May 29, 2024
“Sam’s day to day. He was out there running around, practicing today. We will make that decision when the time is right," Cal head coach Justin Wilcox said the status of QB Samuel Jackson V.

BERKELEY — Cal coach Justin Wilcox stopped short of revealing whether starting quarterback Sam Jackson V will be available to face Auburn on Saturday night in the Bears’ home opener.

But backup Ben Finley, who played well off the bench when Jackson was injured in Cal’s 58-21 win at North Texas, sounded like he expects his teammate to be on the field.

“I’m just going to be ready. I’m glad Sam’s healthy right now and he’s practicing,” Finley said during a Tuesday news conference with reporters. “Whatever way they can utilize me for this Saturday, I just want to win.”

Cal and Auburn will meet for the first time ever Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Stadium. The game will be aired on ESPN.

Jackson, a third-year sophomore transfer from TCU, injured his left (non-throwing) shoulder or arm early in the second quarter of the Bears’ season-opening game on Saturday and did not return. His arm was in a sling in the second half and after the game Wilcox suggested he could have played again, if needed.

Three days later, Wilcox was not willing or ready to provide a definitive response to whether Jackson will face the Tigers of the Southeastern Conference.

“Sam’s day to day,” Wilcox said. ‘He was out there running around, practicing today. We will make that decision when the time is right. Nothing to announce today there.”

Wilcox also said the status of starting center Matthew Cindric, who is one of the team’s top offensive linemen, remains uncertain after being injured in the first half. Brian Driscoll, who moved over from guard to fill Cindric’s spot, was named Pac-12 Offensive Lineman of the Week after the Bears rolled up 669 yards of offense.

Wilcox reported that defensive lineman Nate Burrell, also dinged up at North Texas, should be ready to play.

Unwilling to share too much with Auburn, which routed UMass 59-14 in its opener, Wilcox declined to say whether he might use both quarterbacks, assuming they are available.

“That’s a decision we’ll make, probably not one we’ll be discussing during the week,” he said. “I suppose everything is on the table.”

Both players performed well in the opener.

Jackson was 3-for-4 for 33 yards with a touchdown and his only incompletion was a drop. He also ran three times for 18 yards.

Finley transferred from North Carolina State over the summer so the coaching staff had less time to evaluate him than Jackson, who was on hand for spring practice.

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But Wilcox said after the game and again Tuesday that the staff wasn’t surprised after Finley went 24 for 34 for 279 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

“Thought he showed strong command of the offense, was confident. He stood in there and threw the ball. Decisive,” Wilcox said. “He wasn’t perfect — he would tell you that. I think he did a really good job.”

Finley was glad his coaches came away impressed but even more gratified to gain the confidence of his teammates.

“The first drive I almost felt a little nervous . . . I wanted to go out and not prove to my team but just kind of let them know, `Hey, I’m here and I’m going to help ‘em in any way,’ “ he said. “Just making sure they feel confident in me. I’ve always felt like I belong, but it definitely helps after a win like that.”