Apparently You Shouldn't Bet Against Jared Goff, Despite What Deadspin Says

Brewed in Marin, Jared Goff showed Joe Montana-like qualities in the NFC title game inside a hostile Louisiana Superdome. (image via Getty)

By Connor Buestad |

Back in 2013, Jared Goff arrived on the campus of UC Berkeley as a token skinny blonde kid from Marin Catholic High School, hoping to win the starting quarterback job for the Golden Bears. For various reasons, I had my doubts about how he would fare as a true freshman in the Pac-12. To be honest, I thought Zach Kline, the hyped gunslinger from San Ramon Valley, deserved to beat him out for the job headed into the fall. His high school field didn’t even have lights, I reasoned. How could he take over at the helm of a major college football team that quickly and easily? Shouldn’t Kline, with a year under his belt in college, not to mention a stronger arm, get the first crack at the job?

Ultimately, Sonny Dykes selected Goff to run the show for the Bears, effectively handing him his slick Air Raid Offense playbook and getting out of the way. In year one, despite some flashes of brilliance in the pocket, Goff struggled mightily as Cal sputtered to a 1-11 record, with their lone win coming at home versus Portland State, a team that can’t exactly call itself Division 1.

Despite the adversity, Goff bounced back with big passing seasons as a sophomore and junior, thriving in Dykes’ open air offense. Blessed with a strong receiving corps around him, Goff began to attract the attention of NFL scouts with his ability to put a ball on a dime, while never getting truly rattled, even on the road at the likes of the University of Texas.

Yet for as much success as Goff had on the collegiate level, he never quite solidified himself as a truly big-time quarterback. Alarmingly, over his three years with the Bears, Goff never once beat a top-25 team. Yes, you could argue that his defense was the problem, but Goff also shrunk in big moments himself. Perhaps his biggest test came as a junior on the road at no. 5 Utah, with College Gameday present in Salt Lake City. The 23rd ranked Bears gave themselves a chance to win that night, but ultimately could not overcome Goff throwing FIVE interceptions.

But, true to form, Goff would let his low points roll off his back and by year’s end, the junior was throwing six touchdowns in a bowl game victory over Air Force. NFL scouts were loving every minute of it, apparently.

When draft day hit in Chicago in the spring of 2016, one of the main storylines was how weak of a draft class it was for QB’s. Beside Goff and Carson Wentz, it was slim pickings. The LA Rams and head coach Jeff Fisher needed a franchise QB, so they went with Goff at number one overall, leaving Wentz for the Philadelphia Eagles at #2. Almost immediately, Goff became a rookie bust. Meanwhile, Wentz hit the ground running, leading the Eagles offense and winning games immediately and winning over the Philly faithful.

Deadspin foreshadowed Goff’s rookie campaign beautifully by ripping him a new one for his unabashed, over-the-top marketing efforts on draft night. The first overall pick was bashed for his social media ads on his personal channels with the article titled “Man, Jared Goff Loves Brands,” which basically made fun of him for squeezing every last dollar out of a night he was already making millions on.

By June of 2016, Goff was back in the news with Deadspin’s prestigious site for going back on his word with LA Dodger Yasiel Puig. A life-long Giants fan, Goff has been known to hunt souvenir baseballs in the stands at Pac Bell Park in a cream colored SF jersey. As a teenager, he even went as far as to tweet out his desire for Puig to get drilled in the ribs. That’s why it was a bit lame to see Goff immediately buddy up with Puig in a Dodgers jersey on the field at Chavez Ravine. Naturally, Deadspin gave the rookie hell for it with the headline, “Jared Goff Buddies Up With Yasiel Puig, Betrays the Sanctity of His Takes.” Honestly, it was pretty well deserved when you considered the sanctity of the Giants-Dodgers/NorCal-SoCal rivalry. Poor form indeed.

