Nikola Knezevic's disruptive defense helped slow down USC and allow Cal to take control late in the game. Here's a sampling of what he had to say about the victory.
With Gutierrez, the Bears’ sophomore defensive specialist, sidelined for the second straight game by a sprained right knee, Knezevic came off the bench with less than 1o minutes left and sparked Cal’s 67-59 win over USC. Knezevic took over defensive duties against Dwight Lewis, who had scored 16 points, primarily making life miserable for Patrick Christopher.
Mike Montgomery told Nikola, "Shut him down. Don’t let him touch the ball," and Knezevic basically did that.
Knezevic scored just two points, but Monty said, "He was the key to the thing."
Long after the game — and after much of the press room had cleared out — Knezevic found his way to the interview podium for a much-deserved curtain call.
Here’s some of what he had to say:
On his assignment: "Lewis was pretty hot in the first half, so just coming in the game (I was) kind of the glue, replacing Jorge’s energy. (Defense) was the only way I think for us to win the game. Out of good `D’ we had pretty much an open floor and a lot of fastbreaks. That’s how we have to play.
On face-guarding Lewis: "For me, that’s kind of the easiest part. I just had to do what I had to do. Coach asked me to come off the bench and be the stopper. I think I did a pretty good job."
On whether Lewis said anything to him: "He said,`Man, you have to give me a little bit of space.’ "
How it felt to play substantial role in a big win: "It felt really good. I know how good I can play defense and I’m just waiting for an opportinty to show how I can play. I really believe if we want to be in the top two or three teams in this conference, we have to play defense. Everything has to start with `D.’ "
After the jump are JO's reviews of the LBs and D-line, Ratto discussing about pressure on Tedford, Cal-USC post-game press conference quotes, and a dominant start for rugby. As a special treat we have quotes and videos of Sanchez declaring Carroll Sanchez.
- JO reviews the D-line. He called it the most consistent part of the defense, but suggested it could have been better if the LBs were more disruptive. Without much of a pass rush from the LBs, opposing O-lines could key in on Cal's line and minimize the pass rush. Injuries to Hill and Jordan's inability to develop into another Alualu also hurt the line. JO gives it a C+.
- JO also posted his review of the LBs. With no one (other than Mohamed) standing out in filling the roles of Follett, Williams, and Felder, the LBs struggled mightily to pressure opposing QBs and defend passes in the middle (especially tight ends). Incoming recruits Martin and Whiteside should compete immediately for playing time. JO gives LBs a C-.
- Not Cal-related, but Sanchez had a good time with Carroll's decision to leave USC for Seattle. He said "I just want everyone to know I completely disagree with his decision" and continued with "statistics show that it's not a good choice." Click the link for video. It's worth it.
- Ratto suggests that Carroll's departure puts more pressure on Tedford, as his teams have the potential to fill part of that void left by USC.
- Faraudo's live thread is a good barometer for Cal's up-and-down performance against USC. CCTimes recaps the game, which was won with solid defense in the end. SFGate recaps the game, emphasizing Nikola's disruptive D as the catalyst that helped Cal pull out a victory.
- Monty, Randle, Theo, USC coach Kevin O'Neill, and PG Mike Garrity discuss the game in the post-game press conference.
- Faraudo gives an update on recruits Rossi and Franklin Jr.
- Rugby opened the season with a dominant 152-0 win over CSU Humboldt. Cal returned the opening kickoff for a try and never looked back.