I was faced with a dilemma on Wednesday night - A battle that tested my loyalties as a person and as a sports fan. I sat at Pyramid Brewery in Sacramento watching the Giants battle the Phillies. Buster Posey had just launched a double off the wall to put the Orange and Black up 2-0. Could I possibly tear myself away from my baseball team to spend two hours miserably discussing Cal football in the aftermath of one of the worst losses in program history? Was I so loyal to CGB that I could stop watching the NLCS and attend the Grid Club?
Evidently the answer is yes. I arrived at 6, mercifully after the end of the USC game replay, to discover that not a single Grid Clubber had won the USC prediction contest. All had predicted a Cal victory, so a beautiful Cal tie and hat went unclaimed. Considering last week’s defeat attendance was higher than I would have anticipated, once again proving something we all know: Cal fans are masochistic gluttons for punishment.
This week we heard from linebacker coach Kenwick Thompson, bearterritory.net writer Ryan Gorcey and Jeff Metcalfe of the Arizona Republic.
Note: As always, all guest responses are paraphrased based on my notes and best recollections.
How can you explain 42-0 against USC?
It's about execution and consistency, and coaches have to put players in the right spot. It's one of those two things on every play.
How will we do against ASU?
We've challenged them to respond and we think they will. It's not just the fans that are disappointed, the players are disappointed even more.
How is Mike Mohamed's health?
Well, nobody in the country is 100%, but he's healthy. Mike would never use an injury as an excuse anyway.
Why was USC so successful running up the middle?
We had lots of problems, not just one issue. Things like gap control and execution, plus USC played really well and did a good job creating tough match-ups with motions and shifts.
Why was there a lack of execution?
Well, we felt like we were prepared, but clearly we were not prepared enough. We're going to have to work harder. But we won't do the same thing and expect a better outcome.
How will we try to defend rollouts?
Other teams using roll out plays is a response to our success rushing the passer, and we need to find a way to respond back. Mostly, we need to play better on 1st and 2nd down so that we create situations when we can bring the kind of pressure we want.
Ryan started out with lots of quick hit thoughts about various topics related to Cal and reporting:
-Writing for Cal each day is my dream job
-Some Cal websites are very positive, but I feel I owe Cal fans the truth.
-Pendergast has had his struggles, but he's still an upgrade over the bend but don't break
-Keenan Allen and Edmonds are great players, but they're even better people.
-Dave Wilkerson is like Zack Follett but with two tighter screws.
Ryan, as a writer who frequently focuses on recruiting, had lots of optimistic information to share about recruiting. But since much of that info is proprietary to his site I won’t share any specifics. Suffice to say that Cal is high on the list for a number of big time recruits that Ryan has been very impressed with while scouting.
Ryan frequently expressed frustrations with Tedford’s media rules, including closed practices and angry reactions towards press conference questions. There was recently a bit of a blowup at this week's press conference when Tedford got upset at Ryan's line of questioning. Ryan said that Tedford called him to apologize, and Ryan told him he asked tough questions because he expects so much out of the program.
On Isi Sofele:
The decisions of this team and these coaches on the depth chart are confusing at times, and the running backs have been particularly befuddling. Ryan would like to see Yarnway on short yardage plays and more Deboskie-Johnson.
On being conservative on offense:
It's all Tedford. I don't care what anyone says, he still calls all the plays.
Re: the offensive line
Recruiting and coaching have been a problem lately. Cal desperately needs more talent at tackle, though Matt Summers-Gavin should be starting at right tackle now.
Previewing the ASU offense:
It's been the big positive for ASU, and it's caught people by surprise after last year's offense. Dennis Erikson brought in a new offensive coordinator and so far defenses haven't done much to stop them. ASU has stopped themselves, however, with bad penalties and turnovers. The offense emphasizes quick strikes and uses lots of no huddle.
Previewing the ASU defense:
The defense hasn't performed to expectations, and they haven't forced many turnovers, with zero fumble recoveries so far. They haven't pressured the QB and they are last in the Pac-10 in sacks. That plus occasional mental breakdowns has led to relatively poor results.
On Vontaze Burfict:
He's very quick to the ball, very physical, but he still hasn't learned to play with passion and then turn it off after the play. It's unclear if he'll start vs. Cal, though my guess is that he probably will.
Which other players should we look out for?
On offense, Mike Willie has emerged as a good WR. He's 6'3'', very physical, and has tremendous hands. He's the guy they'll target on 3rd downs.