Below Tightwad Hill on Saturday will be a man with his stomach tied in knots.
California’s Jared Goff does that to coaches and that includes San Diego State’s Rocky Long. SDSU tangles with Cal this weekend and good luck getting Goff to goof.
“The thing that is most impressive about them is that their quarterback is as accurate a thrower as I’ve ever seen,” Long said. “He gets rid of the ball quickly, he reads the coverages fairly well, and it’s right on the money every single time. He never misses an open receiver, which is depressing to a defensive guy because you’d hope they miss an open receiver every once in a while.”
The Aztecs’ secondary is constructed to slow offenses like Cal’s. It has dynamite defensive backs in J.J. Whittaker and Damontae Kazee and good thing because Goff is that good.
Kazee had three interceptions in the season-opening win over the University of San Diego. Although it was linebacker Calvin Munson getting the weekly awards by returning two picks for touchdowns.
“He’s a really good quarterback,” Munson said of Goff. “I think if we put a lot of pressure on him, he won’t be able to complete as many passes as he is capable of. We just have to get after him and play our defense.”
That defense better arrive with plenty of giddy-up to slow Cal’s hurry-up offense. The Bears blasted Grambling State, 73-14 in their opener.
“They never huddle,” Long said. “They run to the line of scrimmage like a lot of spread teams do these days which, as long as they get first downs, dramatically increases the number of snaps they can get. If you get more snaps, you obviously gain more yards and score more points.
“(Goff) has got three or four outstanding receivers and two really good running backs with him, so it makes it really simple why they’re scoring all those points.”
So the Aztecs will match firepower with firepower? Not exactly.
If SDSU is to escape Cal’s Memorial Stadium — where those buying tickets sit, unlike Tightwad Hill — it needs to run, run and run some more. The rushing attack which Long embraces must show its teeth and feet.
If the Aztecs do that and milk the clock, that could compromise Goff’s usually gaudy numbers.
“Our offense is kind of built for games like this,” Long said, with a mischievous grin “If we can run the ball and get first downs, their offense really has a hard time scoring when they’re on the bench. If our offense can control the ball and keep it away from them, it allows us to get a little rest on defense.
“I don’t know how many snaps they had last week, but usually they have over 100 or 110, and 110 snaps in a game is about a third more than most people get. Hopefully, our offense can control the ball and get some first downs and keep them off the field as much as possible, and then you have a chance to keep the score down which gives you a chance to win.”
The Aztecs have no shot unless their front line improves. Against the Toreros, the SDSU linemen often resembled a bull getting lured into going the incorrect way. When they were supposed to go right, then went wrong.
“Their fundamentals and technique went right out the window,” Long said, after the Aztecs rushed for 166 yards, with All-Everything Donnel Pumphrey getting but 71. “They were leading with the wrong foot, they were stepping with the wrong angle, they were placing their hands in the wrong place, and that did not show up in the last two weeks of practice.
“I’m hoping that excitement of playing the first game is over with and they get back down to business and do things technically correct because they’re talented enough to get it done, they just have to do it the right way.”
The only path to beating Cal is with a pound-and-ground approach. Do that, and just maybe SDSU wins its first game ever at Cal.
“That’s a huge challenge,” Long said.
But it’s not a big secret on how to do it.