Tuesday's ninth day of fall camp for the California football team was, as opposed to the last two days, an offensively-dominated performance, with the big play being a 75-yard touchdown pass from Jared Goff to Daniel Lasco.
"Starting off practice, some of the leaders got together, we got all the offense together and told everybody that, the last couple days, we've been slacking off when it comes to the last period," Lasco said. "We had to go out there and show the defense, just respond to the last two days of practice, and I think, what we did today, it's a big step in the right direction. We've just got to keep this train rolling, and the defense came out fired up. The offense won. Coach Dykes said it the best: Some days, the offense is going to win; some days, the defense is going to win. But, that just shows a good team."
Not to be outdone, freshman Patrick Laird finished things off in style, outracing the entire second-team unit for a 75-yard touchdown with freshman quarterback Luke Rubenzer at the helm.
"The last play of the game, he ran for 70-some-odd yards on a touchdown run, and all the running backs, we had a great day today, and that just shows the improvement in the line," Lasco said.
"I think the last two days, the defense kind of got after us," said offensive line coach Zach Yenser. "We really, really challenged our guys at every position to come out and to focus on the task and do what we had to do. We put the pads on today, and it was full-tackle, and that changes it up a little bit, but really, up front, we just focused on finishing blocks, staying on and running our feet, because our backs are going to give us a chance to make some big plays. They've made us look good the last couple weeks of camp here, and hopefully, we're trying to give them some holes, stay on blocks and do what we're supposed to do up front."
The offense had some huge plays on Tuesday, including the 75-yard score, a 40-yard rumbling run by tailback Vic Enwere, a 65-yard scoring strike with Goff finding Bryce Treggs on the second play of team 11-on-11 work, and also hitting Trevor Davis from 25 yards out.
Rubenzer and junior receiver Chris Harper hooked up for a 50-yard touchdown in 11-on-11 work, and Rubenzer also tossed a 33-yarded to Maurice Harris during third-down situational work.
The Cal defense allowed touchdowns on four of six offensive series during team periods, most of which were long scores.
Quentin Tartabull benefitted from pressure on Rubenzer, scoring an interception, while A.J. Greathouse broke up a touchdown pass from Goff to Harper. Greathouse was also the defender when a TD fade by Rubenzer to Davis was dropped.
Jake Kearney notched his first sack of camp by dropping Rubenzer, chasing him down from the far sideline.
“The last two days, I thought the defense really kind of got after the offense, and then, today, the offense made some big plays," said head coach Sonny Dykes. "We turned the ball over twice, but they made some good plays, and that has a tendency to happen when you’ve got to tackle, and that’s why we’re trying to get a lot of live tackling. We’ve just got to improve that, and there were some good things out there. Still a lot of opportunities to get better and make more plays, offensively.
“We had a couple of drops for touchdowns and missed a couple of easy throws, and that kind of stuff, but it was good to see a couple of big plays and some guys do some things with the football after they caught it. It was progress.”
Dykes also indicated that Rubenzer's performance over the last several days has helped move him ahead of the pack when it comes to being named the No. 2 quarterback.
“I think, right now, Luke’s getting the majority of the reps, and has done a lot of good things. We’ll continue to let it play out, but he’s making a move," Dykes said.
There could be a possibility that if Rubenzer is named the No. 2 quarterback, it could be a 2A and 2B situation, where senior Austin Hinder would be the No. 2 in case something catastrophic happened to Goff over the final five games, but Rubenzer would take over if something catastrophic happened before, for instance, the seventh game, though Dykes did not offer that kind of detail.
"That’s something that we’ll have some conversations as that starts to develop, if that’s the way it goes, just wanting to have as much separation between Jared and Luke, if he’s going to be the next guy, and all that stuff, but there’s so much that remains to play out," Dykes said. "He gives us a bit of a different element. We’ll see if that’s going to be something that we think can give us a chance.”
Jordan Rigsbee saw time with the first-team offense as the right tackle, while Dominic Granado -- who had taken the lion's share of first-team reps there -- was moved to second-team right tackle.
“He’s working in there," Dykes said of Rigsbee. "We’re bouncing him around between guard and tackle, and trying to rest Steven Moore a little bit today. The good thing about Jordan is he’s played everywhere. He’s kind of our utility guy. He can play center, he can play guard and he can play tackle. He can kind of bounce around a little bit if we need him to bounce around. The thing is, we’d like to leave him someplace and let him develop, but right now, he’s pretty valuable being able to do that, so we’ll kind of keep bouncing him around and see where he settles in.”