When the preseason of Goff’s first pro season got underway, he looked, well, really bad. Thus, drawing the headline, “Jared Goff Looks Kinda Butt” by Deadspin. Under the guidance of Fisher, Goff looked lost leading the Rams offense, quickly spurring on whispers of “is Goff a bust?” from guys like Colin Cowherd and the like. Of course, it was way too soon for this type of chatter, but then again, it could very well have been true. He did look pretty butt out there.

To add to the “bust” whispers, Goff didn’t even suit up in his first game as an LA Ram. Coach Fisher seemed too worried to let him be the second string QB against his hometown 49ers on Opening Night. So instead, the first overall pick in the draft would be asked to watch cautiously from the sideline and take notes form Case Keenum. The headline “The Rams Might Be In A New City, But They Still Suck” was run by Deadspin, outlining the apparent dysfunction of the new-look Rams franchise.

By the time Goff finally got a chance to suit up for Fisher’s archaic offense, the only Deadspin headline Goff could produce was one of a casual mocking. “Jeff Fisher Pleased With Jared Goff’s Ability to Perform Basic Funcitons,” it read. Still pretty depressing all things considered.

2017, however, was an entirely different story for Goff and the LA Rams. Fisher was sent packing and in came 31-year-old Sean McVay to the rescue. The offensive wonderboy didn’t waste any time in his first season as an NFL head coach, winning the NFC West with an 11-5 record. In one short year, Goff went from an NFL cautionary tale, to a Pro Bowl and a playoff appearance. It all happened so fast that the media, especially Deadspin, didn’t know what to make of it. Was this real life? Would McVay’s secret sauce be sniffed out? Could Goff continue to slice up NFL defenses at this alarming rate? Most were still skeptical.

By year two of the McVay era, there was no denying that the Rams were on to something. And by the middle of this season, after turning in one of the most electric games in Monday Night Football history, Deadspin in particular began to wonder, “Was That the Future of Football?” And if you thought about it for a second, it absolutely was. Jared Goff vs. Patrick Mahomes trading touchdowns to the tune of 54-51 in LA. Yes, the future football was upon us.

Yet even as Goff was solidifying himself as young star quarterback in year three of his prosperous NFL career, the naysayers still had reason to believe the skinny blonde kid from Marin would eventually fall back to earth and fulfill “bust” label that seemed to fit him well enough. A few bad games and the narrative could be unearthed once again. And that is exactly what happened. “It Only Took Four Bears to Make Jared Goff Look Like a Chump.”

Yes, technically that would be correct, Deadspin. Then again, the Bears defense isn’t all that chumpish (Khalil Mack, heard of him). But wait, the struggles continued, prompting the concerned Deadspin headline, “Jared Goff Is Really Struggling” to pop up as a headline. The article read as follows:

The Jared Goff who seemed like an obvious MVP candidate three weeks ago is nowhere to be seen. In his last three games, Goff has only one touchdown against seven interceptions; compare that to 26 and six over the first 11 weeks of the season. The Rams were perhaps the best team in the NFL through 11 weeks, winning the game of the season and only dropping a thriller to the Saints, in which Goff played heroically. Since winning that Monday Night Football classic, Los Angeles has gone 1-2, struggling to dispatch the Lions two weeks ago, getting crunched by the Bears last week, and convincingly losing to the Nick Foles-led Eagles this week, their first home loss of the season.

That’s why going into the NFC Championship game in New Orleans, I made the conscious (more importantly sober) decision to bet against Goff. He was getting just three points on the road in front of a literally deafening New Orleans Saints crowd. On the other side of the ball was the ultra-experienced Drew Brees, a 40-year old competitive junkie who basically never loses at home inside the dome. A man with a Super Bowl to his name and over a dozen playoff appearances as a starting QB. The Saints had the savvy Sean Payton leading them, while the Rams countered with 32-year-old McVay, a guy who still hasn’t finished two seasons as a head coach in the NFL. Goff had never one a truly big game in his life. Would he start now? Well… yes.

