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Cal Football: With the Pac-12 Season at Hand, Bears' Offense Feeling Confident

The assignment is likely to be more challenging in Saturday's Pac-12 opener at Washington.

At long last, you don’t have to avert your eyes while surveying Cal’s offensive statistics.

Far from it right now, as the Bears look reasonably potent when they have the ball.

On the heels of their 42-30 win over Sacramento State, there is a lot for offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and his fellow coaches to smile about:

— The Bears rank in the upper half of the Pac-12 in every major major offensive category: third in total offense (435.3 yards), fifth in rushing (177.3) and passing (258.0) and sixth in scoring (30.3).

— Cal is playing clean football, first in the conference in fewest turnovers at 0.67 per game.

— The Bears are converting 47 percent of their third downs, which ranks third in the Pac-12.

— They are fifth in the conference in passing yards per attempt (7.8) and first in rushing yards per attempt (6.1).

All this from an offense that averaged barely 20 points a game last season and just 21 the year before.

“One thing we’ve taken from these first three games is each and every week we’ve progressively gotten better. That’s a good trajectory to be on,” senior wide receiver Nikko Remigio said after the game Saturday.

“And, despite the opponent, where we are as an offense if we continue on that trend the sky’s the limit for us.”

Before we reach for the sky, Remigio’s reference to a positive trajectory reflects what the Bears did when they got on a roll to end the 2019 season. In the their final four games that season they improved from 17 points to 24 to 28 to 35 to put a bow on an 8-5 season.

The challenge for Cal (1-2) is to continue that arc as the competition level ratchets up with the start of the Pac-12 schedule on Saturday at Washington (1-2). The Bears and Huskies will meet for the 100th time at 6:30 p.m.

UW, coming off a 52-3 win over Arkansas State, hadn’t found an offensive rhythm until last week. But the Huskies have been stout defensively through three weeks.

Washington is tied for first in the Pac-12 in scoring defense (15.7 points) and first in fewest passing yards allowed (123.0), although they haven’t shown the ability to stop the run, where they are 10th in the Pac-12 (175.0).

Quarterback Chase Garbers is convinced the Bears can continue to improve.

“As weeks go on, I think we’re just going to keep taking that next step,” he said. “From this week to next I think we’re going to take an even bigger jump as an offense and as a team. And we’re really excited for it.”

Garbers emerged from the Sac State game having barely been touched, for which he gives much credit to the offensive line.

“They played great. No sacks, I believe. They’ve been playing really well these past three weeks,” Garbers said. “Obviously, when the quarterback is untouched in the pocket, that’s a really good thing for the offense and for the team.”

Coach Justin Wilcox had good things to say in the video below about Garbers after Saturday’s game:

Significantly, the Bears have displayed good balance. Sophomore Damien Moore is fourth in the Pac-12 with 79.0 rushing yards per game and already has scored five touchdowns.

“We know our potential as an offense.” Moore said. “I know we’re able to do more, and we’re going to need it coming into Pac-12 play.”

Cal has been fast out of the starting gate, scoring five first-quarter touchdowns in three games.

“Three weeks in a row we’ve been able to come out firing,” Moore said. “Now we just need to be able to sustain it for all four quarters.”

Cover photo of Chase Garbers by Darren Yamashita, USA Today

Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo