So does Cal have a chance to beat No. 1 Oregon on Saturday? A couple of the players I talked to today seem confident, even though just two days ago they had trouble putting away the most inept FBS opponent on their schedule this season.
But the Bears clearly are a different team at home. They have dominated all four of their opponents at Memorial Stadium this season. However, none of those opponents are as good as Oregon — not even close.
But what happens if a good crowd turns out, makes a lot of noise, and really fuels the defense? Obviously, defense has been the Bears’ strong suit this season, and they will face an immense test against the Ducks’ high-powered offense that leads the country in both scoring and total yards per game. Could Cal channel that adrenaline into performance, get some stops and momentum and keep the game close?
That will be the Bears’ only chance to win. Seeing as Cal put up just 20 points against Washington State, statistically the worst defense in the country, it might have trouble scoring points against Oregon’s underrated and athletic defense. But again, the Bears will be at home, and that seems to be good for something.
Some reaction today to facing the No. 1 team in the country:
- Safety Sean Cattouse: “It’s motivating. You don’t get a chance very often to play the No. 1 team in the nation. It’s what every competitor lives for.”
- Linebacker D.J. Holt: “They’re a team just like us, student-athletes going to school and playing football. They happen to be really good at what they do. We’re all excited and ready to play this weekend. I wish it was today.”
- Coach Jeff Tedford: “They’re an excellent football team, no question about it. They deserve their No. 1 ranking. They’ve proven that. It’s going to be a major, major test for us. We’re going to have to be on top of our game.”
Both Cattouse and Holt talked today about how much better the Bears play at home, especially on defense. The Bears have allowed just two offensive touchdowns all season in four home games.
The players also remember what happened last year, when the Bears went up to Autzen Stadium at 3-0 and ranked No. 6 in the nation and got embarrassed, 42-3.
“Last year is last year. They’re coming to our house now,” Cattouse said. “We know how we play here. It’s going to be a fight. They better come ready.”
Holt: “It’s at our house. We take a lot of pride in not letting people come in here and score a lot of points on us. Things have gone really well at home this season. They knocked us off last year. It definitely was a rude awakening. We have to step it up.”
Even though the Bears would rather be better than 5-4, they have a chance to finish the season strong with three straight home games. The problem is the next two games are against the No. 1 and No. 7 team (Stanford) in the nation.
“I think we’re in a perfect spot,” Cattouse said. “We have huge games coming up and they’re at home. You can’t ask for anything more. Everybody is ready. We’re confident and as focused as possible. We know these games are huge for us. It’s a huge opportunity to finish the season strong. We have a chance to have some statement games.”
Other notes today:
- Tedford said linebacker Mike Mohamed broke his thumb in the Oregon State game and had surgery last Tuesday. That’s why he was wearing a cast against Washington St. He was still in the cast today.
- Tedford said the Bears will stick with the same starting offensive line as last week, with Matt Summers-Gavin at left guard and Brian Schwenkne at right guard.
- Kevin Riley was back at practice to be with his teammates. Tedford said he has been keeping in touch with Riley and Riley’s parents, just to make sure they are doing well emotionally more than anything else. “I wanted to make sure they are doing OK,” Tedford said.
- Tedford said the team will do more traditional scout team work this week, more similar to years past than this year when the second team has been doing a lot of scout work. That’s to try to simulate Oregon’s high-paced, spread option offense as much as possible. Wide receiver Kaelin Clay will simulate Oregon tailback LaMichael James because Clay is one of the team’s fastest players. Austin Hinder will get most of the work simulating Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas. “We’ll do much more scout team stuff where we’ll coach the scout team up on how to do it, not have the 2s go in there and try to simulate it every now and then,” Tedford said. “We’ll have the scouts always do it. We’ll just try to give the best look we can. It’s impossible to simulate the way they do it, but you need to try to do your best to get to that level.”
- Tedford was asked if he would ever consider overhauling his offense to be more like Oregon’s or another spread type of scheme. “You have to have the personnel to do it,” he said. “It has to be who you are. It would take a total overhaul to do that.” That being said, Tedford said there are elements of a scheme like Oregon’s that the Bears could incorporate into their offense.
- USC safety T.J. McDonald was named Pac-10 Player of the Week for defense. Cal defensive end Cameron Jordan was nominated and figured to be a strong candidate after recording 12 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble against Washington St. McDonald had 13 tackles and two blocked punts in the Trojans 34-33 win over Arizona State.