Every week Cal Football Blog will look at 5 most intriguing questions before Game Day.
1. Can the Cal’s offensive line step it up?
Cal currently has the second most penalties in the nation and third most in terms of yards lost per game from penalties. Half of these penalties have come from Cal’s offensive line. If Cal is to pull off a win in Seattle, the offensive line must have a mistake-free game. Until this season, most fans have never heard of an offensive face mask penalty until Cal had one in Colorado and two against Presbyterian. Cal’s center Dominic Galas has had trouble with shotgun snaps to Maynard, but is taking extra reps on his snaps after practice in order to be ready against Washington. Other than penalties, if the offensive line can give Maynard great pass protection against the Huskies Cal will be able to light up the Husky secondary, which had a lot of trouble during the first three games of the season. A mentally ready offensive line will be the biggest key to a Cal victory this Saturday.
2. So what’s going on with the special teams?
During the first two games, three of Cal’s PATs were blocked. Against Presbyterian, Bryan Anger’s punt was blocked after Anthony Miller let a Presbyterian defender go right by him. Also, Georgio’s kickoffs aren’t going as far as Cal wants them. The bright side is that Georgio went 9 of 9 on PATs against Presbyterian, even though there was an opponent running from the right tackle that was very close to blocking the kick every time. Anger will more likely go with his rugby kicks to prevent punt blocks so Cal fans won’t see much of his big boots this season. The biggest bright spot for the special teams has been Brendan Bigelow who returned a 88 yard kickoff return for a touchdown, and he was also named Kickoff Returner of the Week and ESPN’s Special Teams Player of the Week for the Pac-12. Cal continued to have some trouble during kickoff coverage even against Presbyterian. If Cal’s kickoff team can give the defense lots of room to work with, Cal’s defense should have a good performance against the Huskies.
3. Which Cal defense will show up against Washington?
Cal’s secondary was lit up against Colorado when both QB Tyler Hansen and WR Paul Richardson broke a couple school records. Cal will need to watch out for QB Keith Price going to WR Jermain Kearse all game on Saturday. Pendergast has a lot of faith in the talent of both Marc Anthony and Steve Williams. However, if Cal’s front seven can’t pressure the quarterback, Cal’s secondary will get tired very quickly. Washington will most likely match up Kearse on Marc Anthony’s side because Marc Anthony seemed to have more trouble against talented receivers than Steve Williams, so if Marc Anthony can stay hip to hip with Kearse, Cal’s secondary should do fine. Cal has done a good job so far in stopping the run. However, they will have the biggest challenge so far this season from Chris Polk. If Cal can keep Polk under 100 yards rushing, Cal’s defense will not let in a single touchdown because Washington doesn’t really have anyone productive besides Polk to run the football.
4. Can Cal win up at Husky Stadium?
Cal has not won up in Seattle since 2005. Husky Stadium is very loud with their passionate fans. Cal will need to go up to Seattle with a sense of revenge after Washington kicked Cal out of bowl contention with a last second touchdown. Cal has been practicing with noise blasted around them up at Witter Field in order to have a better sense of what kind of atmosphere they will face. The noise could potentially cause a lot of problems for snaps from C Dominic Galas and Long Snapper Matt Rios. If Cal can succeed in the noise of Husky Stadium, Cal will have a little more experience in a loud road game before they have to play Oregon at Autzen Stadium, which is one of the loudest stadiums in the nation.
5. How poised can Zach Maynard be?
In every game this season Zach Maynard has thrown an interception. Luckily, all of them have come in the first half, where it didn’t change the whole momentum of the game against Cal. Another plus for Zach is that even after an interception he still comes out with confidence in the next play. Cal will need much of that poise and confidence from Maynard this Saturday because there will inevitably be a series where Zach will make a big mistake, but if he can come back from that mistake on a road game Cal’s offense will stay intact unlike past years when our offense just crumbled after a very bad mistake from the quarterback.