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Cal Football: Offensive Line Gets a Big Share of Credit for Jaydn Ott's Explosive Game

Ott's 274-yard rushing game against Arizona came behind a revamped O-line.

One week before he re-wrote the record books, freshman Jaydn Ott could barely get out of first gear at Notre Dame. Eight of his 13 rushing attempts went for 2 yards or fewer.

“We struggled against Notre Dame,” Cal offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “We had 60 or 70 plays — maybe half of them were for zero yards and even minus yards.”

It actually was 33 out of 68 plays (including incomplete passes) that gained no yards. “So that was a rough day,” Musgrave confirmed.”

The fallout did not involve giving Ott fewer opportunities to run the ball.

Instead, the Bears reshuffled an offensive line that hadn’t played well through three games. Cal had allowed 12 sacks in those three outings and rushed for just 3.6 yards per attempt.

Ben Coleman (talking in the video atop this story) remained at left tackle, but center Matthew Cindric moved to right guard in place of injured Spencer Lovell, left guard Brian Driscoll slid into center, freshman Sioape Vatikani took over at right guard and transfer T.J. Session replaced Brayden Rohme at right tackle.

It all clicked Saturday against Arizona. The Bears scored seven touchdowns, totaled 599 yards and crushed the Wildcats 49-31.

Ineffective against Notre Dame, Ott ran for 274 yards — third most in Cal history — while scoring on runs of 73, 18 and 72 yards.

He was terrific. But he didn’t do it alone, as he was quick to point out afterward.

“Credit to Jaydn Ott for being a really good player,” quarterback Jack Plummer said, “but if no one’s blocking for him I guarantee you he’s not getting that many yards.”

Coleman, whose performance earned him Pac-12 Offensive Lineman of the Week, said blocking for Ott is a joy.

“That’s a big-time back,” Coleman said. “We just focus on getting movement — we never want to tell the running back where to go. We just want to make sure we get that initial push off the line of scrimmage and he’ll make us right. Let him go do what he’s supposed to do.”

With the highest single-game rushing performance by any FBS player this season, Ott zoomed to No. 11 on the national leaders list with 463 yards, first among freshmen.

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Ott's 8.3-yards-per-carry average is better than that of any of the 10 backs ahead of him in the country.

“He’s just continuing to get better,” Cal coach Justin Wilcox said.

The Bears travel to Washington State this weekend and Ott certainly has the attention of Cougars coach Jake Dickert.

“Their tailback is gonna be a budding star in this league, just as a freshman. His role has really grown over the first four games,” Dickert said. “There are a lot of things (Ott) creates mismatches for. They’ve been doing a really good job of using him in many ways. He’s just a freshman, so he’s just getting started in his journey. So they definitely have a good one.”

Cal anticipates opposing defenses may give extra attention to Ott, who has demonstrated elusiveness and breakaway speed.

“The biggest thing is one guy just can’t tackle him. We gotta make sure we’re keeping him bottled up,” Dickert said. “He’s hitting the big play. He has the ability to not just make people miss, but to take it the distance.”

The Bears are thrilled with the start of Ott’s career, but Wilcox reminds us the equation is more complicated than that. “It all starts with the O-line,” Wilcox said. “The O-line starts everything. To play good offense you’ve got to play well up front.”

“Can’t say enough about what those guys up front did,” Musgrave said. “The physicality with which they played was off the charts.”

Coleman enjoyed the way his unit impacted things.

“We know that we can control the game and we felt that this week,” he said. “If we control the line of scrimmage, we can do whatever we want to.”

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INJURY UPDATE: Wilcox provided updates on players who have missed time due to injuries of undisclosed nature. Outside linebacker Xavier Carlton and defensive lineman Darius Long, who missed the Arizona game, both should play at WSU. Outside linebacker Odua Isibor, who has been sidelined the past two games, is doubtful for this week.

Defensive end Akili Calhoun will undergo tests this week before receiving a diagnosis after he was injured against Arizona. Offensive guard Spencer Lovell is week-to-week after sitting out the Arizona game. Wide receiver Mason Starling, who is yet to play this season, is day-to-day, but  running back Chris Street, who also has missed all four games, is doubtful to play this week.

Cover photo of Ben Coleman by Al Sermeno, KLC fotos

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