdown.
Against the Mean Green, Cal designed several running plays for Garbers, and he used five of them to gain 31 yards. He also took off repeatedly when the pocket began close around him, and that option produced runs of 19, 13 and 10 yards.
But among his career-high 18 rushes were six sacks. Wilcox confirmed the Bears did not expect Garbers to run so often, but said he’d need to review game tapes before assessing whether his quarterback too often gave up on the play before dashing for daylight or there simply were no open targets.
In any case, the strategy didn’t work, in as much as Cal totaled just 149 yards and three points over the final three quarters. Early in the second quarter, the Bears had a 15-play drive that covered 51 yards and consumed nearly seven minutes but led only to a punt.
Workhorse running back Christopher Brown Jr., who had 197 rushing yards in Cal’s season-opening win over UC Davis, had 47 yards in this one. He carried the ball on the Bears’ first play of the second half, then never again.
Wilcox alluded to a possible injury, saying Brown was “unavailable” the rest of the afternoon.
That certainly didn’t help. Cal got a field goal with 8:44 left in the third quarter to lead 23-10, then had a trio of three-and-outs among its four remaining possessions before the game-ending knee-downs. Three Cal running backs averaged just 3.5 yards per carry.
Wilcox praised the Bears’ effort but said execution will have to improve. A young O-line without much depth will have to figure things out, and the Bears hope Brown is not on the shelf for long.
Remigio, after scoring his first college touchdown, talked afterward about the potential of this offense. But the road gets much tougher from here, and that promise will need to blossom if Cal expects to keep winning.