PULLMAN – After three years of seeing Jared Goff, Washington State fans will have to learn a new man behind center when California’s offense takes the field on Saturday.
Don’t get to used to Davis Webb, though. The Golden Bears will trot out another quarterback next season. But for now they have another NFL-armed passer who throws for more yards per game (352.9) than every Pac-12 quarterback save WSU’s Luke Falk (359.7).
“He’s just as big (as Goff), he’s got just as strong an arm. He’s going to be an NFL guy,” said WSU inside linebackers coach Ken Wilson. “They just replaced one with another really good one.”
So who is the new Golden Bear gunslinger and where did he come from? The 6-foot-5, 230-pound senior from Prosper, Texas, took advantage of the graduate transfer rule to enroll at Cal after spending three years playing sporadically at Texas Tech, where he ran an Air Raid offense that is very similar to Cal’s Bear Raid.
“That helped us tremendously,” coach Sonny Dykes said during this week’s Pac-12 coaches teleconference. “It gave us a chance to be competitive early, just because you never know how a new guy is going to come in and play.”
Webb suffered a stomach virus as a true freshman that caused him to lose 40 pounds, and had later had injuries to his ankle and a torn labrum. In Lubbock, Webb threw for 5,557 yards, with 46 touchdowns and 22 interceptions over 23 games.
“He’s done a good job for us,” Dykes said. “He’s a good player and we’re lucky to have him.”
When he lost the starting job to Patrick Mahomes (the only QB nationally throwing for more yards than Falk and Webb), he decided to transfer.
It took just three practices into Cal’s training camp for Webb to win the starting job. He spent all offseason waking up early to watch film with Cal’s coaches, and entered the year ranked as the No. 1 senior quarterback prospect by ESPN’s NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper.
Like Goff, Webb has succeeded in putting up impressive individual statistics, though the Golden Bears (4-5, 2-4 Pac-12) have struggled to win. Webb has thrown for 30 touchdowns and 3,176 yards and has a couple of signature victories – Cal’s wins over then-No. 11 Texas and then-No. 18 Utah were impressive, even if the Longhorns have since proved to be mediocre.
But the Golden Bears followed up the win over the Utes with an embarrassing loss to Oregon State, which remains OSU’s only Pac-12 win. Though they emerged from a crazy double-overtime game against Oregon with a 52-49 win one week later, they were not competitive in subsequent losses to No. 20 USC and No. 4 Washington.
Now they must travel to No. 23 WSU and appear to be long shots to qualify for a bowl game.
Because the Golden Bears pass the ball so much, their success is largely intertwined with Webb’s. They beat the Ducks because he threw for five touchdowns and no interceptions.
In the two ensuing losses Webb threw just three touchdowns and was intercepted four times. The Golden Bears have lost only once when Webb has completed at least 60 percent of his passes, but last week the Huskies held him under 50 percent for the first time all season.
But the Cougars are vulnerable in pass defense, giving up 7.6 yards per attempt to rank No. 86 nationally.
So if Webb can find the kind of offensive performance he put together against the Longhorns, completing 67.5 percent of his passes and throwing for four touchdowns, maybe he can give Cal fans a reason to fondly remember his year in Berkeley.
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