Cal defense shines for a change at scripted spring game
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) California's scripted spring football game didn't quite follow the expected script.
Instead of the Golden Bears' high-powered offense dominating a thinned-out defense, Cal struggled to score for much of Saturday's California Spring Football Experience.
In seven full 11-on-11 drives, Cal's offense managed just one touchdown against a defense that often look overmatched last season.
''I was very encouraged by the number of plays they made,'' coach Sonny Dykes said. ''Particularly DBs, contested plays on the ball. We've made good strides that way. It was good to see them take the next step today.''
Instead of a traditional scrimmage, Dykes held more of a scripted practice because of a lack of depth at defensive backs.
The day featured some full tackle sessions, ''thud'' drills when players weren't taken to the ground, 2-minute drill drives, some 7-on-7 passing drills and long stretches of punts and field goals at times.
The format left many of the about 1,000 fans on hand - and even a few players - confused at times.
''It's very weird,'' running back Daniel Lasco said.
Those who came saw more defense than usual from the Bears.
Backup quarterback-turned-safety Luke Rubenzer intercepted a pass in a 7-on-7 drill, Hailton Anoa'i recovered a fumble and the offense reached the end zone just once on a full drive when Goff hit Bryce Treggs on a 3-yard TD pass to cap a 2-minute drill session.
Goff went 9 for 13 for 108 yards.
''You want to win when you're playing against them but when they make plays you're not too disappointed, you're, `Good play,''' Goff said. ''It's good to see that stuff that wasn't necessarily happening that much last year.''
After going from one win in Dykes' first season, the Bears won five games last year and are hoping to take that next jump this season to get back to a bowl for the first time since the 2011 season.
Along with Goff, Cal returns almost all of its key skill position players on offense from last year with the exception of receiver Chris Harper, who left early to enter the NFL draft.
The issues once again will be on defense where Cal has allowed the most yards passing and total offense, as well as the second most points in the FBS in Dykes' two seasons at the helm.
Stefan McClure (quadriceps), Griffin Piatt (knee), Quentin Tartabull (knee), Patrick Worstell (shoulder) and Chibuzo Nwokocha (hamstring) are all sidelined with injuries and four recruits have yet to reach campus. That has forced the Bears to use last year's backup quarterback, Rubenzer, and junior college transfer Derron Brown as the top two safeties for much of the spring.
Rubenzer did come up with a big defensive play, intercepting reserve quarterback Chase Forrest during a 7-on-7 drill.
Rubenzer is likely to start fall practice at safety, although he could still have a package of plays to use as a change-of-pace quarterback.
''I love his competitiveness,'' Dykes said. ''He's a good athlete. He's savvy and you have to be savvy at that position. The fact that he's been a quarterback his whole life, safety is kind of the quarterback of the defense. Probably the most complicated position to play.''