Cal looked very solid in last week's win at Northwestern and obviously there are a ton of positives to draw on for the program, but some question marks still remain. People want to know if what we saw last Saturday was a fluke, or if these are the Bears that we will see for the rest of the season. Cal has a great chance to go out and win big at home against a team like Sacramento State and fend off the critics for at least one more week.
We take a look at some of the things that the Cal can improve upon against Sac State as they head into the bye week before they open up Pac-12 at Arizona.
Increase production from the running back position and solidify closing out games
Cal finished last week with 45 rushing attempts for a total of 114 yards, that's good for an average of 2.5 yards per carry. Rubenzer led the Bears in rushing carrying the ball 11 times for 48 yards and had the team's longest play of the game on the ground, an 11 yard carry on his first action of the day. Khalfani and Lasco each carried the ball 8 times for a clip of 2.9 and 2.8 yards per rush respectively.
Dykes and Franklin showed a true commitment to a more balanced attack with 45 rushing attempts in the game, and the Rubenzer rushing package proved to be a deciding factor in the contest. However, when Northwestern made the adjustments to defend Rubenzer running the ball in the second half and he made fewer appearances, Cal struggled to move the ball on the ground and run clock, contributing to Northwestern being able to bring it to a 7 point game until it was ultimately sealed on a Jalen Jefferson interception.
OC Tony Franklin said that he was also a bit disappointing with the offensive line's performance in the second half, which was a key factor to the ineffectiveness on the ground. They will seek to have a more complete performance next time out.
Cal will look to its backs to significantly improve upon those numbers in this week's game and moving forward into their Pac-12 schedule. Watch out for a huge effort on Saturday from the Cal stable of running backs.
See Tony Franklin's Thursday post practice interview below
Improvements on the defensive side
Kaufman talked after practice on Thursday about the steps the defense is taking to get better leading up to this week's game and throughout the season. He spoke about improving both 'individual technique' at each position and communication across the board for the unit.
Coach Kaufman attributed the 54 yard touchdown pass last week to a breakdown in communication when the receiver came in motion and the coverage was busted, and Steph McClure was unable to make the saving tackle.
He spoke about the adaption of six of the defensive players to their new spots after having playing time mostly at other positions throughout their career at Cal. This also applies to the numerous players returning from injuries which caused them to miss most of last season, leading to a few miscommunications among the defense against Northwestern (Like the one mentioned above).
One of the biggest things that Cal can do on defense is just continue to get key players back healthy i.e. Avery Sebastian, Hardy Nickerson, and Darius White (and for them to stay healthy) as they continue to face their daunting schedule.
Most everything that we have seen out of Cal defensively has been good thus far as they were more than solid as a whole last week. They will look to shut down Sac State's offense which has put up very good looking numbers albeit against lower division competition.
See the full interview with Kaufman below
We know Cal have not arrived yet, but they are getting there, heading in the right direction on both sides of the ball. However, these are improvements that will need to be made if they seek to continue making this progress that Bears fans so covet.
Dykes and his team have no reason not to enter the bye week as an undefeated team. This is their game to go out and win in dominating fashion and then turn their attention toward Arizona.
Check out the Golden Bears in action today at Noon on Pac-12 Network!