Beau Baldwin got used to pacing up and down on red turf, eating at small diners and negotiating snowy roads while at Eastern Washington University.
For the nine seasons he was the Eagles’ coach and 13 total, Baldwin got used to winning big against schools at any level, in any conference.
Somebody was bound to notice and lure Baldwin out of Cheney, which California did last January. First-year coach Justin Wilcox hired him to be the offensive coordinator for the Golden Bears, who play the Huskies on Saturday (7:45 p.m., FS1).
And while the difference between Pac-12 and Big Sky differences might be as great as the difference between Eastern Washington and Berkeley, Baldwin has already shown he can matchup with anyone. His Eastern squads were 2-3 against the Pac-12, averaging 42.8 points per game.
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“He is one of the most highly acclaimed offensive coordinators in the country,” said UW co-defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake, who worked with Baldwin at Eastern for one season in 2003. “He puts up a lot of points. It is an aggressive offense.”
Baldwin remembers the phone call he got Jan. 11 from Wilcox, who was days away from being named the replacement for Sonny Dykes.
It was a Wednesday night. Baldwin had just gotten home from a recruiting trip. Even though the two of them had worked at the same coaching clinics, and had mutual friends in the business, they had never talked before.
That night, they spoke for two hours about the Bears’ offensive-coordinator opening.
“All I had heard for years from friends (about Wilcox) was the same thing, that he was an incredible coach and the best person,” Baldwin said. “It was just a conversation, and he was like, ‘Let’s talk again in a couple of days.’ But it did not take me very long to get off the phone, and talk to my wife (Nicole) about the job.”
A week after that phone call, Baldwin was named the Bears’ new offensive coordinator, more than doubling his annual salary (from $224,000 at Eastern to $570,000 at Cal).
And for the first time in his coaching career, the former Curtis High School and Central Washington University quarterback was leaving the state of Washington.
The moment that hit him was his first drive home from the Cal campus in Berkeley.
“Going down Grizzly Peak (Boulevard), I got a view of the entire bay, and I saw the Golden Gate Bridge,” Baldwin said.
Now, he gets to put his offense on display on a much grander scale.
Baldwin’s base offensive schemes are heavily influenced by Greg Olson, his former quarterbacks coach at Central. Olson now serves in that same capacity with the Los Angeles Rams.
“It is a single-back offense, and Greg got a lot of his stuff from Dennis (Erickson) and Mike (Price),” Baldwin said. “But from there, it has grown every year.”
Strong-armed Ross Bowers, who won a Class 4A title for Bothell High School in 2014, is Cal’s new starting quarterback. Bowers ranks fifth in the Pac 12 in passing yards per game (271.4), and is fourth in the conference with nine touchdown passes.
“He is doing a great job,” Baldwin said. “It has been a challenge, because everyone around us is learning something new and different.”
Even though his Eastern squads never won a game in two trips to Husky Stadium, they put up points on the Huskies, including 52 in a loss during Chris Petersen’s first season at the UW in 2014.
“I knew he was special right when we interviewed him (at Eastern),” said Lake, who was a defensive backs coach at Eastern, and served on the hiring committee when Baldwin applied for the offensive coordinator position.
“I remember after his interview, I wrote him a card because I was so impressed. I said, ‘I don’t know if we are going to hire you or not ... but I am sure I am going to see you in the future.’
“I am not the only one who can see that. Everyone else now sees how special he is.”
WASHINGTON (5-0, No. 2 last week)
Last week: d. Oregon State, 42-7
This week: Sat. vs. California
It very well might be November until the Huskies play a meaningful fourth quarter.
WASHINGTON STATE (5-0, No. 3)
Last week: d. USC, 30-27
This week: Sat. at Oregon
As quickly as Sam Darnold left the Heisman Trophy conversation, QB Luke Falk got in it.
UTAH (4-0, No. 4)
Last week: Bye
This week: Sat. vs. Stanford
Once again, Utes’ kicking (Matt Gay) and punt game (Mitch Wishnowsky) among nation’s best.
USC (4-1, No. 1)
Last week: lost to Washington State, 30-27
This week: Sat. vs. Oregon State
Stunned Trojans now have to regroup with immediate goal of just winning Pac-12 South title.
OREGON (4-1, No. 5)
Last week: d. California, 45-24
This week: Sat. vs. Washington State
Willie Taggart’s injury-ravaged group out to prove that wounded Ducks can still fly high.
STANFORD (3-2, No. 6)
Last week: d. ASU, 34-24
This week: Sat. at Utah
It took just 87 carries for junior Bryce Love to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards, quickest in school history.
UCLA (3-2, No. 9)
Last week: d. Colorado, 27-23
This week: Sat. at Arizona
It seems to be the same script every week for QB Josh Rosen — NFL-type throws, wee-brain decisions.
COLORADO (3-2, No. 7)
Last week: lost to UCLA, 27-23
This week: Sat. vs. Arizona
Attempting a fake-field goal pass to a 30-year-old Australia kicker might not have been the best decision.
CALIFORNIA (3-2, No. 8)
Last week: lost to Oregon, 45-24
This week: Sat. at Washington
Bears were gashed by reserve Oregon tailbacks last week, and now get Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman? Yikes.
ARIZONA (2-2, No. 10)
Last week: Bye
This week: Sat. at Colorado
One way to cure the ailing Wildcats’ passing game is to give RB J.J. Taylor as many carries as his legs can handle.
ARIZONA STATE (2-3, No. 11)
Last week: lost to Stanford, 34-24
This week: Bye.
Sun Devils have surrendered 118 plays of 40 yards or more since 2012, easily the most in the Pac-12.
OREGON STATE (1-4, No. 12)
Last week: lost to Washington, 42-7
This week: Sat. at USC
As if the season cannot get worse, Beavers play angry USC this week — and RB Ryan Nall (foot) in a boot.
– Todd Milles, staff writer