Say what you will about the “worst call in NFL history,” Goff made plays for his team to put them in position to win the game. With Montana’s #16 displayed proudly across his chest, Goff weathered a treacherous storm in the first quarter when the Rams fell down 13-0 to start the game. He could have easily folded at that point, as most other unproven quarterbacks that young would have been swallowed up by the noise in the dome. All his excuses were built in and ready to go. He could head into the post-game pressor and talk positively about how young the Rams were as a team from top to bottom and how much room they had to grow in the seasons to come. The narrative would have made sense. But somehow, Goff was able to push the noise of the fans and the headlines aside and pull out an improbable, albeit controversial victory in the face of sure defeat.

Now onto Atlanta Goff goes for Super Bowl 53, to square off against one of his childhood heroes in Tom Brady, another Bay Area native in his own right. If you want to bet against Goff in the Super Bowl, by all means go ahead. After all, the Vegas odds will be in your favor. Just don’t expect Deadspin to use the word “bust” and “Goff” in the same sentence anytime in the future. They’re way too smart for that.

Dynamic Duo Headlines CAL’s Receiving Corps

(photo by Norman Mo)

By Connor Buestad |

In just three years behind center for the Golden Bears, CAL quarterback Jared Goff already owns 16 different passing records in the Berkeley history books. And by about midway through the fall of 2015, he figures to tack on a handful more as he continues to bolster his NFL résumé. Surely, much of this passing success can and should be attributed to the wide-open Bear Raid offense that Sonny Dykes brought over with him from Louisiana Tech. It is an offense in which seemingly everything is designed around the concept of allowing the quarterback to get off as many pass attempts as possible.

But, of course, there always needs to be a capable body at the other end of every fastball Goff pumps across the middle, or fade he lobs into the back corner of the end zone. For the last few years Kenny Lawler and Bryce Treggs have been tasked with the duty of making Goff look good, and they have responded by making him look spectacular.

Both Lawler (a junior) and Treggs (a senior) grew up in the football skill position hotbed that is southern California. Lawler prepped east of L.A. in Pomona, while Treggs learned his craft in the city of Inglewood. Lawler has plenty of height for a receiver and lines up far outside on the line of scrimmage. Treggs, meanwhile, is under six feet and lines up inside in the slot. But most importantly, both have breakaway speed and sticky hands. Two traits that Jared Goff can’t get enough of.

As much as Bear Backers would like to believe Jared Goff has a shot at the Heisman, perhaps a more realistic goal would to simply be crowned the best quarterback of the PAC-12. But even with Marcus Mariota gone to the Tennessee Titans and NFL scouts singing his praises, Goff is still pitted behind USC’s Cody Kessler for conference QB supremacy. The duo of Lawler and Treggs know the feeling all too well.

Despite combining for 15 touchdowns, over 1,200 yards, and over 100 catches last season, Lawler and Treggs still have a lot to prove before they can bypass their PAC-12 peers. The three schools in the conference who are getting the most wide out hype are as follows: JuJu Smith & Adoree’ Jackson of USC, Jordan Payton & Thomas Duarte of UCLA, and Cayleb Jones & Thomas Duarte of Arizona.

But based on last year’s performance, CAL’s yin and yang duo of Lawler and Treggs certainly deserves to be in the conversation of the conference’s best heading into 2015. One handed catches in the corner of the end zone have become the norm for Lawler, who has steadily gotten bigger and stronger over the course of his career in Berkeley and has learned to overpower smaller defenders. His nine touchdowns last year led all CAL receivers and he is already 9th on CAL’s all-time touchdown list after just two seasons.

Treggs figures to be CAL’s emotional leader this year, when you combine his noticeable charisma and three full years of playing experience under his belt. Add on the fact that Bryce’s dad Brian was CAL’s leading receiver for three seasons from 1989-91 and is now enshrined in the Bear’s Hall of Fame. Pretty soon you begin to realize #1 has all the makings of yet another break out season in his last year in a Bears uniform.

CAL’s dynamic duo will have more than enough support around them, so if their stats somehow slip, it could be that Goff is just spreading the wealth.  Stephen Anderson is another tall wide out that is a popular target for Goff, and this year he will be playing more tight end. Even after missing the first two games due to injury, Anderson tallied five touchdown catches despite not being the featured receiver.

