FORT WORTH, Texas – If Jared Goff is headed to the NFL early, California’s junior quarterback replaced a couple of pretty big names in the record books in his final college game.
How about Aaron Rodgers and Marcus Mariota.
Goff threw for 467 yards and six touchdowns and the Bears won in the postseason for the first time in seven years, beating Air Force 55-36 in the Armed Forces Bowl on Tuesday.
The 6-foot-4 Goff was already the season leader two times over in passing yards and touchdowns at Rodgers’ alma mater.
Now he has Mariota’s Pac-12 record for touchdowns with 43 a year after the former Oregon star threw 42 in leading the Ducks to the national championship game before going No. 2 overall in the NFL draft to Tennessee.
Not enough? OK, how about breaking Rodgers’ Cal record for passing yards in a bowl game – 394 yards in a 52-49 win over Virginia Tech in the 2003 Insight Bowl. That was a full season before Green Bay drafted Brett Favre’s eventual replacement in the first round.
“He is definitely a good guy to idolize,” Goff said of Rodgers. “He did a lot of great things here.”
As for the obvious question, Goff says he will discuss the NFL decision with his parents and “should know soon.” Cal fans were chanting “One more year!” while celebrating the victory.
“I was chanting that, too,” coach Sonny Dykes said, drawing laughter from reporters in the postgame news conference.
“It’s funny,” Goff said. “I was one of those kids chanting for DeSean Jackson about 10 years ago. It’s funny how that comes all the way around.”
Goff had three of his scoring tosses in a span of five plays in the second quarter as the Bears (8-5) broke a 14-14 tie and cruised while setting a school postseason scoring record in a rematch of the 2007 Armed Forces Bowl, also won by Cal (42-36).
Receiver Kenny Lawler had three touchdowns for Cal, which last made the postseason in a 21-10 loss to Texas in the Holiday Bowl in 2011. The Bears’ last bowl win was 24-17 over Miami in the 2008 Emerald Bowl near their Bay Area campus.
Weakened by the targeting ejection of secondary anchor Weston Steelhammer on Air Force’s third defensive play, the Falcons (8-6) lost for the fourth time in five Armed Forces appearances since 2007.
“We tried a little bit of everything,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said.
Goff, who was Cal’s first freshman starting quarterback in 2013, has started all 37 games as the Bears bounced back from 1-11 his first year to 5-7 last year. He was 25 of 37 with no interceptions while breaking Armed Forces records for passing yards and touchdowns.
While Goff fell short of his career record of seven touchdown passes in a game from a 59-56 double-overtime win against Colorado last season, he added another Pac-12 mark with 4,719 yards.
It was another successful Texas homecoming for Dykes, the son of former Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes. The Bears won for the second time this season in the Lone Star State after beating Texas 45-44 in September.
Steelhammer, Air Force’s leader in tackles and interceptions at safety, was ejected after hitting Bryce Treggs moments after a pass had gone by the Cal receiver. The junior dropped his head as the announcement was made, and coach Troy Calhoun angrily waved his arms at officials.
“I didn’t see the replay,” Calhoun said. “If that’s the call, that’s the call.”
Karson Roberts threw for two touchdowns and had 69 yards rushing and another score for Air Force. Jacobi Owens, the leader of one of the nation’s best rushing attacks, had 83 yards and a touchdown.
The Falcons lost their last three games, including the Mountain West Conference championship to San Diego State, and dropped to 1-9 at TCU’s Amon G. Carter Stadium.
Cal took control on a sequence that started with Goff’s perfect deep throw to Maurice Harris, who reached out with his left hand to redirect the ball to his body and cradled it on his way out of bounds for a 40-yard gain to the Air Force 5.
Goff found Darius Powe on the next play for one of Powe’s two scores and a 21-14 lead. The Bears got the ball back immediately on a fumble when Roberts lost control trying to run the option, and Goff hit Lawler in stride in the end zone for a 24-yard score. Lawler had five catches for 75 yards.
After an Air Force punt, Goff moved the Bears 78 yards on three completions, with a 55-yarder to Treggs setting up a 14-yard score to Lawler. Treggs had 143 yards and a touchdown.
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