There were plenty of people who showed up at the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl just to get a glimpse of California junior quarterback Jared Goff.
He didn’t disappoint.
Goff, who figures to be a high pick if he declares for the NFL Draft as expected, shredded the Air Force defense for six touchdowns Tuesday to lead the Golden Bears to a 55-36 victory over the Falcons at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
Goff threw three of his touchdown passes in a span of five offensive plays for Cal in the first half after the Falcons had tied the game at 14. That outburst put Cal up by 14 and the Golden Bears (8-5) never looked back.
Goff set an Armed Forces Bowl record for touchdown passes and passing yards (467). His 43rd touchdown pass this season set a Pac-12 record, eclipsing the 42 of Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota of Oregon last year.
He is a good player. You can certainly see why there are franchises and organizations that find him attractive. Air Force coach Troy Calhoun of Cal quarterback Jared Goff
“The offensive line and receivers made my job easy,” said Goff, who said he hasn’t decided if he will declare for the NFL Draft. “They made a bunch of great plays. It was great for our program to come all the way back from 1-11 [in 2013] to 8-5 this year. I had good protection, and the guys ran great routes all day.”
Goff took the game over in the second quarter with his three-TD flurry.
He threw short for the first one, hitting Darius Powe for a 5-yard score with 7:37 remaining in the second quarter. Goff showed off his deep touch on Cal’s next offensive play, wowing a crowd that included scouts from the Dallas Cowboys with a 24-yard strike to Kenny Lawler one play after an Air Force fumble.
His fourth TD of the half came on a 14-yard slant to Lawler again, capping a 30-minute stretch in which Goff threw more TD passes than any other quarterback so far in the bowl season.
It was a great win. The kids played well, and Jared Goff and the receivers did a good job. Cal coach Sonny Dykes
Goff threw passes to nine receivers, with Lawler catching three touchdown passes, Powe two and Bryce Treggs one. Treggs led all receivers with 143 yards.
“He [Goff] is a good player,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. “You can certainly see why there are franchises and organizations that find him attractive. We did a little bit of everything. We played zone. We played man. You know we’re allowed to bring 0 to 11 [on pressure].”
Air Force took an early 7-0 lead by running the ball on all 11 plays of the game’s first possession, but then the Falcons (8-6) started to sputter. Air Force ran for 285 yards but passed for only 149.
The Falcons also suffered a big blow on the first Cal possession when safety Weston Steelhammer, the team’s leading tackler, was ejected for targeting.
Cal led 35-21 at the half before Goff found Powe for a second time in the third quarter. The Falcons got within 45-29 late in the fourth quarter, but Goff again led another drive that was capped with a 25-yard scoring strike to Lawler.
“It was a great win,” Cal coach Sonny Dykes said. “The kids played well, and Jared Goff and the receivers did a good job. We defended the triple option pretty well after not seeing an offense like that all year.”
▪ In addition to the Cowboys, the press box had scout seats for Houston, San Diego and the St. Louis Rams.
▪ Cal won eight games for the first time since 2009. It marked the 11th time since 1952 the Bears have won at least eight.
▪ Air Force quarterback Karson Roberts threw for two touchdown passes, which ties an Air Force bowl record. It’s the fifth time in school history an Air Force QB has thrown for two touchdown passes in a bowl.
AFA—Owens 1 run (Strebel kick), 8:33.
Cal—Enwere 1 run (M.Anderson kick), 5:46.
Cal—Treggs 30 pass from Goff (M.Anderson kick), :02.
AFA—Williams 16 run (Strebel kick), 12:39.
Cal—Powe 5 pass from Goff (M.Anderson kick), 7:37.
Cal—Lawler 24 pass from Goff (M.Anderson kick), 7:16.
AFA—Roberts 1 run (Strebel kick), 3:04.
Cal—Lawler 14 pass from Goff (M.Anderson kick), 2:00.
Cal—Powe 12 pass from Goff (M.Anderson kick), 11:04.
Cal—FG M.Anderson 29, 2:44.
AFA—McVey 57 pass from Roberts (Owens run), 1:30.
Cal—Lawler 25 pass from Goff (M.Anderson kick), :17.
AFA—Robinette 15 pass from Roberts (Strebel kick), 9:14.
Cal—FG M.Anderson 30, 1:13.
Time of Possession
RUSHING—California, Watson 13-70, Muhammad 9-47, Enwere 8-19, T.Davis 1-16, Goff 2-(minus 16), Team 1-(minus 17). Air Force, Owens 19-83, Roberts 16-69, McVey 8-44, Brown 6-39, Driskell 2-31, Williams 2-19.
PASSING—California, Goff 25-37-0-467. Air Force, Roberts 7-14-1-149, Robinette 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING—California, Lawler 5-75, Treggs 4-143, Powe 4-70, Harris 4-67, Hudson 2-40, Hansen 2-30, T.Davis 2-19, S.Anderson 1-14, Watson 1-9. Air Force, Robinette 5-69, McVey 1-57, Brown 1-23.