Another talented receiver that will provide support is herald freshman Carlos Strickland out of Texas. Perhaps CAL’s most prized recruit of the incoming freshman, Strickland’s highlight tape speaks for itself, as he is one of the most electrifying playmakers in the nation. It wouldn’t be out of the question to see an immediate impact made by Strickland vs. Grambling on September 5th.

With only one ball to go around and so many weapons to choose from, some might begin to worry that Lawler and Treggs might not get all the touches they need. But if anyone should be worried it should be radio play-by-play legend Joe Starkey. “TOUCHDOWN BEARS” might begin to sound like a broken record if he isn’t careful. 

(Photo by HArry How)

Section 925 Podcast Episode 49 - CAL Football Coach Jacob Peeler

Coach Peeler is excited about the recent CAL recruiting class he just helped sign.

CAL Inside Receivers coach Jacob Peeler (@PeelsJP) joins Tripper to share his inside perspective on Bears football. Coach Peeler, a central Mississippi native, discusses his journey to Berkeley by way of Louisiana Tech. He also talks about life on the recruiting trail and discusses CAL's latest class of talented freshman.



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Section 925 Podcast Episode 32 - Cal Writer Ryan Gorcey Previews the Bears v. Buckeyes

(Photo by Jamie Sabau)

Leading Cal beat writer Ryan Gorcey ( jumps inside the Section925 Mobile Podcenter with Connor to discuss the upcoming Cal-Ohio State game. Gorcey discusses what kind of team Urban Meyer will bring with him to Berkeley and the struggling Cal defense that will try to stop the Buckeyes. Gorcey also provides some historical context on the type of year freshman QB Jared Goff has been enjoying. RG even lets us in on some Barry Sacks practice stories and his chances of rubbing elbows with Erin Andrews on Saturday.

Listen here:

Jared Goff Comes out Gunning in his Collegiate Debut

Goff's first college TD pass was a 52 yard deep post to Chris Harper (Photo by Jose Fajardo)

By Connor Buestad |

As the clock approached midnight on the last night of August, Jared Goff sat exhausted in the Cal Football media room following what had to be the fastest 4 hours of his life. He had just thrown the ball an eye-popping 63 times, good for 445 passing yards in route to a whirlwind loss to Northwestern in his first college game. You couldn’t blame him if he wasn’t exactly colorful in the postgame presser.

“I didn’t even know I threw it that many times,” Goff explained postgame, very matter-of-factly. “It’s more than I threw in high school, but it didn’t feel like that much more. I was just throwing the ball when I was supposed to, handing off when I was supposed to, you know, it just happened to work out like that.”

On this night, according to head coach Sonny Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin at least, Goff was ‘supposed’ to throw the ball a whole helluva lot. Set up in the shotgun for the entirety of the game, Goff orchestrated an offense that operated at a breakneck speed. The 99 plays the Bears ran from scrimmage was the third highest total in Cal history. Not bad for a 18-year-old’s first night of college football, playing against an elite Big-10 team.

Believe it or not, never before has a true freshman started the season as the Bears starting quarterback. Nor has any Cal frosh ever thrown for that many yards in a single game.  In fact, only one other quarterback in the history of Cal,  Pat Barnes in 1996, has thrown for that many yards in a game before and he needed four overtimes to do so.

“I’m really excited for the future of our offense,” said Goff following his stellar first impression in blue and gold. “You saw in the third quarter how much rhythm we can get and how much our offense can get rolling. I’m super excited about it.”

It is becoming abundantly clear that Jared Goff is much more Ken Dorsey or Joe Montana than current Heisman winner Johnny Manziel. Not one to dominate a conversation or bring attention to himself, Goff has already established himself as a cool customer who is content with simply making the right play on each and every down. And beside just one interception that was his fault, Goff did just that. He took the snap and preceded to quickly make the right play, over and over again. Just as Dorsey did in Miami’s heyday during the early 2000’s, Goff utilized his playmakers all night long, spraying the ball around the field to Chris Harper, Bryce Treggs and Brendan Bigelow for smooth, consistent yardage gains.

