Bears Hit the Road for Tougher Test
Cal players celebrate after TD vs. Colorado.
Cal players celebrate after TD vs. Colorado.
Special to CalSportsDigest.com
Posted Sep 13, 2010


Cal has yet to be tested after two games, but it has yet to play a road game either. The latter will change in the Bears' Sept. 17 game against Nevada, a Friday night game that not only provides Cal's first road challenge of the season but also gives Cal one less day to prepare...


Through two games, California has faced little resistance, essentially deciding both games by halftime. The 52-7 victory over Colorado on Sept. 11 was easier than expected, but the Buffaloes certainly are not a powerhouse team.

The most encouraging part of the win over Colorado from Cal's standpoint was the pressure applied to the Buffaloes' quarterback by the Bears defense. The entire offseason was filled with the promise that new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast would provide a more aggressive defense that would make things uncomfortable for the opposing quarterback.

And Colorado QB Tyler Hansen was uncomfortable throughout. Cal sacked him six times, forced Colorado into five turnovers and scored two defensive touchdowns. Despite the score, it was really the Cal defense that was the impetus for the Bears' second straight 52-point output.

Whether the Bears can apply the same pressure next week is a bigger question. Nevada's Colin Kaepernick is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country, and preventing him making some big plays will be a significant challenge for the Bears.

So far Cal has had nothing to worry about in the second half of its games, but the Wolf Pack should make the Bears work throughout.

The defense installed by Pendergast showed its potential against Colorado. Hansen seldom had time to throw, going 18-for-34 for 166 yards and three interceptions.

"We don't want to be a defense that stands back and holds back," Pendergast said. "We're going to be a turnover-oriented defense. That's something coach (Jeff) Tedford has been preaching."

The catalyst for the defensive pressure was outside linebacker Jarred Price, whose sack of Hansen in the first quarter produced a fumble that led to Cal's second touchdown. A few minutes later, Price hit Hansen when he was throwing, producing a flutter ball that was easily intercepted by Bryant Nnabuife and led to a field goal and a 17-0 lead.

Getting to Kaepernick will not be as easy. He had 402 yards total offense in Nevada's 51-6 victory over Colorado State on Sept. 11. He had 161 yards on the ground and completed 21 of 29 passes.

It will be interesting to see Pendergast's scheme for Nevada, especially with a short week of practice in the Bears' first road game.

NOTES & QUOTES

  • Jarred Price is 5-foot-11 and 213 pounds, and he produced his two big plays plus another sack while going against Colorado OT Nate Solder, a 6-9, 315-pounder who was a first-team all-Big 12 selection last season and is projected as a possible first-round NFL draft pick next spring.

  • Cal has outscored its first two opponents 104-10. The 10 points is the fewest Cal has yielded in the first two games of a season since the 1968 Bears gave up just seven points in the first two games.

  • Cal freshman wide receiver Keenan Allen, who had a monster game in his college debut in the opener against UC Davis, had five catches for 57 yards and a touchdown against Colorado. He was credited with six receptions immediately after the game, but a review of the statistics revealed he was credited with a catch that should have been awarded to Marvin Jones.

  • The loss was Colorado's 13th straight on the road.
  • GAME BALL GOES TO: LB Jarred Price -- Although he had just four tackles, he produced the two biggest plays of the game. Both created turnovers that led to scores that put Cal ahead 17-0. He did it against Colorado's standout offensive lineman Nate Solder. Price is not a starter, but he comes in on passing situations, and Colorado, which uses a lot of three-wideout formations, was in a passing situation a lot. His speed will pose a problem for any tackle trying to pass-protect, and he will be a key for Cal against Nevada.

    KEEP AN EYE ON: WR Marvin Jones -- Although Keenan Allen is getting most of the publicity, Jones provides a threat on the other side. He had four catches for 84 yards and a touchdown against Colorado, and has eight catches and two touchdown receptions through two games. Jones also ran the ball once for 23 yards. He is a returning starter, and was the team's leading receiver last year.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I like going against a dude that tall. If I dip my shoulder, there's nothing they can do." -- Cal OLB Jarred Price, on his success against 6-9, 315-pound Colorado OT Nate Solder.

    STRATEGY & PERSONNEL

    LOOKING GOOD: The Cal defense yielded only 81 yards total offense against UC Davis, and it was even better in the Sept. 11 win over Colorado. Although Cal yielded a lot more yardage (239) against the Buffaloes, it forced five turnovers and created the favorable field position that enabled Cal to pile up points. The aggressive style taught by new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast is producing results, including six sacks and 11 tackles for losses against Colorado. The defense also scored two touchdowns against Colorado. Pass defense was Cal's biggest weakness last season, but the Bears had three interceptions against Colorado.

    STILL NEEDS WORK: Cal's running game has not been as productive as the Bears would like. Jeff Tedford relies on offensive balance, with TB Shane Vereen being the chief ground threat. But Vereen had only 67 yards in the opener, albeit in limited action, and added only 59 yards on 16 carries against Colorado. That's an average of just 3.7 yards a carry against Colorado, and he had no runs of 15 yards or more.

    ROSTER REPORT

  • Darian Hagan returned a fumble 82 yards for Cal's final touchdown. He is the son of Darian Hagan Jr., who was Colorado's starting quarterback when the Buffaloes won a share of the 1990 national championship. The elder Hagan is Colorado's running backs coach, so he saw his son's performance.

  • Cal QB Kevin Riley threw four touchdown passes against Colorado, giving him seven touchdown passes with no interceptions for the season.

  • TB Shane Vereen caught three passes against Colorado, and he has caught at least one pass in all 28 collegiate games he's played.

  • OT Matt Summers-Gavin played a few plays against Colorado, which was his first game action of the season. He missed most of preseason practice with a knee injury.



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