No revelations as Bear Raid wraps up spring practice
BERKELEY, Calif. – If you were expecting a revelation to occur at quarterback or a new star to emerge at California’s spring game on Saturday, you showed up at the wrong place.
If you were looking for some entertainment and a nice way to cap the first set of spring practices of the “Bear Raid” area in Strawberry Canyon, however, Memorial Stadium was the place to be as the Golden Bears’ defense edged out the offense, 28-24.
“We have a little work to do still,” head coach Sonny Dykes said. “There were some positives. We made our quarterbacks live and I thought they responded well. It was a weird day with only three linebackers, so we had to slow it down offensively. Defense was just huffing and puffing trying to get through the scrimmage.
“I was pleased overall with what we got done today.”
[Related Sonny Dykes postgame interview]
The quarterback derby no doubt attracted the most interest from the fans in the stands and the coaches on the sidelines. Zach Kline was 7-of-14 passing for 124 yards and a touchdown while Austin Hinder went 5-of-9 for 87 yards and a score. Freshman Jared Goff went 7-of-15 for 66 yards and a touchdown.
“It was ugly,” offensive coordinator Tony Franklin said. “The good thing is the defense played really well. Offensively, we had some guys that probably played well but you never really know until you watch the film. Overall, the rhythm was bad and we never could get it going.”
Part of the issues on offense centered around a lack of healthy running backs and an offensive line that was on its heels most of the afternoon. There were plenty of positives from the trio of signal-callers competing to be the starter, though, including Kline escaping pressure on the first play, rolling to his right and finding Maurice Harris for a 47-yard play along the sideline.
“I think there were some flashes of a pretty good team. We have a lot to work on, that’s for sure. There’s a whole list of things I have to work on,” Kline said. “We’re going to refine all the things we’re going to refine and keep building off the things we’re doing well.”
Hinder didn’t see the passing reps the other two did, but showed flashes and rushed four times for 37 yards. Goff showed off some good improvisational skills, escaping the pocket one time and shot-putting the ball to a running back for a first down. He later tossed a laser to Drake Whitehurst for a touchdown to wrap up an early drive.
“I feel like I’ve done pretty well for myself for being here just a month,” Goff said. “I know I can get better. I overthrew a couple of balls. But for the most part I did a pretty good job. Out here in the spring, everything is super hectic and you can’t really think; you just have to go out and play. I did my best today and the results were pretty good.”
“You get out there and you don’t think. It’s all instinct and that’s just what this offense is,” Kline added. “You have to execute. Being live was definitely a lot of fun – it’s playing football. It was really cool to escape the pocket and not have the whistle blow.”
Still, no matter what the quarterbacks flashed on the cool Bay Area day, in the coaches’ eyes there was no separation.
“I wouldn’t say I saw anything today that allowed somebody stepped ahead,” Dykes said. “We saw positives from all of them. The good news is we feel like we have three guys that will give us an opportunity to win. We’ll see how it develops over the next several months.”
Defensively, the Golden Bears didn’t have much with some early injuries to the linebacking corps, but there was little doubt that the unit was ahead of the offense despite a transition of its own this spring.
“I thought our ones came out and played well like they should,” coordinator Andy Buh said. “I couldn’t really tell you about any individual efforts until we look at the film. I will say this, Jalen Jefferson made a couple of big-time plays out there. Avery Sebastian made a couple of big plays. (Stefan) McClure is solid for us. They’re really not attacking him because he’s been so solid all spring.
“As a whole, the front played really well. I thought the linebackers played decently considering we were down to only three of them in the game.”
“I was so dead out there,” Jefferson confirmed.
Jonah Hodges led the limited running back stable with 59 yards on 12 carries. Jeffrey Coprich chipped in 28 yards on 13 carries.
All in all, it was pretty much business as usual over in Berkeley on both sides of the ball as the team heads out on spring break next week.
“I think we’re ahead in some ways. The only thing that was disappointing is the injuries and practice time that guys missed,” said Dykes. “That was the negative with guys getting banged up, but the positive was our work ethic was good and we improved as a football team. We learned a lot about our guys and what we need to work on.”
Lynch scores in return to Memorial
The roar of the crowd was palpable when former running back Marshawn Lynch jogged onto the field in one of his old jerseys. Even with a helmet on, his trademark dreadlocks were unmistakable to the Cal faithful as he took a hand off from Jared Goff and ran off to the right side for a 22-yard touchdown.
“I have a feeling if we had him it would have been a bit different today,” Tony Franklin said of the Seattle Seahawks superstar. “We would have fed him about 30 times.”
As part of the festivities, the All-Pro running back signed autographs before the game, but still wanted to do something extra for those that that made it out to the game.
“It would have been nice to have him today,” Dykes said semi-seriously. “We kind of brainstormed a way for him to do something with the team and it was something that we felt would catch people’s attention. He was nice enough to come do it. He’s been real supportive of the program. We have to build that with so many former players in the program in the NFL. We have to get those guys back and comfortable about what’s going on around here.
“He’s a great guy that loves Cal.”
“It was something good and exciting for the fans,” Maurice Harris said. “They told us in the locker room, but I didn’t really believe him. They had to let him score.”
The Cal sports information staff even had a little fun with the touchdown run, adding it into the game’s play-by-play as such: ‘Marshawn Lynch guest; rushes to end zone for TOUCHDOWN; 7:58; NO PLAY, negated by lack of eligibility.’
The funny line in the box score wasn’t the best of the day regarding Lynch’s run, however, as the head coach had some specific instructions for his defense.
“We told them that if anybody tackles him, it’s a $25 million fine,” Dykes joked. “I didn’t want that call from Pete (Carroll).”
Luckily, he won’t have to worry about that.
[Related: Spring football TV schedule]