It is safe to say Sonny Dykes’ signiture Air Raid offense showed up in Berkeley as advertised, much to the delight of the big crowd on hand on a picturesque night at Memorial Stadium. Sonny's young offense seemingly made it their goal to run as many plays as they could in the allotted 60 minute timeframe. It eventually got the the point that the experienced, Big-10 tested defense of Northwestern decided to resort to the type of gamesmanship usually reserved for defenses playing against the vaunted Oregon Ducks. If nothing else, it was a compliment to the Bears new offense that the Wildcats of Northwestern would resort to “allegedly” faking injuries on the field to slow down the Goff/Harper/Treggs “Bear Raid” onslaught.

It wasn’t more than three weeks ago that redshirt freshman Zach Kline, complete with a year of seasoning and a dominate high school career under his belt, was assumed to be the starter on opening night. That never came to fruition, however, as Sonny instead decided to hand the reins over to the cool headed Goff, a son of a Major League baseball player and Cal alum.

Goff’s high school coach at Marin Catholic, Mazi Moayed, has no problem going on record and comparing Goff to Joe Montana and Tom Brady and pegging his understudy as a future NFL’er. After Saturday night, that sort of praise seems to make logical sense, albeit it was just one game.

Yes, Goff technically threw three interceptions on Saturday, and no he didn’t get the W. But what he did do is restore hope in Berkeley that great quarterbacking can and will take place on the Memorial Stadium turf. Now if only he can find a way to steal a victory over Ohio State or Oregon, then the Dorsey comparisons can really begin to pass as the truth.

Bryce Treggs was all over the field catching balls on Saturday night (Photo by Jose Fajardo)

“Country Comes to Town” - Sonny Dykes Arrives in Berkeley to Lead the Golden Bears

(Photo by Brant Ward, The Chronicle)

By Connor Buestad (

Deep in the heart of Texas, days after Sonny Dykes was introduced as Cal’s newest football coach, his father, Spike Dykes, is talking pigskin with a couple of football junkies on the “Cook's Pest Control Hotline.”

At 75 years old, and with a glorious football career in his rearview mirror, Spike has no politically correct filter, no recruiting agenda, no schtick, just some stories about the good ol’ days of amateur football in the Lone Star State. And when the topic comes up of his boy moving out west to coach the Golden Bears, Spike shoots straight as an arrow.

“You talk about country come to town,” says Spike with a chuckle. “I think we probably dance to different drummers, you know what I’m saying? I don’t think I’d fit too good out there (in California). But I hope he does, I hope he can do it.”

And by “I hope he can do it,” we all know what Spike really means. Can his boy Sonny do what has proved impossible for the past 55 years in Berkeley? Can he bring a Rose Bowl berth to the faithful of Strawberry Canyon? Can he restore order in program that finished 3-9 last year while sporting the lowest graduation rate of all Pac-12 schools (48%)? One thing we’ve learned already, if Sonny succeeds, he’ll do so by keeping things simple, just like his old man did.

Born in the fall of 1969, Sonny Dykes grew up in Big Spring, Texas, as the son of a football coach. In a state certifiably obsessed with football, where a good seat at a high school game can require a Season Ticket Personal Seat License, Sonny was fed football for as long as he could remember. Naturally, he wanted to be the next Roger Staubach. The only catch was that he wasn’t very good. At least, not good enough to play for his dad, who was the coach of Texas Tech at the time. Fortunately, he knew how to handle a baseball bat.

“I was just kind of an average high school football player and if wanted to play I was gonna end up going to some school I’ve never heard of to play football,” Sonny told KNBR. “I just happened to be a little better at baseball. I could at least go to a school I’ve heard of. I was just kind of a guy on the baseball team.”

But following his graduation, there was no shaking the football lifestyle that had been ingrained in him at a young age. Even if he wasn’t good enough to cut it as a player, he couldn’t help but go back to it as a coach.

