Our series of Washington opponent previews continues with a look at UW’s first Pac-12 road game at California.
WASHINGTON AT CALIFORNIA, Saturday, Oct. 11 (Kickoff time TBA)
STADIUM: This will be Washington’s second trip (corrected) to the renovated Memorial Stadium, which re-opened for the 2012 season after a $321 million renovation. It now seats 62,467 humans, down from the roughly 72,000 it seated prior to the remodel.
CALIFORNIA LOCATION: Berkeley, Calif. (Population 112, 580, as of 2010)
ENROLLMENT: 36,204 as of last fall (includes both graduate and undergraduate students)
MASCOT: The Golden Bears. Or, colloquially, just the Bears.
2013 RECORD: 1-11 (0-9 in Pac-12). It was a rough year for first-year coach Sonny Dykes, as a bevy of injuries and a whole lot of growing pains prevented the Golden Bears from winning a single Pac-12 game. Their only victory was a 37-30 home win over Portland State, an FCS school from the Big Sky. Nowhere to go but up, assuming the Bears don’t lose to Sacramento State.
COACH: Sonny Dykes (1-11 in one season at California; 23-26 in four seasons overall)
RETURNING STARTERS: California’s media guide lists 33 returning players with starting experience — 18 on offense, 13 on defense, and two on special teams. It also lists 18 departed players with starting experience — seven on offense, 10 on defense and one on special teams.
KEY RETURNERS: QB Jared Goff (So.) (320-for-531 passing for 3,508 yards, 18 TDs and 10 INTs in 2013); WR Chris Harper (Jr.) (70 catches, 852 yards, 5 TDs), WR Kenny Lawler (So.) (37 catches, 347 yards, 5 TDs); WR Bryce Treggs (Jr.) (77 catches, 751 yards, TD); RB Khalfani Muhammad (So.) (74 carries, 445 yards rushing, 4 TDs; 14 catches, 187 receiving yards, TD); OL Jordan Rigsbee (Jr.) (24 starts the last two seasons); S Michael Lowe (Sr.) (67 tackles, 4 TFL, INT); LB Jalen Jefferson (Jr.) (64 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 3 sacks, INT)
KEY LOSSES: DT Deandre Coleman (40 tackles, 9 TFL, 2.5 sacks); CB Kameron Jackson (42 tackles, 2 TFL, INT, 6 PBU); LB Nick Forbes (took medical retirement due to back injury); RB/WR Brendan Bigelow (105 carries, 421 yards, 2 TDs; 34 catches, 202 yards)
RETURNING FROM INJURY: Cal is one of a only a few teams in the country that requires this category. The Bears lost a bunch of key players to injury last season, as best detailed in this story by Jeff Faraudo. Here are some of those guys who could return and make an impact in 2014: DE Brennan Scarlett (hand); DT Mustafa Jalil (knee); S Avery Sebastian (Achilles); CB Stefan McClure (knee); OL Matt Cochran (ankle)
2013 STATISTICAL RANKS: 96th in Scoring Offense (23.0 points per game); 34th in Total Offense (453.6 yards per game); 10th in Passing Offense (331.4 ypg); 107th in Rushing Offense (122.2 ypg); 122nd in Scoring Defense (45.9 ppg); 122nd in Total Defense (529.6 ypg); 123rd in Passing Yards Allowed (341.0 ypg); 86th in Rushing Defense (188.6 ypg). Here’s the full report.
BIGGEST 2014 PRIORITY: You just read all those numbers, right? Well, there you go. California’s defense was wretched in 2013. Yes, a boatload of injuries were partially to blame for that. But when you post defensive numbers as bad as Cal — especially in the secondary, where the Bears allowed opponents to throw for more yards per game than did any other FBS team — that’s a problem spot, regardless of who they were missing. They were so bad, in fact, that Dykes demoted first-year defensive coordinator Andy Buh (he was reassigned, away from the football program) and brought in Art Kaufman to replace him. The Bears lose their best defensive back, Kam Jackson, though Sebastian could provide some serious help on the back end if he returns healthy from that Achilles injury. Same with McClure at corner. Lowe, who led the team in tackles a year ago, will have to take another step forward to help shore up some of Cal’s issues against the pass, and the Bears need similar progression from sophomore defensive back Cameron Walker, who finished second on the team with 65 tackles in 2013 after being forced from cornerback to safety due to injuries.
SCHEDULE NOTES: Cal opens at Northwestern, then plays Sacramento State at home. But the Bears’ third nonconference game is their final game of the season, a home date with Brigham Young on Nov. 29. Cal gets five Pac-12 home games this year, though one of those will be played at the new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, on Friday, Oct. 24 against Oregon.
UW-CALIFORNIA ROSTER TIES: California’s roster features one player from Washington — freshman LB Devante Downs from Mountlake Terrace. His Scout.com profile lists an offer from UW.
UW-CALIFORNIA HISTORY: Washington leads the all-time series, 58-32-4. The Huskies won last year’s meeting, 41-17, and have won five consecutive games in the series. Cal’s last victory in the series came in Berkeley on Dec. 6, 2008 — also known as the final game of the Tyrone Willingham era.
CALIFORNIA’S BEST SEASON: Cal claims five national championships, according to its information guide. Four of those were consecutive, from 1920-23 under coach Andy Smith. The Golden Bears did not lose a game during that stretch, compiling a record of 36-0-2 and finishing each season ranked No. 1 by a varying number of polls. They played in the Rose Bowl at the conclusion of the 1920 and 1921 seasons, defeating Ohio State 28-0, then battling Washington & Jefferson to a 0-0 tie (and if that last clause doesn’t sum up perfectly college football in the 1920s, I don’t know what does). A championship is also claimed from the 1937 season, which Cal finished 10-0-1 and capped with a 13-0 victory over Alabama in the Rose Bowl.
HOW WAS SPRING BALL?: Here’s a nuts-and-bolts recap from ESPN.com.
THIS IS INTERESTING: Last season, Cal had a candidate for college football’s All-Name team on its defensive coaching staff: Barry Sacks, who was the Bears’ defensive line coach. Alas, he was fired after just one season. If only Sacks had coached them into more sacks …
NOTABLE NON-FOOTBALL GRADS: Here’s a list compiled by the school. Some highlights: William Randolph Hearst, ’29, newspaper mogul; Steve Wozniak, ’86, Apple co-founder; Gregory Peck, ’42, actor; Tom Anderson, ’96, MySpace co-founder
Christian Caple can be reached at email@example.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple