Wednesday, September 26, 2007

San Jose Mercury: Leader of Cal defensive line expected to play Saturday


By Jonathan Okanes

Here is the link.

No. 6 Cal appears to be getting healthier as it prepares for its pivotal game at No. 11 Oregon on Saturday.  Defensive tackle Matt Malele, who sat out the Bears' 45-27 victory over Arizona last weekend because of a strained foot, is probable, Coach Jeff Tedford said Tuesday. Malele is the only returning starter on the defensive line and teammates look to him for leadership.  "When he does get back out there, I know he's going to be hungry," said guard Noris Malele, Matt's cousin. "I don't know if he's frustrated or anxious. I know once he does get back out there, he'll be ready to go." Starting linebacker Zack Follett is day to day but "looked pretty good on Sunday" during the team's conditioning practice, Tedford said. Follett, who also missed the Arizona game, is recovering from a neck stinger suffered against Louisiana Tech. "On Sunday, he ran really well, but his legs aren't the problem," Tedford said. "It's his neck. He plays the game very physically and likes to hit people. So until his neck is completely better and he feels very comfortable . . . we're not going to put him at any risk whatsoever."  Neck stingers can become serious if a player returns before the symptoms have completely disappeared. If Follett is unable to play, Justin Moye is expected to start in his place again.

Starting defensive end Rulon Davis, who missed the Arizona game because of a sprained foot, probably will be out again this week, Tedford said. Starting fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou suffered a partial tear of the posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee but could play against the Ducks, Tedford said. Ta'ufo'ou, who missed the end of training camp because of a sprained medial collateral ligament in the same knee but came back much earlier than expected, suffered the injury Saturday but came back to reel off a 14-yard run during the Bears' final scoring drive.  "He's a tough, tough guy," Tedford said. "We'll rest him through the week and I know he will rehab continually through the week. If there's any chance at all - if it's just a pain issue - he'll play, I would imagine."

• Although there are many things for Tedford to be satisfied about, he hasn't been happy with the Bears' kickoff coverage. Cal is allowing 37.2 yards per return, which is ninth in the Pacific-10. Considering the Bears are facing the conference's top kick returner in Oregon's Jonathan Stewart (31.9 yards per return), it's something they want to shore up immediately. "We are going to have to get better there," Tedford said. "It's the one that gets to the 50-yard line that drives you crazy a little bit." Tedford also said this season's new rule moving kickoffs back from the 35-yard line to the 30 is contributing to better returns in general. "With where the kickoff is now, that's going to happen every now and then," he said.

• ESPN will broadcast its "College Gameday" show live from Autzen Stadium on Saturday. The show, featuring Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso, airs from a different location each week, depending on the magnitude of the game.

• Saturday's game will feature the Pac-10's top running backs - Stewart (125.8 yards per game) and Cal's Justin Forsett (121). .

• Oregon and Cal are tied for sixth in the country in turnover margin (1.75).


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