Sonny’s first legitimate coaching job took him 55 miles south of downtown Dallas to a small football town called Corsicana, Texas. The city’s motto is “Live, Work, Play.” It was Sonny’s kind of town. Sonny coached the quarterbacks at Navarro College. In his second year they made it to the Texas Junior College Championship. Soon thereafter, Sonny wound up at the University of Kentucky, where he served as an assistant to Hal Mumme, the Godfather of the “Air-Raid” offense. The Air-Raid concept led him back to Texas Tech, where he coached under fellow Air-Raid master Mike Leach. This was followed by a stint in the Pac-10 as an offensive coordinator at Arizona, and finally three years as the head man of Louisiana Tech in the WAC. Today, Sonny finds himself behind the wheel of a team and program ripe with potential, but fraught with flaws as he heads into the 2013 season facing perhaps the toughest schedule in college football.

This will be the first year Cal has had a new football coach since Jeff Tedford was hired back in 2002. Much like Dykes, Tedford was brought in based on his acumen as an offensive coordinator. Dubbed a “quarterback guru,” Tedford came to Berkeley with an offensive mindset, determined to jumpstart a god-awful program. In his freshman campaign, Tedford gave Bears fans a winning season, just one year removed from a 1-10 debacle under Tom Holmoe. By his third season, Tedford had the Bears ranked in the top 10 nationally, knocking on the Rose Bowl door.

During the middle of Tedford’s time in Berkeley, good times were rolling, and there seemed to be no end in sight. Tie-dyed “TedHead” shirts were printed, Marshawn and DeSean routinely ran wild, multi-million dollar stadium renovations were drawn up, and the Bears even flirted with a number 1 ranking. Somewhere along the line, however, Tedford seemed to lose his mojo, quality quarterbacks slowly stopped walking through his office door, and he was eventually forced to give up the once-promising program he cultivated.

In his shoes now stands a swashbuckler named Sonny Dykes who has been entrusted with the tall task of bringing the Bears back to Pac-12 prominence. It appears he plans to do so with the mantra of “KISS… Keep It Simple, Stupid.”

While Tedford was known for implementing a thick, complex playbook each fall, Dykes plans to take the exact opposite approach with the Air-Raid, or “Bear-Raid,” as it is now appropriately called in Berkeley. No doubt, Tedford’s offense worked wonderfully when it was run by a quarterback up to the task (see Rodgers, Aaron), but the complexities of the Tedford attack seemed to fall apart under his less adept signal callers in the past few years. Dykes, on the other hand, values the power of simplicity to make his offense move.

The Air-Raid style that Dykes will use traces itself back through a web of successful coaches. It is said the initial framework of the offense was spawned at BYU during the exciting passing years of Jim McMahon, Steve Young and Ty Detmer. LaVell Edwards was the coach during that era, and it was his mission to give his quarterbacks a simple, free and easy system to work in. Huddle only when you have to, use four wide receivers, let the QB go from the shotgun, and have him audible whenever he sees fit. This system worked, year after year, and it spawned a coaching tree that eventually named the system the “Air-Raid.” Hal Mumme took to it first, followed by Mike Leach, and now Sonny Dykes. 

In his three-year stay at Louisiana Tech, Dykes more than proved the value of the Air-Raid. Last season, Dykes’ offense churned out 577 yards and 51 points on average per game—all with an offensive playbook that consists of roughly 20 core plays. Huddles were mainly an afterthought last season, as Dykes’ offense reeled off the second-most offensive plays from scrimmage in all of Division I. Get to the line, survey the defense, snap it and let your athletes make plays. Rinse and repeat.

“Athletes who make plays” certainly have not been in short supply in Berkeley over the past decade. One would be hard pressed to flip on the tube on a fall Sunday and not see a Cal alum starring for an NFL team. Pro talent has been steadily flowing through the Cal recruiting pipeline, but for whatever reason, it hasn’t fully blossomed in Berkeley, especially at the quarterback position. Sandy Barbour and company are banking on the hope that a little simplicity will be just what the doctor ordered.

