Nation's Top Defense, Offense Collide Friday

Cal DE Cameron Jordan

Friday nights are usually reserved for high school athletes. In recent years, Friday nights have paved the way for the so-called "mid-major" schools to get national airtime, however, when the California Golden Bears meet the Nevada Wolf Pack on Friday night, there is a lot more on the line than just guaranteed money and a Pac-10-WAC showdown…

It's the nation's best offense versus the nation's best defense.

The Nevada offense, which averages 592 yards and 50 points through their first two games, faces the stingy California defense, which has yielded only 161 yards per game and a grand total of 10 points under new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast.

It is a paradox: the irresistible force versus the immovable object.

The match starts on the headsets, with Nevada's Chris Ault and his ever-developing Pistol Offense going up against the ultra-aggressive Super Bowl defense of Clancy Pendergast.

Ault is credited to be the engineer of the growing pistol offense, which acts as a hybrid of the shotgun and single-back formations. In recent years, the pistol offense has grown in popularity, as teams all over the nation – in college and the pros – are adopting this formation and implementing it into their game plan.

Pendergast is not privy to this offense, as he was a defensive coordinator in the NFL just last year. Pendergast's aggressive style forced the Colorado Buffaloes into five turnovers and six sacks just last weekend.

Without a doubt, this will be fun to watch.

"I think that matchup is going to be very challenging," said Cal head coach Jeff Tedford. "Their offense is very potent, and led the country in rushing last year – three 1,000-yard rushers. They're very, very good at what they do, very precise, very disciplined, and they have the guys to do it."

Engineering Nevada's offense is senior quarterback Colin Kaepernick – who passed for 2,052 yards, ran for 1,183 yards, and was accountable for 36 touchdowns in 2009. Kaerpernick has the size – 6'6, 225 pounds – to give any defense problems. When you factor in his rushing ability, he becomes a nightmare for any defense.

"He's a different type of athlete," says linebacker D.J. Holt, referring to Kaepernick. "He's bigger. He's fast. He makes a lot guys miss, and he can also throw the ball. He's a great leader, so this is a great challenge for us, and we'll see how things go on Friday."

The Bears also have the added challenge of going on the road and being ranked. The Bears are 4-7 in their last 11 road games while ranked, and entering the unfriendly confines of Nevada's Mackay Stadium for a night contest figures to not exactly help matters.

Jeff Tedford is not concerned. "It's not something we talk about," said Tedford. "I'm not sure that's because of rankings. You know, we didn't play well enough to win and we just happened to be ranked where we were ranked when we didn't play very well."

"Each game has its own challenges. This week is a big challenge for us for a lot of reasons, but it's not because we're ranked wherever we're ranked."

The Friday matchup also means a short week of preparation, which poses other challenges for the team. One aspect of a Friday matchup means less time to heal from injuries, and that is forcing California to take extra precaution, especially on the defense.

Senior linebacker Mike Mohamed has been walking around practice with a boot on his foot – the result of a sprained toe. However, both Mohamed and Tedford sounded very optimistic that their best linebacker would be ready to go for Friday. Mohamed, who had a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown last week against Colorado, is fifth in the Pac-10 in tackles thus far, and is one player the Bears cannot afford to have off the field.

Freshman cornerback Steve Williams – who recorded his first career interception against Colorado – had surgery Tuesday to repair a torn ligament in his thumb. His status for Friday is still undecided.

Such injury news is never good, but the Bears only hope to be completely healthy before they face the irresistible force that is the Nevada offense.

Here's hoping the immovable object comes out on top Friday night.

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