Wednesday, September 12, 2007

San Jose Mercury News: Cal defense has been hot and cold

Here is the link.


By Jonathan Okanes

It's hard to figure out if Cal's defense is something that should excite fans or encourage them to cross their fingers and cover their eyes.  The Bears allowed Colorado State, a team from a smaller conference, to overpower them with a straight-ahead running attack during the first half. Later, they stopped the Rams cold.  At times, the Bears were picked apart by Tennessee's midrange passing game. That same defense muscled up against the powerful Vols with a momentum-shifting goal-line stand. Defense could determine just how special the 2007 season is for the Bears, who have a high-scoring offense. For Cal, the ideal defense would be the one that slowed Colorado State to a crawl in the second half Saturday. "We definitely can build off that," middle linebacker Worrell Williams said. "We know how good we are. We know how we're capable of playing."

The Bears have exhibited those capabilities only some of the time. Cal yielded 382 yards to Tennessee, but came up with crucial stops to help preserve a 45-31 victory. In the 34-28 triumph at Colorado State, Cal allowed 222 yards and 13 first downs in the first half, then forced the Rams into three-and-outs on their first three second-half possessions and turnovers on their next two. 

"At halftime we came in, while the coaches were getting the schemes ready for the second half, and we were just talking among ourselves," linebacker Justin Moye said. "We didn't want to have any regrets after the game, and the way we were playing, there were going to be regrets."  Inquiring minds might want to know why the defense didn't begin the game like it began the second half. It certainly raises the question whether the second-half defense was a preview or an example of the Bears' inconsistency. More answers will come when the Bears host Louisiana Tech on Saturday.  "Everyone knew we were out there lagging a little bit," Williams said. "If you don't (perform) from the opening kick, you're setting yourself up for failure. You may not go into halftime up by three. You may go in down by 10. It might be too late to come back."

Williams said he has watched film of Louisiana Tech, which put a scare into nationally ranked Hawaii on Saturday before losing 45-44 in overtime. The Bulldogs scored 72 points over their first two games behind a rushing attack that averaged 206.5 yards.  "Their line is huge," Williams said. "I don't remember seeing guys looking that big in the Pac-10. We have some great athletes, but those guys are pretty big. We're going to have to be on our toes this week."  One defensive player off to a fast start is weakside linebacker Anthony Felder, who has 22 tackles and two sacks. He had 13 tackles and both sacks against Colorado State. Felder, a freshman All-American in 2005, was hampered by injuries last season.  "He was really something special as a freshman," Coach Jeff Tedford said. "When he's healthy, he's a very, very good player. It's nice to see him contribute to the team because I know he worked very, very hard through the summer preparing himself so that he doesn't continue to be injured. He definitely brings some talent to that position when he's healthy."


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