DeCoud reflects on monster game

DeCoud reflects on monster game

Less than 24 hours after playing the game of your life, how do you let it sink in? Do you allow yourself a little time to enjoy the moment and give yourself a small break before getting ready for the next game? Or do you head home and watch the replay over and over, learning more about what happened on each play?

That's the question posed to safety Thomas DeCoud, the day after Cal's 45-27 win over Arizona.  The 6-2, 204 pound Pinole native had an outstanding game with 10 tackles, an interception, a fumble recovery, and a sack that resulted in a Tyson Alualu fumble recovery for a touchdown.

Standing in the corridor of Memorial Stadium, while cradling a decorated game ball from the Louisiana Tech game, DeCoud took a few minutes following Sunday's walk-through to talk about the Arizona game.

"I came in early to catch the game to see what it looked like," said DeCoud, who chose not to spend any of his immediate post-game hours rewatching the game. "It was one of those games where everything was clicking and I was able to capitalize on all the opportunities that came my way."

The first quarter blitz that resulted in a sack of Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama is the result of something that DeCoud had seven long days to think about.

"Last Sunday, (Defensive Coordinator Bob) Gregory said that during the game, we'd be going with a three safety blitz, and my eyes lit up when I heard that.  It's something we hadn't shown before."

Usually, whenever the Bears have blitzed, they've done so with linebackers, but seeing how DeCoud came in untouched, it was clear that Arizona hadn't prepared for an incoming safety.

"The way the play was designed, we were able to call it on the fly. We had a rush blitz, and when I came in everything parted like the Red Sea.  I saw the quarterback looking downfield, so I gave it everything I had."

After DeCoud hit Tuitama, he got up and screamed, not knowing that the play was still going on behind him.

"I was pumped. I didn't realize that he had fumbled the ball, so I was yelling and screaming."

Defensive lineman Tyson Alualu pounced on the loose ball in the end zone for a touchdown that gave the Bears a 28-3 lead. 

The bigger effect of the hit was that it, along with the threat of Cal's pass rush discouraged Tuitama from waiting too long to see if any downfield pass patterns opened up.  By frequently rotating defenders and lining up in different formations, the Arizona quarterback often had to figure who was blitzing and from where, and the Bear pressure made sure that patience wasn't going to be a virtue.

DeCoud, along with the rest of the defense, noticed this right away. 

"Definitely. He'd had a lot of concussions, and if we knew that he started to get hit, he'd start getting antsy back there. He looked a little tentative back there, and that's what we wanted to do, get him flustered."

One by-product of this came in the second quarter during DeCoud's interception. With Arizona trailing 31-10, the Wildcats were trying desperately to add another score before the half ended. Tuitama attempted a rare deep pass to Mike Thomas who appeared to be running an out-and-up.

Just when it appeared that Thomas had cleared cornerback Chris Conte, DeCoud came streaking across the field to intercept a slightly overthrown ball, and made sure that he put one foot inbound before heading out of bounds. 

"One of the things we'd gone over was their trips set and their route combination. I was off to the side. I'd been working on breaking on the ball in practice, so I was ready when the ball came my way."

After catching the ball, DeCoud ran off the field, where he was congratulated by teammates and stepped on a bench behind the sidelines, and after pointing the ball at the crowd, he cocked his arm.

"I was looking to throw the ball. At first I was looking for my parents, but then I remembered they were 50 rows up. Then I was looking for a group of my friends that sits together and one of the coaches came up to me, and said, 'What are you doing? Get down here.'"

DeCoud, who climbed down from the bench, said the ball will go Terrell Williams, a former Cal running back and teammate during the 2004 and 2005 seasons. 

While the Bears can hold their heads high with a 4-0 record and a #6 ranking in the AP & ESPN polls, it faces a stiff test this Saturday against Oregon. DeCoud knows that the defense will have to get better as Cal enters the teeth of the Pac-10 season.

"The defense needs to work on its tackling. We missed too many tackles, but otherwise we're progressing the way we should.  We've got some fine tuning to do, but we're making progress."

His effort against Arizona will get him consideration for Pac-10 Player of the Week, but DeCoud believes that the best is ahead.

"I think I'm getting better every day. I'm seeing more of the field better, and technique-wise I'm improving as well."

Going back to the interception, DeCoud seemed embarassed that it took until the fourth game of his senior season to get his first career pick.

"The monkey's finally lifted off my back. I've been waiting for that first one, but now, let the good times roll."

While DeCoud's not going to let any cats out of any bags prior to this weekend's journey to Eugene, he did volunteer this.

"Oregon's a good team. They're better than Arizona. We have to keep things mixed up. We'll have to see what they want to do against us, we'll give them a lot of different looks and we'll see how we react."

Whlie some of the players featured in recent articles admit to being too busy to do to much more than practice, go to class, and study. But as a senior, DeCoud's figured out a life/school/football balance, which gives him time to pursue a popular hobby among numerous college students, video games.

"I've got every game system since the Nintendo 64.  My favorite is Super Smash Brothers on the Nintendo 64, and I play that a lot with my roommates (Cameron Toler and Drew Glover)."

Although there are quite a few players on the team that like playing football video games, DeCoud's tastes run differently.

"We've had a couple of Madden tourneys with the team. I'm not much of a Madden guy, but Brandon Jones and Zack Follett are the guys to beat."

There is one game though, that DeCoud claims he's unbeatable at.

"I am the king of Guitar Hero. Since [Monday]'s our day off, (Mike) Tepper and I are going to battle it out.  It's going to be Guitar Hero, until September 25th."

September 25th?  Anybody who's conversant on the topic mentioned in the past few paragraphs has had this upcoming Tuesday circled for months. For those who aren't, DeCoud clues us in. 

"That's when Halo 3 comes out."

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