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Cal, WSU offenses not quite mirror images

PULLMAN – Mike Leach faces a former disciple this weekend in California coach Sonny Dykes, who was a wide receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator under Leach at Texas Tech. Dykes, who was a graduate assistant at Kentucky when Leach was an assistant coach under Hal Mumme, has applied many of those same Air Raid principles while constructing the “Bear Raid” offense currently run by the Golden Bears. So, that means we should expect nothing but passes on Saturday and a game that ends after midnight, right? Not necessarily. While Dykes certainly has no aversion to throwing the football – sophomore quarterback Jared Goff has thrown for 17 touchdowns in four games – the Golden Bears have actually run more often than they’ve passed so far this season. Washington State linebacker Jeremiah Allison says the offenses are, “fraternal twins. They’re not identical twins.” “Cal’s offense is quite a bit different, I think it’s different,” Leach said. “They do some of that double tight stuff that we’ve messed with over the years. They’ll do some quick game, a screen on this side, a quick (pass) on the other side but you know, they’ve got really good receivers and a good quarterback so they do a good job.” Leach said on Monday that when Dykes was at Texas Tech it was current West Virginia coach Dana Holgersen, not Dykes, who lobbied Leach to run the ball more. Dykes, it seems, is willing to adapt his offense. Last year Cal was one of the most prolific passing teams in the country, averaging more than 50 pass attempts per game. Through four games this season the Golden Bears have attempted just 35 passes per contest. It’s somewhat of a surprising change for the offense, given that last year quarterback Jared Goff was a true freshman. This year Goff is being asked to do less despite returning all of his primary targets from last season. He’s still averaging 337 passing yards per game, however, and ranks No. 5 in the country with a passing efficiency rating of 190.2. “The ball comes off his hand fast,” Leach said. “I think he’s really good and I also think he’s a pretty mature guy for where he’s at as far as his classification.” Daniel Lasco is the primary running back for the Golden Bears and he’s averaging 6.3 yards on 55 carries. Speedster Khalfani Muhammad will also see about 10 carries per game and averages 4.7 yards per attempt. An aspect where the two offenses remain similar is the lack of a running quarterback. That’s still an adjustment for the Cougars, however, because they’ve had to game plan against offenses that use the quarterback as a run threat every week since the season opener. Running is more fun The run game was a nonfactor in WSU’s season opener against Rutgers, with running backs combining for nine rushing attempts and averaging less than three yards per carry. But the backs have consistently seen their workload rise as the season has gone on, and redshirt freshmen Jamal Morrow and Gerard Wicks have emerged as potent offensive weapons. Some of the reason for that is improved play by the offensive line. According to left guard Gunnar Eklund, the increase in opportunities to go hit someone while run blocking is reward enough for the line’s service. “It’s always fun to run the ball, especially because we get a lot of good boxes because of our offense,” Eklund said. “We throw the ball a lot, so a lot of teams drop a lot of people into coverage so we get a lot of good running boxes, so when we do throw the ball it’s always fun.” No scoreboard watching here The Cougars hate the scoreboard. They’re told by their coaches that it distracts focus from the current play, and that if they have to use anything as a gauge than it should be the team’s Rise Up board, which charts positive and negative plays in all three phases of the game – offense, defense and special teams. “If coach Leach could turn the scoreboard off I’m sure he would,” Allison said. Saturday’s comeback win over Utah was a perfect teaching example of that philosophy, and on Monday the Cougars credited their ability to win after facing a 21-point deficit to the fact that they weren’t concerned with the score.
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