While Tedford leaves behind all the positives that come with a renovated Memorial Stadium and a new high-performance training facility, he also leaves his successor with an incredibly competitive schedule to navigate. Dykes inherits the least experienced team in all of the Pac-12 (five returners on defense, four on offense to be exact), and must face Big-10 power in Northwestern right out of the gate. Two weeks later, the team expected to claim the national championship and the Heisman Trophy, Ohio State, will show up in Berkeley. Sprinkle in a late September road test at Oregon and you have yourself a murderous first month of the season to contend with.

Dykes can only hope his simple, straightforward offense will jibe with what will likely be redshirt freshman Zach Kline at quarterback. If Kline can channel his inner Jim McMahon and Steve Young, the Bear-Raid will provide all the freedom he needs to make plays. What the offense won’t provide is a complex, intricate system designed to deceive the defense and hide offensive flaws.

Sonny Dykes, born in America’s football heartland to the son of a famed Texas coach, knows the drill all too well. Success isn’t measured by progress, or talent, or potential, but rather the cold hard facts of wins and losses and BCS Bowl appearances. It’s “win now,” and after that, it’s “what have you done for me lately.” It’s coaches at SC and Oregon bending the rules and breaking for the NFL as soon as it gets too hot. It’s Mike Leach at Washington State, it’s Jim Mora Jr. at UCLA, David Shaw at Stanford. It’s non-conference games vs. Big-10 powers. It’s the Wild West of college football, and good ol’ Sonny now finds himself right in the thick of it all. The Bear-Raid era is upon us and Cal fans can only pray it delivers the Rose Bowl they have long deserved.

(Photo by Lenny Ignelzi/AP)

“Welcome to the Show” - Cal Heads to The Ohio State Horseshoe to Face Urban Meyer

By Connor Buestad (

On a recent Tuesday evening, downtrodden from a long day of work and an even longer stretch of Bay Area fog, I flipped on the tube and took a tour of my house’s DVR contents. As it were, my roommate, a Texas transplant and former high school quarterback, had recorded "ESPN All-Access: Ohio State Training Days" for the entire house to enjoy. It was ESPN’s collegiate spinoff on HBO’s ever popular “Hard Knocks”, and I was eager to find out what kind of motivational entertainment was in store. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. By the end of the documentary, I was about ready to put my beer down and run through a wall for Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer.

This Saturday, at 9am PST, the California Golden Bears will head into football crazed Columbus, Ohio and do battle with the Buckeyes in front of a national television audience on ABC. If the show “Training Days” serves as any indication, the Bears will be encountering an angry sea of red that is ferociously hungry and desperate for success. The Horseshoe will be filled to the gills with raucous fans, all of which will be looking for blood in the water when Jeff Tedford and his troops set foot on Ohio soil.

Anyone who has followed college football over the last decade knows that Urban Meyer is a phenomenal football coach. Arguably, he is the best college football coach in the game today. In 2004, while at Utah, Meyer used Alex Smith as his quarterback to take a virtually unknown program to a 12-0 undefeated season. Meyer then moved on to Florida where he coached for six seasons. All he did there was win two National Championships in 2006 and 2008 with likes of Chris Leak and Tim Tebow leading his offenses.

What fewer people understand about Meyer is his uncontrollable obsession with the game of football. After losing in the SEC Championship game in 2009 to Alabama, Meyer was rushed to the hospital. Suffering from stress induced chest pains and dehydration, Meyer was so taxed by his quest to win it all that he was nearly having a heart attack. He quit for a few days after the incident, explaining that he needed to get healthy and spend time with his family. But sure enough, he was inevitably back inside the Florida coaches office by week's end. Since then, Meyer coached his final season at Florida, spent one year as a TV analyst, and finally found his way back to Ohio State, the place where he began his coaching life as a wide receivers coach back in 1986.

