Defensive end Chris McCain sees action all over the field as the front seven proves its mettle…
SCRIMMAGE: Offense Uneven in First Test
BERKELEY -- The phrase of the day for the California offense was ‘false start,' as the Bears held their first scrimmage of fall camp.
The first play from scrimmage was a fumbled pitch from Zach Kline to Brendan Bigelow. As both sides lined up for the next play, the defense was flagged for too many men on the field.
On Jared Goff's first snap, the offensive line was called for holding. In all, the Cal offensive front tallied six penalties on the day, by BearTerritory's count.
"Obviously, the false start penalties were the biggest concern," said head coach Sonny Dykes. "We're going to be a team that doesn't have many of those. We'll get that worked out. Obviously, we have work to do."
The miscues by the line brought back several plays, including a nice pass by Goff on a comeback route to Trevor Davis for a first down, which was erased by holding on second-team center Mark Brazinski.
The starting offensive line was lacking left tackle Freddie Tagaloa, who was held out, putting Steven Moore at left tackle, Brian Farley at right tackle and Matt Cochran at right guard.
"Really, we do some stuff defensively that gives us some fits," Dykes said of the offensive line. "We're constantly moving our [defensive] line, and shifting, and I think that has an impact on a lot of false starts. It's just a matter of getting settled in. Those guys will get used to it. We've handled it in practice. That's why you put guys in situations like this, because when it's live, for whatever reason, the mindset changes a little bit, and our guys have got to learn to play the same way that they practice."
Dykes said that, had it been a real game, Tagaloa would have played. Also missing on offense were Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper, who had to study for a summer school test.
Though the proceedings were shortened by a scary hit by Avery Sebastian on Jeffrey Coprich -- which resulted in the junior safety being taken off the field in an ambulance – the Bears still ran upwards of 80 plays.
"We were going to go ones on ones, try to see if they could put a drive together, probably one or two more series with the ones and maybe one or two more series with the twos," Dykes said. "Our thoughts coming in were right around 100 plays, and I think we got close to 90."
Dykes was displeased by the way the offense started the day, with a fumble, a sack and four straight incompletions.
"I thought at the beginning, we were a little unsettled on offense, obviously. It was not a good way to start," he said. "I think we had 12 people on the field on defense the first play, and fumbled on offense, so it was kind of the Keystone Cops the first play, and that's why you have scrimmages."
The surprise of the day was Austin Hinder, who on Monday was deemed out of the race for the starting quarterback job. The only quarterback not in a yellow no-contact jersey, Hinder rushed twice for seven yards and one touchdown, and went 4-for-6 passing with two drops for 67 yards.
"We'll go look at the tape, and if we think he worked his way back in, then, certainly, we'll talk about it," Dykes said. "One thing we do every day: We rank all of our players. It's what we do. We talk about it all the time: You're really only as good as your last practice, as good as your last day. If we thought he performed exceptionally, then certainly it could open the door back up again."
The two quarterbacks who got the most reps – Goff and Kline – missed each of their first four passing attempts.
After that, though, each signal-caller settled in to varying degrees. Kline finished the day (unofficially) going 8-of-12 for 60 yards with one touchdown, no interceptions and one dropped pass by Junior Espitia on a screen right with room to run. Goff went 9-of-14 for 114 yards – with the majority of those coming on a 30-yard duck to speedy freshman tailback Khalfani Muhammad that went for a 60-yard touchdown.
Goff also nearly threw the only interception of the day. Late in the scrimmage, Goff started from his own 29-yard line and threw over the top into double coverage, as Jack Austin was sandwiched between Cedric Dozier and Jason Gibson. The ball was practically gift-wrapped for Dozier, but it went right through his hands for an incompletion, rather than an interception.
Goff did show flashes, though, hitting a pass underneath to Richard Rodgers for a gain of 11 with the defense blitzing, and earlier finding James Grisom for 15 yards thanks to a solid kick-out block by Moore on Chris McCain. Goff then found Davis for five yards, before hitting Bryce McGovern for another five and a first down.
[READ MORE: McCain Pulls Double Duty]
After a false start and a rush for no gain by Muhammad, Goff underthrew Kenny Lawler to bring up third-and-15, but then the true freshman hit Jackson Bouza over the middle for a gain of 11, with Bouza making a nice shake move to evade linebacker Michael Barton for an additional five yards. The drive was halted when Bigelow was tripped up by Hardy Nickerson, Jr., short of a first down, on fourth-and-four.
After a rough first drive with the first-team line, Kline took snaps with the second-team line for his second drive against the first-team defense. He started off at his own 25 and hit a quick timing route to Darren Ervin for 15 yards. After Ervin gained four yards on a pair of runs, the line was called for a false start, putting the offense back at its own 34. Kline then found Joel Willis on an inside screen to get back to the original line of scrimmage, but at fourth-and-10, the drive was over.
Kline's next drive started out auspiciously, as he was nearly sacked by McCain, only to see his pass broken up by Harrison Wilfley at the line. On the next snap, with Lucas Gingold, Jacob Wark and Daniel Lasco in the bone formation, Kline handed off to the redshirt sophomore tailback, who broke a big, 85-yard touchdown run, thanks to a downfield block by Lawler on defensive back Isaac Lapite.
Of course, that wasn't the only big play of the day by Cal tailbacks. Several series after the 60-yard TD from Goff to Muhammad, it was Jeffrey Coprich's turn. Once again out of the bone formation with Kline, Gingold and Wark, Coprich got a big, bulldozing block from Gingold for a 31-yard gain. Not to be outdone was Bigelow, who took the next handoff to the right, showed a little shimmy to make Sebastian miss and then wriggled away at the goal line from two other would-be tacklers for a 20-yard touchdown scamper.
"We're an explosive team offensively that executes decently from time to time, and it's a little bit mistake-prone," Dykes said. "That's why you have a scrimmage now. It was good for us. We will get a ton of work done. It's good for our quarterbacks to be in those live situations. We've got to continue to have practices with officials as much as possible, just to kind of get the little details ironed out. For the scrimmage as early as we're having in fall camp, I thought it went reasonably well."
Unofficially, Bigelow rushed six times for a net gain of 34 yards and a touchdown. Lasco had just two carries for 86 yards and a touchdown. Coprich gained 31 yards on four carries, and Jonah Hodges carried the ball three times for 30 yards. Ervin gained a net 10 yards on five carries.
"It was good to see the backs," Dykes said. "I haven't seen those guys get tackled. The funny thing about running backs: You don't ever know how good they are until somebody has to tackle them. They look good and some of the guys run pretty and look like they're fast and all that, but playing running back's about making yards, and you figure out how they make yards when you have to tackle them. I thought our guys did some good things."
As for Bigelow, who also caught one pass for 15 yards, the reviews were mixed.
"He looked a little rusty at times," Dykes said. "He was kind of a lot like the rest of the offense: Pretty impressive at times and a little bit probably too revved up at times, so he'll just get settled in. The more snaps he gets, the more comfortable he'll get. He's one of those guys who wants to score an 80-yard touchdown every play, and sometimes, you have to make the nasty two or three yards, and that's part of the process of getting comfortable again."
14 players had at least one catch on Monday.
Unofficially, Grissom had two catches for 44 yards (with an 11-yarder called back), McGovern had two catches for seven yards, Bouza one for 11, Ervin one for 15, Willis three for 10, Stephen Anderson had two grabs for 23 yards, Rodgers had one for 11, Muhammad one for 60 and a TD, Powe two for 18, McCain one for three and a touchdown, Lasco one for 10 and Boehm one for 10.
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