Hey Old Blues and Cal fans in general, or Gopher fans stopping by,
With Saturday’s game only a couple days away, I’m sure almost everyone continues to wonder if the Cal team that showed up in Knoxville, Tenn., will get flattened by a potent Minnesota rushing game on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
Certainly, there is reason for worry. Against the Vols, Cal certainly didn’t control the line of scrimmage, something that will have to change against Minnesota, a team that has averaged more than 200 yards rushing a game for the past seven years.
Of particular interest will be the play of Abu Ma’afala, a converted defensive tackle who lost about 20 pounds the past off-season so he would be quick enough to play defensive end. Ma’afala will need to be strong on the edge, turning Minnesota’s tailbacks back inside toward Brandon Mebane, who won’t have much to do if the Gophers can run around the edge.
Cal’s linebackers, especially Desmond Bishop, made some big hits early in that game, but then made few impact plays. These guys have a world of talent and they should be difference makers. I would imagine that we will see some huge hits from this unit against Minnesota.
Cal’ s defensive strategy against Tennessee wasn’t to see out in order to get to the quarterback because the Vols were using a very quick passing set that doesn’t set up well for blitzing. Against Minnesota, fans might see defensive coordinator Bob Gregory get more aggressive with his linebackers. Of course, Minnesota is one of the nation’s top teams in terms of protecting its quarterback, and a lot of that has to do with freezing the defense off play action with a potent running game. It will be a considerable defensive challenge for a Cal team that didn’t play well defensively last Saturday.
Coach Jeff Tedford was adamant on Wednesday that his team must get a running attack going against Minnesota. If Marshawn Lynch can shake off his slightly sprained ankle, look for the Bears to be more stubborn in their running game against Minnesota.
Of course, that in itself is a worry for Cal fans who watched the offensive line take turns missing assignments. Tedford talked on Wednesday about the fact that good offensive lines really have to get to know each other. Cal’s lineup was scrambled after losing Ryan O’Callaghan, Aaron Merz and Marvin Philip all the NFL after last season. Cal did not assert itself last Saturday and that will be a major challenge against Minnesota. Allowing the Gophers to come full speed ahead at Nate Longshore will spell trouble.