From the first whistle of “Training Days”, Urban Meyer’s unmatched passion for football comes pouring out of him. His main slogan for his players is to “bring the juice” at each and every moment of practice. Whenever he fears “the juice” is missing, Meyer lets his players know about it in a menacing, commander-in-chief type voice. He is also fond of the phrases “be a badass” and “be an angry football team”. High above the Ohio State workout facility, the phrase “Train Like an American Hero” is written for all to see upon entering.

“Training Days” makes it no secret that Urban Meyer runs his program like a tightly-knit military unit, always ready for any battle on the horizon. The 2012 version of the Buckeyes will not be eligible to play in a postseason bowl game, due to prior violations under coach Jim Tressel. All the more reason why Meyer’s ability to create such a high intensity training camp is so impressive. Meyer is so dedicated to the idea of having a close football team that he even has his players take naps together. During double-days, instead of having his team scatter for lunch in between practices, Meyer and his staff bought 70 air mattresses and sent his players into the weight room at noon and had them sleep on the floor for an hour together. The Ohio State weight room floor: Urban Meyer’s version of military barracks.

Even despite all the demands Meyer puts on his team of 18-22 year olds, “Training Days” depicts a team full of players that seem to love their football coach. If nothing else, the team respects Meyer for all the energy he puts into bringing his team to the top of the college football world. Unfortunately, Meyer has been known to let college football take over his life, with the quest of winning the national championship becoming all consuming. In the wake of Meyer’s physical breakdown at Florida and subsequent trip to the hospital, Meyer’s daughter Nicki requested that her dad sign a family contract promising that he stay healthy and well adjusted for the rest of his coaching career. Among the requests Urban had to sign for Nicki included such remedial tasks as “eating 3 meals a day” and “sleeping with the cell phone on silent”.

In Urban Meyer’s first two games at the helm in Columbus, his new team has defeated Miami of Ohio and Central Florida, both in impressive fashion. Meyer now will set his sights on the Golden Bears of Cal, a team who is in desperate need of a strong effort come Saturday. Bears’ coach Jeff Tedford, at one point credited with turning around the Cal football program, has now found himself on the the proverbial hot seat. His job security at its lowest level to date.

Tedford’s boom years saw Old Blues dawning tie dyed “Ted Head” shirts and the likes of Marshawn and DeSean running wild across the Old Memorial Stadium turf. His success earned him enough good faith to make what became a 321 Million Dollar stadium upgrade seem reasonable. But now, countless concerned eyes look to Tedford, wondering how long this stadium investment will take to generate a return.

It could very well be argued that Jeff Tedford and his staff have no reason to fear any team in the country. After all, the Bears are used to playing the likes of USC and Oregon year in and year out, both powerhouses in their own right, both ranked higher than Ohio State. That said, when Tedford scheduled this game with the Buckeyes, it was before he knew Urban Meyer would be his opponent. It was also before he knew Ohio State would be ineligible to play in a bowl game in 2012, making each regular season game, and the quest for Meyer to go undefeated all the more important.

Cal’s first two games this year have both been extremely disappointing. First, the Bears let Nevada spoil their long awaited homecoming with a 31-24 loss. Zach Maynard failed to start the game at quarterback because of a missed tutoring session over the summer, and the Bears never seemed to recover from their slow start. Cal followed this up with an uninspired victory over Southern Utah. In a game that was figured to be a blowout in favor of Berkeley, Cal committed 12 penalties and the contest was still up for grabs in the fourth quarter.

The fact of the matter is, the 2012 version of the Cal Bears are not a Rose Bowl contender. Barring something more miraculous than “The Play”, the 53 year Rose Bowl drought is going to tick one more spot to 54 by year's end. Yet, if Cal ever has dreams of getting back to the “Granddaddy of Them All”, they will have to find a way to rise to the level of the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Come Saturday morning, Bear fans the world over will turn their eyes to a football mecca, Columbus, Ohio. As Cal chases their blue and gold flag out of the tunnel and onto the Horseshoe turf, Bear Backers won’t necessarily need a win in order to be satisfied. But one thing's for sure, the Bears better well bring some juice. We all know Urban Meyer will.