Cal Bears expect Ott in lineup for Idaho game after airborne injury in loss to Auburn

Jaydn Ott missed most of the second half of Cal’s 14-10 loss to the Tigers after he was hurt trying to leap over a linebacker

BERKELEY, CA — Cal running back Jaydn Ott, who was injured against Auburn over the weekend, is expected to be ready to play Saturday when the Bears host Idaho at Memorial Stadium, according to coach Justin Wilcox.

“We’re expecting him to play,” Wilcox said on Tuesday. “He’s day-to-day, but we’re anticipating that.”

Ott told Wilcox during morning practice that “he felt great today.”

Ott, who has 266 rushing yards through two games and leads the Pac-12 Conference, was injured in the third quarter when he went airborne while attempting to leap over linebacker Eugene Asante.

Instead, he was struck, landed hard on the Memorial Stadium turf, and was knocked out for at least two minutes. Ott walked away on his own but did not return as the Bears were defeated 14-10 to even their record at 1-1.

Idaho enters the game with a 2-0 record and a No. 5 FCS national ranking. On Saturday, the Vandals defeated FBS opponent Nevada 33-6 in Reno.

Wilcox also confirmed that sophomore Sam Jackson V will start at quarterback for the Bears. Jackson started the season opener against North Texas but was injured and had to come off the bench against Auburn, replacing Ben Finley.

Wilcox said it’s too early to tell if Ott will be on the field against Idaho.

He did, however, emphasize that he would prefer the sophomore avoid attempting to hurdle defenders due to the risks involved.

“We don’t coach them to leave their feet like that,” Wilcox explained. “Every now and then, guys will make a play by jumping over someone.” It gets some oohs and aahs, but we don’t teach that technique.

“Jaydn is always a guy who will try to make a play, but in general, leaving your feet, especially against good players, doesn’t end well.” So we have to learn from that. The first consideration is their health. And the second part is that you discuss the decision when the time is right. Both of these points have been made, and we are pleased that he is doing better.”

Idaho coach Jason Eck believes Cal’s top players will return on Saturday.

“Jaydn Ott may be the best player we’ve played against so far,” Eck said. “He’s a really dynamic runner, and he’s great with the ball in his hands.”

Idaho has only given up 94.5 yards rushing per game to its first two opponents. Cal gained 347 yards on the ground against North Texas but only 113 yards against Auburn.

The play, according to Cal offensive coordinator Jake Spavital, was consistent with how things went wrong offensively for the Bears all game, a week after they scored 58 points against North Texas.

“When he went up in the air, it kind of sums up our entire night,” Spavital said. “It was regrettable. We’ve talked to him about not jumping and hurdling because of what can and has happened.”

Senior running back Isaiah Ifanse, a transfer from Montana State, admitted the play and aftermath “was tough to watch.”

“He’s a phenomenal athlete,” said Ifanse. “I knew he could jump over people because we saw it in the North Texas game.” When someone lands like that, you always say a prayer and hope for the best.”

Ott looked good in practice Tuesday, according to Spavital, but the coaching staff limited his activity. This will increase as the week progresses.

“It’s more about mental stuff with him,” said Spavital. “We expect him to be the guy on Saturday.”

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