The Once and Future King: Jared Goff is the real deal

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Jared Goff is the real thing.

In Cal’s 44-30 loss to No. 22 Northwestern on Saturday night, the quarterback showed everyone why he was named the starter over Zach Kline, and firmly made his case as to why he is the future of Cal football.

“It was a heck of a performance by a young kid,” coach Sonny Dykes said. “To come in and throw for 445 yards in his first game is pretty impressive. He’ll continue to get better and better.”

Goff is an 18-year old true freshman, and played his first ever collegiate game while running a new system and playing a legitimate top-25 team that won 10 games in 2012. If he had shown growing pains and played like a true freshman, no one would have been surprised.

And to be fair, there were a handful of moments where Goff showed his age — none more so than when he floated a ball into triple coverage while looking for Bryce Treggs down the seam during the fourth quarter, resulting in his third interception of the game.

“There’s a lot of stuff I can do better,” Goff said. “I had a few nice passes and a few good plays, but there’s a lot of stuff I can do better.”

The scariest part about Goff’s performance on Saturday is the fact that it might be the worst he’ll ever play. Sure, he’ll play tougher defenses. And sure, he’ll have to trek into hostile environments like Autzen and the Coliseum. He’ll also likely have a tougher time when teams start getting some tape on him and start scheming for his tendencies.

But if Saturday’s game is any indication, Goff truly is unflappable, and doesn’t really get rattled by anything. All signs are pointing to the conclusion that this kid is something else.

“I saw how he kept his composure even during times of adversity,” Treggs said. “He showed signs of a great quarterback.”

Goff’s demeanor and consistency aside, he clearly also has the technical skills and physical ability to play the part. Watching his throwing motion — with such a quick, compact and clean release — is a thing of beauty for Cal fans used to watching Zach Maynard throw bounce passes for the past two seasons, or watching Kevin Riley blindly chuck balls are far down field as he could, or watching Brock Mansion pretend to be a quarterback.

While short and intermediate passes appear to be his strong suit, Goff also flashed some deep ball prowess as well, exemplified by a 52-yard dime to Chris Harper. Over a stretch of plays in the third quarter, Goff went 15 of 19 for over 200 yards and a pair of scores.

His overall stat line — 38 for 63 for 445 yards, 2 touchdowns and three interceptions — is nothing short of incredible, as he posted the second most passing yards in school history.

Granted that 63 passes is a thoroughly high number and probably isn’t a sustainable strategy for success, Goff still proved that he can put a team on his back and handle that kind of load. Moving forward, he’s going to need some help from his running game in order to keep defenses honest.

But this Cal offense is incredibly young at essentially every position, and considering the level where it’s at already is cause for nothing less than excitement. And it all starts with Jared Goff.

After an eight-year search, the Cal football team has finally found its quarterback. And he’s going to be a good one.

Connor Byrne covers football. Contact him at [email protected].