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Under pressure: Davis Webb shines despite uncertainties

Photo Credit: AP via AM1380theanswer

In his first game as a California Golden Bear, transfer quarterback Davis Webb put on a show.

Cal’s offense as a whole looked great, but Webb’s performance should really have fans in Berkeley excited about the potential both he and his team possess.

Cal beat Hawaii, 51-31, on Friday night in the United States — Saturday afternoon “down under” in Sydney, Australia — kicking off the 2016 college football season at ANZ Stadium.

The Bears picked up 30 first downs in the game, 19 through the air. Sonny Dykes’ crew put up 630 total yards on offense, averaging 7.1 yards per play. Running back Khalf Muhammad rushed for 96 yards and a touchdown, gaining 9.6 yards per carry. Wide receiver Chad Hansen caught 14 passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns.

Those numbers are gleaming, but Webb’s star was the brightest in the Australian sky.

Webb completed 38-of-54 passes for 444 yards and four touchdowns. His longest throw was this 34-yard touchdown pass to Hansen on a tunnel screen:

Webb’s first touchdown to Hansen was even prettier. It showed more of why there’s so much reason to be excited about the new quarterback if you’re a Cal fan — especially if his connection with Hansen stays strong.

“As soon as Davis got here in May, we’ve just had a connection,” Hansen said of Webb after the game. “I think it’s sort of blossomed over fall camp, us being together day in day out from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., it really helps a quarterback and wide-receiver connection, so that sort of helped us.”

As a casual college football observer it may be tempting to brush off both Cal’s and Webb’s performances because of the opponent. Hawaii, of the Mountain West Conference, isn’t known as a football powerhouse, and the Rainbow Warriors are breaking in a new head coach, Nick Rolovich.

While that may seem like a recipe for an easy win, consider the following:

Cal had no idea what to expect from a Rolovich-coached team, which meant the Bears practiced for this game under assumptions of what could be. Every look Webb and the Bears got on defense could have been new or surprising. That’s something Dykes talked about after the game:

“It’s hard because you don’t know what you’re going to get – I mean you kind of think you do, but they kept mixing things up defensively and we had a hard time at times, some of our checks they showed us a bunch of different things. It took awhile for us to get adjusted,” he said.

Webb and the offense actually took time to get adjusted, yet the quarterback still put up 444 yards and four touchdowns? That has to be scary for teams on the rest of Cal’s schedule.

Hawaii wasn’t a slouch heading into this game. That veil of mystery can be a new coach’s best friend to start a new era — and it’s obviously something Cal had to take into account. Also consider that the Rainbow Warriors were able to sack Webb two times, and he clearly felt the pressure.

It wasn’t like he was out there playing on easy mode.

“Hawaii threw some blitz at us and I think our line did a good job sorting it out, and protecting the best they could and only gave up two sacks today out of a lot and that’s a credit to Coach Jones and the line coaches, he had his players ready to go and I’m really happy with our centers, and guards and the whole line played well,” Webb said. “There’s stuff we can improve on but I’m looking forward to getting out to practice and working on it.”

The fact that this game was played in Australia added a measure of stress to the already-existing pressure of opening the college football season.

Combine all those factors. Then realize that Cal, and specifically Webb, put up an incredible performance in Sydney.

It very well could have been a struggle for Webb in his first game replacing the great Jared Goff. The pressure could have been too high, or the uncertainties too much, but Webb put on a show for the whole world to see — well, at least anybody who was watching football on a Friday night.

That’s great news for Cal. Start up the Webb hype train.

Under pressure: Davis Webb shines despite uncertainties

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