Cal football shows improvement in second scrimmage

Chris Harper caught a touchdown from Jared Goff during Saturday's scrimmage

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The second scrimmage of fall camp concluded on Saturday, and the improvement from last week’s game was astounding.

For months, Cal fans have heard about coach Sonny Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin’s fast-paced offenses. On Saturday, it finally showed. The offense moved at a pace that wasn’t quite blistering but much quicker than it has looked in any practice so far.

“It was good to see our offense get started a little faster than last week,” Dykes said. “The tempo was a lot better. The execution was a lot cleaner.”

And at the helm of this fast-paced offense was newly appointed starting quarterback Jared Goff.

Less than 48 hours removed from being named the starter, Goff looked the part in a performance that saw him throw two touchdowns and 113 yards on 19 pass attempts. However, he also threw an ugly interception to Demariay Drew that would have gone back for a defensive touchdown.

It was Goff’s first interception all camp long.

“If I thought I wouldn’t throw a pick this camp, I’d be kidding myself,” he said. “But I can’t throw that ball. It was a bad read, bad throw.”

Still, Goff looked good when he connected with both Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper on touchdown throws of 20 and 18 yards, respectively.

The air game may have benefited from a lack of quality defensive backs on the field. Avery Sebastian is still recovering from the hit he took in the last scrimmage. Junior Kameron Jackson was also held out, and Stefan McClure only saw limited reps.

The drought in the secondary often allowed receivers like Treggs, Harper and freshman Kenny Lawler to break free on deep routes. If Goff hadn’t overthrown a few deep passes early, the offense could have racked up even more touchdowns.

Meanwhile, the running game also racked up yards. Brendan Bigelow only took five carries but was able to pick up 46 yards. Bigelow still says that he is running about 85 percent of his usual speed with his knee brace on, and it showed when he was caught from behind by Ikem Okwudiafor after a run that went for about 32 yards. He believes that he will be at full speed by the Northwestern game in two weeks — in which case no one should be able to catch him from behind.

“I want to be a lot faster, become one with the brace, because right now it’s a love-hate relationship,” Bigelow said.

On defense, the stars were Drew — who recorded five tackles along with the aforementioned interception — as well as linebackers Jalen Jefferson and Johnny Ragin III. Jefferson had four tackles and a fumble recovery while Ragin, a true freshman, had three tackles, including one for a loss of three yards.

On the surface, it may look like the offense tore up the defense in that game. In many ways, that is true, and the defensive sideline often looked frustrated. But the entire team looked much improved from last week, when penalty flags were flying at an unbelievable rate.

Cal fans can only hope the improvement lasts and that the team can be even better when it faces Northwestern in less than two weeks.

Contact Riley McAtee at [email protected]