Friday, November 20, 2009

San Jose Mercury: Cal's defense faces big challenge in Stanford

Jonathan Okanes

Cal's defense looked a lot like it did in the past last Saturday against Arizona. That's a good thing, because the future is about to get a little problematic.  The Bears brought back memories of last year's dominant defense in their 24-16 win over the Wildcats. They'll need that kind of dominance in Saturday's Big Game at Stanford when they face arguably the hottest offense in the country. "You're always still growing, trying to find that right mix and all that kind of stuff," Cal defensive coordinator Bob Gregory said. "For whatever reason, it clicked on Saturday and hopefully it will keep clicking." The Wildcats came into Saturday's game with the Pac-10's leading offense (448.6 yards per game), but the Bears limited them to 274 yards. Shutting offenses down became routine last season, when Cal finished with the 23rd-ranked defense in the country.

Although the Bears lost their trio of star linebackers — Zack Follett, Worrell Williams and Anthony Felder — some believed Cal's defense would be even stronger this season with the entire defensive line and secondary returning, as well as a new crop of talented but inexperienced linebackers ready to make an impact.  For most of the season, that hasn't been the case. Even with Saturday's performance, the Bears still rank seventh in the Pac-10 in total defense (372.8 ypg) and sixth in scoring defense (22.4 ppg).

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