If you’re a quarterback, one of the situations that you hope for but are rarely granted is enough time in the pocket to spot an open receiver downfield in the endzone. In order for such a perfect outcome to occur, however, a series of events must unfold in flawless synchronization. Offensive linemen must provide enough time for their quarterback to hang around in the pocket, while a receiver has to break free of coverage quick enough to fit into their quarterback’s window of opportunity. Needless to say, most of the time things don’t go quite that smoothly.
But during Cal’s game against Idaho State, quarterback Chase Garbers found himself in one of those perfect storms — and the ensuing touchdown is proof of its fortuitous result.
The play at hand was the culmination of an efficient two-minute, 54-second drive. The Bears, who were leading 7-0 when they took over at their own 36, travelled 64 yards into the endzone to extend their advantage over the visiting Bengals.
The final play of that drive was Cal’s first passing touchdown of the game — a 28-yard loft from Garbers to wide receiver Jordan Duncan, the first of two touchdowns for the junior wideout.
The Bears, finding themselves on third and nine at the Bengals’ 28-yard line, set up with five wide receivers and Garbers in the backfield alone. Idaho State seems prepared, sending just three pass rushers with its safeties just a few yards behind the first down marker.
Evidently, the Bengals weren’t as prepared as they seemed.
After the snap, Garbers receives great pass protection from his line — that’s step one in the equation. He spends a couple seconds simply surveying the field before he has to make a move of any kind. And he’s given space to maneuver out of the pocket if need be, which becomes vital under pressure.
Two seconds later, as five Bengals proceed to rush him, Garbers drops back slightly, and as defenders pile up on his left, he scrambles to his right. Right tackle Jake Curhan provides Garbers with just enough time and space to escape two Idaho State rushers, and he peels out wide to the right.
All in all, he’s afforded nearly five seconds of time to find a receiver downfield.
Meanwhile, Duncan has started on Garbers’ far right-hand side — that’s step two. After the snap, he splits two defenders, cutting toward the middle of the field before breaking out again to his right in a full-out sprint. The quick move works, and by the time he’s within a few yards of the endzone, there’s just a single defender near him — and that Bengal is already lagging behind Duncan by a few yards.
That narrow window of separation is enough, and in an opportune coincidence of timing, Duncan is open in the endzone just as Garbers breaks out to his right. That’s the oh-so-vital step three.
The ball sails out of Garbers’ hand toward the endzone, and although the pass is a bit behind him, Duncan has separated himself enough to turn around and adjust. It falls into Duncan’s hands a split second before the defender catches up to him. He’s able to cradle it while being tackled in the endzone. Touchdown Bears.
The sequence was not merely a well-executed one-off — it also provided fuel to Cal’s offensive fire. Following that touchdown pass, Garbers would throw two more into the endzone, one more to Duncan and one to tight end Jake Ashton. It’s a testament not only to Garbers’ ability to stay calm under pressure and then execute his aerial chops, but also to the speed of Cal’s wide receivers, who will be vital to the team’s success in Pac-12 play.
If this sequence is any indication, it’s safe to say that this one-two punch of Garbers to Duncan will feature all fall long.