Checking in w/you as we’re a little more than 48 hours away from Big Game kickoff …
Obviously a big storyline is whether Cal’s defense can contain Stanford QB Andrew Luck. There’s no doubt Luck will have many NFL scouts watching him Saturday, as he has all season. But Cal defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast wants his defensive players to realize that those same NFL scouts also will be watching them. “When you’re going up against one of the better players, everybody is going to dissect (all) the plays,” Pendergast said. “So whether you’re a lineman, a linebacker or a secondary guy, you’ve got a chance to make an (impression).”
That sounds like good motivational strategy. How effective will it be in stopping the Cardinal, which is averaging 493.7 yards per game this season? We’ll find out. Pendergast said Stanford provides more different looks and more ways to move the ball than most college football teams. “They’re very unique in what they do,” he said. “They use a lot of different personnel groups, they use the whole field. The run game, pass game … they can run tackle to tackle, get on the perimeter, throw down the middle of the field and spread you out and throw it. So it’s a very unique, and I’d say, dynamic offense.”
Cal defensive end Trevor Guyton mentioned earlier this week the importance of putting some heat on Luck. Look for the Bears to bring pressure from lots of different angles. “We’ve got to mix some things up, come after them a little bit, try to win up front,” Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. “But they do a nice job of protecting him. He gets rid of the ball, and sometimes even when you’re there to get him, he breaks out of things and runs. It’s not an easy thing to do to get him on the ground.”
But first and foremost, the Bears can’t let Stanford – which is averaging 215.1 yards on the ground — run the ball at will. Asked how his defense matches up against the Cardinal offensive line, Pendergast replied: “I like our defensive front regardless of who we’re playing.”
–It appears Cal will once again be without starting outside linebackers Chris McCain (concussion) and David Wilkerson (bruised knee). Pendergast indicated he doesn’t expect either to play, meaning Cal will go with Cecil Whiteside, Dan Camporeale and Ryan Davis for those two spots.
–The Bears did have one player at practice Thursday who could help their pass-rushing cause if only he were eligible. Defensive end Cameron Jordan, now playing for the New Orleans Saints, is in town since New Orleans has a bye. Jordan plans to attend Saturday’s game. Wow, talk about a chatty guy. It looks like Jordan is on his way to a long NFL career, but I could see him making a living behind the microphone someday.
–Eric Kiesau, Cal’s passing game coordinator and receivers coach, said the Bears’ play calling has been so run-dominated over the past two games partly because Cal jumped ahead of opponents early, then tried to grind out the clock. Kiesau said the plan going into the Washington State and Oregon State games was to balance the pass and run, but that strategy changed once Cal’s backs started eating up yards in chunks. I don’t doubt that’s the case to a certain degree. But it’s been an aim to boost the confidence of quarterback Zach Maynard, and rolling out a dominant run game is the best way to do that. Kiesau says he’s seen “big strides” from Maynard in practice over the past two weeks. “That’s what we want, just throwing the ball with confidence and accuracy,” Kiesau said.
I thought Maynard did a good job of just throwing the ball away a couple times last week when the pocket collapsed and he had to scramble. But make no mistake, if Maynard is dropping back to pass 30 times on Saturday, Cal is in trouble. An efficient running game is a must …