EUGENE, Ore.>> If Cal quarterback Jared Goff has any jitters about his first start on the road, he sure isn’t showing it.
Goff was cool about playing No. 2 Oregon in what is sure to be a raucous atmosphere at Autzen Stadium on Saturday night.
“Just a regular game in front of a bunch of crazy people,” he said.
The freshman quarterback is having a sensational start to his college career, steering first-year Cal coach Sonny Dykes’ “Bear Raid” offense. He leads the nation and the Pac-12 with an average of 435.3 yards passing.
He’s second in the Pac-12 with 1,306 total yards passing and he’s completed 61.3 percent of his passes in three games. In his last game, a 52-34 Cal loss to No. 3 Ohio State on Sept. 14, Goff passed for 371 yards with three touchdowns.
Those numbers both impress and concern Oregon coach Mark Helfrich.
“He’s playing great. He’s been virtually lights out,” Helfrich said. “They’ve done a really good job managing things for him.”
Goff became the first freshman to start his first game in school history after beating out redshirt freshman Zach Kline and junior Austin Hinder in fall camp. The last true freshman to start a game for Cal was Kyle Boller, who came off the bench in his first game in 1999 before getting his first start a week later.
A top recruit for California, Goff threw for 7,687 yards and 93 touchdowns at Marin Catholic High School. He helped his bid for a starting role by graduating early and taking part in Dykes’ first practice as head coach last spring.
Goff may be young, but at least on the field he has carried himself with the confidence of a more experienced player. Dykes said it remains to be seen how he’ll respond on the road for the first time.
“What he does is a great job of not worrying about anything but just going out there and playing football,” Dykes said. “I would expect him to handle it well, but you never know until a player gets in that situation.”
Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota, only a sophomore himself, is a seasoned veteran compared to Goff.
Known for his scrambling ability, Mariota is ranked fifth nationally with an average of 383.7 total offensive yards per game. He’s averaging 296.30 yards passing a game in an offense that’s scoring 61.3 points per game.
Mariota has thrown for 1,151 total yards and 11 touchdowns in three games this season. He hasn’t thrown an interception.
In his last game, a 59-14 victory over Tennessee, Mariota passed for a career-high 456 yards and four touchdowns. He was the first Oregon quarterback to throw for more than 400 yards in a game since Kellen Clemens in 2005.
By showing his versatility this season with the pass as well as the rush, Mariota has been getting ever-increasing Heisman Trophy buzz. But he calls such talk “outside noise.”
“For me, that’s individual accolades,” he said. “That’s something that around here, we don’t really talk about.”
Entering last season, Mariota was a redshirt freshman who earned the starter’s job over Bryan Bennett after a fall camp competition that was mostly a mystery because the Ducks keep practices closed.
He went on to set the team’s single-season record with 38 touchdowns (32 passing, 5 rushing, 1 receiving). The first freshman selected to the Pac-12’s all-conference first team in 23 years, Mariota completed a school-record 68.5 percent of his passes.
With both players seeing success with the pass so far this season, it is expected that Saturday night’s game could stretch very late. Despite Goff’s passing prowess, the Golden Bears are more than 35-point underdogs to the Ducks.
Goff is, as usual, taking it in stride.
“We’re going to take it as a challenge and go up there and do what we do every day,” he said. “We really feel our offense can score on anybody.”