BERKELEY, Calif. – There has been no official statement regarding who will start at quarterback for California on Saturday night against No. 2-ranked Oregon, but every indication is that junior Allan Bridgford will get the nod.
Bridgford received all the first-team reps again Wednesday, while redshirt senior Zach Maynard left Memorial Stadium riding on a cart because of the left leg injury he suffered on the final drive in the 21-13 loss to Washington.
There is a chance head coach Jeff Tedford could make it official Thursday morning during his final media availability, but even Bridgford has not been told he will start, he knows it is increasingly more probable.
“I’m just going to play it by ear,” Bridgford said. “I don’t know what’s going on with that, so I’m just going to prepare like I do every week and just know maybe there is a little bit better chance this week.”
It would be Bridgford’s second career start and second this season, playing most of the first quarter against Nevada after Maynard was suspended for missing a tutoring session during the summer. Bridgford was 2-of-9 for six yards, barely overthrowing wide receiver Keenan Allen on a possible 67-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the game.
Last Friday night, Bridgford was 2-of-9 for 26 yards in relief, driving Cal to the Washington 25-yard line trying to tie the game after Maynard was rolled up by defensive tackle Danny Shelton. Bridgford’s most impressive throw came on third-and-19, hitting tight end Richard Rodgers for 23 yards one play after a holding penalty wiped out another long gain.
Wide receiver Chris Harper was impressed with the way Bridgford played coming into the game cold, and likes the way he is preparing this week.
“He just is the same as he has always been,” Harper said. “He’s going out there and working hard, trying to get his flow with the first group.”
With the Oregon spread option offense averaging 54.33 points per game, best in college football, Bridgford will need plenty of help, from Harper and the other receivers, running backs, and an offensive line that might be without starting right tackle Matt Summers-Gavin, still limping with his knee in a heavy brace.
The Oregon juggernaut can force opposing offenses to get out of their normal thought-process. Even USC quarterback Matt Barkley admitted after their 62-51 loss that, “I felt like we had to play perfect on offense, to score on every drive.”
Bridgford is trying his best to avoid falling into that mentality.
“You can’t get caught up thinking like, ‘Oh if we don’t score here, they’re going to score,’” Bridgford said. “Our defense is going to get stops during the game too. It’s not like they’re going to score at will every time we give them the ball. You don’t think about that stuff. You trust the defense is going to take care of their side of the ball.”
Still, Bridgford, who has completed 17-of-48 passes for 216 yards in eight career appearances, expressed appreciation for the Oregon high-tempo scheme.
“I don’t really watch their offense on tape, but they do some pretty special things,” Bridgford said. “Just watching their games on ESPN like any other normal guy, they’re pretty exciting to watch.”
With a national television offense set to watch Cal and Oregon, it will include most of Bridgford’s family back in Orange County, with only his parents will be attending the game in-person.
“They’re always there to support me,” Bridgford said. “My other little brother is 10. He’s got a football game of his own. Plays nose guard and left guard.”
Dan Greenspan is the publisher of Cal Sports Digest and writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan