Cal Football: It Appears Chase Garbers Will Start Saturday, But It's Not Official Yet

Jake Curtis

Everything suggests Chase Garbers will be Cal’s starting quarterback in Saturday night’s home game against USC (6-4, 5-2 Pac-12), but Bears coach Justin Wilcox declined to name a starter following Wednesday’s practice.

Garbers’ four-game absence contributed to Cal’s midseason slump, and he is back and ready to play. So presumably he would be back in the starting lineup, even though Devon Modster had by far his best game of the season in Cal’s 33-20 victory over Washington State on Saturday, ending the Bears’ four-game losing streak.

“Nothing to announce yet,” Wilcox said Wednesday evening regarding a starting quarterback. “Both guys have done a really good job this week. Chase is getting back into the swing of things, and Devon is building on what he’s done. We have confidence in both of them, but we have nothing to announce yet.”

There is no advantage to Wilcox naming his starter midweek, so he’ll probably keep that information secret until later in the week, possibly Friday.

“Maybe Friday, maybe Friday night, maybe Saturday morning, maybe Saturday at noon,” Wilcox joked regarding when he’ll name a starter.

Last week he waited until Friday afternoon to announce that Devon Modster would start against Washington State, and that worked out nicely.

As was the case last week, Wilcox said Wednesday he has a plan in mind, so it appears the decision has already been made. It’s just not public yet.

Garbers led Cal to a 4-0 start and a No. 15 national ranking before injuring his right shoulder in the second quarter of the fifth game – a September 27 game against Arizona State. Cal lost to ASU 24-17, but the score was tied 7-7 and Cal had the ball at the Sun Devils' 33-yard line when Garbers went out with the injury.

Wilcox acknowledged that Garbers has looked good in practice this week.

“He’s done a nice job,” he said.

Garbers has no limitations on his throwing.

“They wouldn’t clear him if he had limitations,” Wilcox said.

Is conditioning an issue since he was sidelined for more than a month before being cleared to participate fully this past Monday?

 “Well,” said Wilcox, “he hasn’t played for six weeks, but he’s been throwing the ball the last couple [weeks] and been doing a lot of active rehab, so, yeah, he looks good.” 

Rust that comes from inactivity could be a problem, but the Bears (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) have just three games left, and they need him to get game-tested immediately. Cal still needs one win to become bowl-eligible.

Garbers was playing at a high level in his final two games before getting hurt. In the six quarters covering the September 21 win over Mississippi and the first half against Arizona State, he completed 68.1 percent of his passes (32-for-47) for 474 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. He also adds a running dimension that brings the option back into play.

Garbers was the quarterback last season when Cal ended its 14-game losing streak to USC with a 15-14 victory in Los Angeles.

Modster is 1-2 as a starter, but completed 16-of-24 passes for three touchdowns and no interceptions against Washington State. He also had a 13-yard touchdown run.

Unless Garbers does not look game-ready this week in practice, he probably will start Saturday’s 8 p.m. game, which is Cal’s final home game of the season.