Oregon and California’s Pac-12 debut Saturday night in Autzen Stadium is just three days away. Much has been made of the Golden Bears’ air raid offense, which has accumulated 1,316 total passing yards and 101 points through three games.
Freshman quarterback Jared Goff has thrown for 1,306 yards thus far, ranking him fourth in college football. California’s offense will be unlike anything Oregon has seen this season, and head coach Mark Helfrich says that while that will change some things defensively, the fundamentals need to remain the same.
“These guys are going to make you defend the entire field in a quick game,” Helfrich said. “They’re gonna make you defend the entire field in runs and screens. They’re gonna take shots down field. The whole package is different. You still have to gang tackle, pressure the passer, run to the ball — all the fundamentals of our defense are unchanged.”
Oregon forces the ninth most pass attempts per game nationally (42), holding opposing quarterbacks to a 92.08 rating (13th). California is expected to throw the ball upwards of 56 times on Saturday; that’s their average pass attempts per game this season, a close second in the country to Southern Methodist University.
“Every offense is different in its rhythm,” Helfrich said. “How they throw the ball, when they throw the ball, the zones that they attack you in. Take them versus a play action seven-step drop team. Their routes are totally different, and so to a certain extent maybe it’s more guys in the rush, more guys in coverage, changing that up.”
Ball security has been a non-issue this season for Oregon. Ball carriers have fumbled twice throughout three games, with the good guys recovering both. Helfrich says regardless of how often fumbles happen, ball security is always a major focus.
“There’s no off-day for coaching ball security,” Helfrich said. “Whether it’s decision making, how we do things on defense to try to create turnovers, how we try to secure the ball as either a receiver or ball carrier — it’s a fundamental, like trying your shoes or brushing your teeth. You have to do it every single day the right way. Sometimes your natural reaction is to be loose and that’s one of the things you have to teach guys; how to fall down, how to get up while maintaining perfect ball security.”
Cal has forced two fumbles this season.