Things will be tough enough for Cal freshman quarterback Spencer Brasch if he makes his first college start Saturday night as many expect. But the prospect of having insecure pass protection against No. 12 Utah and the Utes' fearsome defense further complicates the situation.
The Bears gave up nine sacks last week against Oregon State, and Brasch was the victim of two of those late in the game after he replaced an injured Devon Modster.
As Cal coach Justin Wilcox notes at the end of the above video, "Nine sacks, for us to come back from that, extremely difficult."
Indeed, absorbing nine sacks says a lot about a team's offense, and it almost guarantees defeat.
"Well, you give up nine sacks, it's severe issues in protection," Wilcox said.
He ran down the list of issues, but it's obvious that a lot of things contribute to accumulating that many sacks. Injuries on the offensive line can account for much of it.
It stands to reason that Cal's offensive scheme for Saturday night's game will be to get the ball out of Brasch's hand in a hurry, especially early in the contest.
Utah has just 13 sacks this season, which ranks ninth in the Pac-12, so its defense is not predicated on sacking the opposing quarterback. The Utes had three sacks against Arizona State last week, and all three were by defensive end Bradlee Anae.
But Utah forced ASU quarterback Jayden Daniels into a terrible throwing performance in the Utes' 21-3 win, as Daniels completed just 4 of 18 passes for a measly 25 yards and an interception. And Daniels has a lot more experience than Brasch, although both are freshmen.
The Utes rank second in the nation in run defense, and the Bears rank last in the conference in rushing yards per carry (3.3). So the Bears will no doubt need to pass to move the ball. Giving Brasch (or backup Robby Rowell) enough time to get a throw off will be paramount.
Modster, who started the past two games, has not been ruled out for Saturday's game, but the indications are that he will not play Saturday, leaving the job to Brasch, who is 2-for-6 passing in his brief college career.