Rigsbee has been brought along slower than starting center Chris Adcock, but he's now gotten into full-team reps on three straight days.
"Starting with having Chris Adcock back, I think it's huge for us -- he's kind of the center of what we're trying to build that line around, just how consistent he plays, and obviously getting Rigs back, he's kind of our guy," Yenser said. "He's our tempo guy, our get-us-going type guy. I think every offensive line has to have it, and we haven't had ours for the first week. Getting him back today, he's been in it the last two days, but getting him back with the one's today has kind of lifted us up a bit, and I think we're pretty healthy right now. We're playing with some confidence, and we know that, when we step foot on this field, we've got to be better. We're not where we want to be -- where we need to be -- to win football games, but we're constantly getting better."
Linebacker Nathan Broussard and running back Jeffrey Coprich got dinged up, but Dykes said that Broussard most likely had "just a sore knee," and that Coprich "sprained his foot a little bit. Nothing serious, but we'll see."
Dykes repeated what he told me earlier last week, and that is that Kyle Boehm did not report to camp. There's more to the story, but that's what's available for now.
There was also some more clarity on linebacker Jason Gibson's medical retirement: “I think he’s going to medically retire. All that is still playing out," Dykes said. "He’s not going to be with us, right now. We’ll see in the future. Maybe he’ll feel better, and there’s the potential that he could come back and go through that process if he wants to, but he’s probably not going to be with us, this year.”
After making a big push over the past four days of practice, it's now more or less official: Devante Downs will play this season, and will not redshirt.
"He's going to play," Dykes said. "We'll roll with Downs, for sure."
What got him there?
“The big thing he did, is he went through spring football, so he got to get settled in through spring, and has been in the strength and conditioning program for a long time, since January, really, and he’s just, physically, he’s kind of ahead of a lot of those freshmen," Dykes said. "He’s a big, strong guy, and has benefitted from six months in the weight room, and an opportunity to learn the scheme and everything, as well. He’s a pretty good ways ahead, right now, of a typical freshman.”
Dykes also said that other candidates to have their redshirts pulled are Noah Westerfield, Greathouse, both Rubenzer and fellow freshman quarterback Chase Forrest and Tartabull.
Cornerback Darius White was still in red, though Dykes said he could have practiced. He, along with Avery Sebastian, will continue to be brought along slowly, but not too slowly.
“We need for him to start getting in the mix," Dykes said of White. "The good thing about corner is a guy can play that position pretty quickly, pick it up and everything, so he’ll get a little bit more. He’ll probably do individual and stuff tomorrow. I don’t know how much contact he’s going to get, prior to Northwestern. That’s something we’ll see as he continues to progress, but I would anticipate him doing a little bit more every day.”
Sebastian is "better than he was," but the Bears still want to play it slow with the veteran safety.
"We don’t want to just throw him in there and re-aggravate it," Dykes said. "It’s more about trying to progress him slowly, so he can stay healthy. It doesn’t do us a lot of good to throw a guy in the mix and blow him up and then we lose him for another week. We’re trying to progress some guys pretty slowly, and it’s worked, for most of the guys.”
As we've noted in earlier message board threads over on our Fall Camp Central board, Tony Mekari has really made a big impression on the staff, and Dykes noted the redshirt freshman's performance on Tuesday.
“Tony Mekari had a really good day yesterday," Dykes said. "Trevor Kelly looks like a different guy than he did in the spring. He’s lighter and moves so much better. Austin Clark, I think, has been a pleasant surprise. All those guys have been pretty solid.”
All of the sudden, a position -- defensive tackle -- where Cal had been perceived as very weak, may wind up being fairly deep, thanks to the likes of Mekari and Austin Clark.
“Right now, he’s working his way into the rotation, and we’ll see how many guys we think we can run with, and that’ll become our rotation," Dykes said of Clark. "Whether that’s five, six, potentially seven D-tackles, that would certainly be a good problem to have, if we got to that kind of depth. We’ll continue to see who we think gives us a chance to win, and then, at that point, we’ll determine who the starters are. All those guys are going to play.”
• The offense exploded on a three-play three-play, 165-yard outburst near the end of full 11-on-11 work, when Rubenzer hit Harper for the 50-yard touchdown pass, followed by the 75-yard screen pass from Goff to Lasco and Enwere's 40-yard run.
• Earlier in the 11-on-11 session, linebacker Michael Barton sacked Goff before a leaping interception from Cedric Dozier when Goff threw after the whistle indicating a sack.
• Forrest completed two TD tosses to Laird and Kyle Wells, with another from Hinder to Wells during third-down work.
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