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Cal Football

Garbers Cleared To Play: Monday Practice Report

November 11, 2019

He’s back. Kind of.

“Chase (Garbers) has been cleared to play as of today,” Head Coach Justin Wilcox said of the sophomore quarterback who went down in September during the Arizona State game with an “upper-body” injury. “He hasn’t played in a long time, so we won’t be announcing anything in terms of the quarterback until later in the week.

“But what I will say is Devon did a heck of a nice job in the game. Chase has been cleared to practice and play, but still much to be evaluated.”

At the time of his injury, Garbers had passed for 952 yards, eight touchdowns, and just two interceptions with a completion rate of about 59%. He was arguably playing the best football of his career at the time of the injury. In the first half of the Arizona State game, Garbers had a 184.4 passer rating, going for 117 yards on nine-of-12 passing with one touchdown and no interceptions. During the game before Arizona State at Ole Miss, Garbers went for a passer rating of 183.4 with 357 yards, four touchdowns, one interception, and a completion rate of about 66%. The total yards and TDs during the Ole Miss game were both career-highs for Garbers.

Before Saturday’s game, it was likely an easy decision for Wilcox on who to start at QB. But backup Devon Modster had his best game since transferring to Cal from UCLA and it wasn’t even close. Modster had a passer rating of 188.4, going for 230 passing yards, three passing TDs to no interceptions, and a completion rate of about 67%. He also ran for 43 yards and a TD on seven rushing attempts. In short, it was the Modster Cal fans hoped to see when he transferred from UCLA.

“We don’t have enough information yet and I have confidence in both of those guys,” Wilcox said when asked who might start against USC on Saturday. Wilcox said a decision would come “late this week” and praised Modster’s effort on Saturday saying he was much more efficient, more accurate with the ball, and made some big plays with his feet.

Overall, the Bears offense looked much better last Saturday in the 33-20 win against Wazzu. Modster looked better, but so did the offensive line, who benefited from having Michael Saffel back at center.

“You get better at multiple spots because obviously you get Mike back, who’s a good player,” Wilcox said. “And Cindric goes back to a position where he’s had more repetitions and you get better at multiple spots that way. And then the communication that Mike provides and that calming presence and the leadership. There’s a lot to that and it was really big to get him back on the field.”

Saffell concurred. 

“I think it’s good just to move guys back to their natural positions,” he said. “What difference I made? I don’t really know. I know we were having a really fun time — the most fun that I’ve had since I’ve been here as an offensive line.”

Saffell said the injury really hit home considering his season-ending injury last season.

“It was so fun being back with the guys. You know, last season, getting midway and having it fully taken away from me was heartbreaking,” Saffell said. “And this year almost having the same set of circumstances, and now being able to come back for this four-game stretch, you know, it’s unbelievable. And it’s such a blessing to be back with these guys, with this o-line, and to get a win. That was awesome.”

Ahead of the USC game this week, Wilcox said the kicking game will be a focus. Place-kicker Greg Thomas struggled on Saturday, missing multiple kicks.

“Poor kicks and poor protection,” Wilcox said of what went wrong on Saturday. “Everybody had a hand in it.”

“Greg’s done a good job and we believe in Greg,” Wilcox later added, “but we’ve got some things to work on this week for sure.”

It will be the second week in a row the Bears face an air-raid type of offense.

“Offensively, you look at the receiver group and how skilled they are,” Wilcox said. “All of the skilled positions. The tight ends — phenomenal talent. All the backs. The o-line. The quarterback is playing at a really high level.” It’s a different scheme this year. “They’re explosive on offense and defensively, they’re very aggressive. They’re going to get in your face and challenge you and pressure you quite a bit.”

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