In their second and final home game of September of the 2022 schedule, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish host the California Golden Bears. These two schools have met just four times, the last time coming in 1967, with the Irish going into this clash looking to keep their record in this series spotless.
Cal head coach Justin Wilcox is set to begin his sixth season and has compiled a 26-28 record over that time frame. During that span, the Golden Bears have only had two winning seasons, though last season’s 5-7 mark came in a year in which they lost five games by a touchdown or less. The competitiveness could offer a vision for how the 2022 campaign will unfold
California Offense: Newcomer Behind Center
The Golden Bears will no longer have Chase Garbers at quarterback after he threw for nearly 6,600 yards and also tossed 50 touchdown passes over four years. His replacement will probably be Purdue transfer Jack Plummer, who was demoted last year by the Boilermakers not long after he had started against the Irish. Plummer doesn’t make many mistakes and improved his accuracy during his three years at Purdue. He’ll compete against the duo of Kai Millner and Zach Johnson.
Damien Moore is the top returning backfield threat after gaining 517 yards in 2021, though he has to avoid the ballhandling miscues that plagued him last season, DeCarlos Brooks should give him an occasional breather, while fullback will be a battle between Beaux Tagaloa, Andy Alfieri and Champion Johnson.
The Cal receiving corps is headed by wideout Jeremiah Hunter, who only snagged 21 passes last year but can go deep. Two intriguing redshirt freshmen, Mavin Anderson and J. Michael Sturdivant will make an attempt to break through, while tight end Keleki Latu and Jermaine Terry will largely be used for blocking purposes.
Up front, Ben Coleman has the flexibility to play at either tackle or guard and will lead this unit. Right now Coleman and redshirt freshman Bastian Swinney will likely man the left side, with the right seeing Brayden Rohme at tackle and Brian Driscoll at guard. Rounding out the group will be Matthew Cindric at center.
California Defense: Up Front Improvement
The Golden Bears’ contingent up front has enough talent that the days of using a 2-4-5 defense appear to be over. On the nose in the standard 3-4 setup, huge Ricky Correia figures to start, unless the often-injured Stanley McDonald offers a challenge. On the ends, Brett Johnson returns after missing last season due to injury and will be joined by Ethan Saunders, who got plenty of experience in his first year last season.
Among the linebackers, the key player will be in the middle as Washington transfer Jackson Sirmon takes over. He’s effective against running teams and will team with second-year man Femi Oladejo. On the outside, Orin Patu is expected to offer a consistent pass rush, while Braxten Croteau will be situated on the strong side.
The secondary can deliver hits, with cornerback Lu-Magia Hearns also leading the team last year with 10 pass deflections. Hearns’ slight frame needs to bulk up, though he’s a quick study after moving into a starting role as a freshman in 2021. He’ll team with Collin Gamble, who had similar tackling numbers as well as five pass deflections of his own. Meanwhile, veteran safety Daniel Scott’s size helps to explain why he was Cal’s leading tackler last season, with Craig Woodson.most likely set to man the other safety slot.
California Special Teams: Kicking Experience
Doing the placekicking will once again see Dario Longhetto holding down that job, with the punting duties also seeing a returnee in Jonathan Sheahan, who averaged 43.1 yards per kick last year. The departure of Nikko Remigio means that both the punt and kick return teams will need new blood. That’s likely to be supplied by Hearns on punts, while Anderson and Hunter are the top candidates to handle kickoffs.
The Last Time Notre Dame Played California
The September 23, 1967 matchup between the Fighting Irish and Golden Bears came at a time when Notre Dame was defending its controversial national title from the year before. In this contest, the Irish coasted to a 41-8 rout, with Terry Hanratty throwing touchdown passes to Rocky Bleier and Jim Seymour. On defense, the defending national champions shut down the Cal passing attack to increase their winning streak to 12 games. That streak would end the following week against Purdue, with another loss to top-ranked Southern Cal part of an 8-2 season for Notre Dame.