Who in America has a tougher job Saturday than Clancy Pendergast?
The defensive coordinator for Cal, it’s Pendergast’s challenge to figure out a way to slow No. 2 Oregon, the nation’s most prolific offensive team.
The Ducks average 54.3 points per game and have not been limited to fewer than 42 in any of their first nine games.
We talked with Pendergast on Thursday about dealing with the Ducks:
Are the Ducks the same as ever or different this season?
“They always have a few new wrinkles year to year. One of the best things they do is they utilize the best players they have and get the ball in their hands in different spots. They use the whole field in the running game — they run well between the tackles as well as going to the perimeter with plays that are misdirection.”
How were you able to replicate their tempo in practice?
“It’s hard to get it done to a T. Over the years we’ve been able to simulate it as best we can. But that’s obviously a concern.”
Are they playing even faster than ever?
“Their tempo is up and its high-paced and you’ve got to be ready for it. Substitutions are very key, particularly on the defensive line.”
Talk about Oregon’s offensive line:
“They’re a group that’s very athletic. They’re very good at the point of attack and they pass block well.”
How impressed are you with freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota?
“If you look at the production of the quarterbacks they’ve had over the years, all those guys have been good. They do a great job of teaching that system. This kid is no different — they plug him in, he’s got a lot of talent. He’s unique because of his size and his speed and his ability to throw, compared to other guys they’ve had. He’s extremely explosive.”
What makes running back Kenjon Barner — the nation’s No. 2 rusher — so difficult?
“He’s a very patient back. Gap integrity is going to be very important. He is a guy you can lose a little bit because of his height. They do a lot of different things in their running blocking to try to force you to lose your gaps. You’ve got to fight to keep that control.”
We haven’t even mentioned De’Anthony Thomas, labeled by Sports Illustrated as the fastest player in college football. What challenge does he pose?
“He’s very explosive and has electrifying speed. They move him around to a lot of different spots. We’ve got to do a good job of being alert to where he is because he does line up in the backfield, he lines up as the No. 1 receiver, he lines up in the slot, shifts out of the slot, he shifts out of the backfield to the slot. They do a lot of unique things with him to try to get him the football. Like I said, that’s what’s most impressive about their offense — they get the ball in their guys’ hands who can do things with it.”
Oregon coach Chip Kelly has praised the downfield blocking of his wide receivers. How do you deal with that?
“It’s a big challenge for us because they do an excellent job of mixing in the run and then the play-action passes off of that. For the defense backs, it’s a big challenge for them because not only do they have to be support possibly in the running game, but they also have to read their keys to cover the pass. They put a stress on everybody who plays in the second and third level of defense from an eye standpoint.”
As a defensive coordinator, what is your reaction to Oregon scoring 62 points against the athletes USC has on defense?
“Their stats are great every year. “They’re good at what they do. They use the whole field on every play. That’s the unique thing about their offense.”