Throughout his college career, California quarterback Chase Garbers hasn’t posted big numbers, but the senior has experience and has done enough to impress Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell.
CU (2-4, 1-2 Pac-12) will visit Cal (1-5, 0-3) on Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, Calif. (1:40 p.m., TV: Pac-12 Networks) and facing Garbers might be at the top of the list of Dorrell’s challenges.
“The best thing is that when you have a veteran defense going against a veteran quarterback then that kind of neutralizes some of that, but he’s a really good player,” Dorrell said. “I think he manages their system really well.”
Now in his fourth season as Cal’s starter, Garbers has thrown for 5,541 yards and 43 touchdowns, with 21 interceptions in his career, while completing 61.5 percent of his passes. This season, he’s thrown for 1,492 yards and nine touchdowns, putting him on pace for career highs in both categories.
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Garbers is also a good runner, with 929 yards and nine touchdowns in his career. College Football Hall of Famer Joe Kapp is the only quarterback in Cal history with more rushing yards (931), but Garbers needs just three yards to break that mark.
“I think sometimes you can disregard how athletic he is just because he’s a pocket passer, but he can make some plays with his legs,” Dorrell said. “They do feature him at times in some quarterback runs. So he’s multi-faceted. Plus, if you give them time in a pocket to really go through his progressions, he’ll find the open guy. He’s a seasoned player.”
Garbers is one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the Pac-12 and he leads the conference in average total offense (283.3 yards per game). In his career, he is 15-14 as a starter, including 15-10 when playing more than half the game.
CU counters with an experienced defense that is currently second in the Pac-12 in points allowed (19.8 per game) and fourth in yards allowed (366.3 per game). CU’s pass efficiency defense is third in the conference.
“They’re very good defensively,” said Cal head coach Justin Wilcox, who is a long-time defensive coach. “That’s obvious when you put the tape on. They’re a veteran group. They’re a very, very physical front. Their defensive line, their inside linebackers and the cover guys are really quick and they play a lot of in-your-face man-to-man coverage and get after people and they’ve done it versus everybody.
“They’ve done a really nice job on defense throughout the season.”
The Buffs will have to do a nice job this week to beat Garbers and the Bears, Dorrell said.
“Whenever you have a guy that’s been a multi-year starter, they’ve seen most of the tricks of the trade from what defenses present,” Dorrell said. “They can find some weak links, they can do a number of things. That’s always the biggest challenge when you’re playing against a guy that’s a veteran. … He’s gonna find ways to get his skill the football and make good decisions; when there is blitzes, be able to pick up blitzes and stuff like that. So those are all really things that we need to combat when we defend a quarterback like this.”
Cal doesn’t have a high-powered offense, ranking 10th in the conference in scoring (23.0), but the Buffs are aware of the Bears’ weapons. They have a good running back duo in Damien Moore and Christopher Brooks and some big-play potential at receiver, led by Trevon Clark (346 yards and two TDs on 17 catches).
For CU, it starts with getting to Garbers, who has been sacked 13 times.
“We expect him to make smart decisions, make smart plays, just like any other veteran quarterback,” defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson said. “The goal is just to get back there to him and rush his decisions, make him mess up at some point.”