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Golden Nuggets: Chronicling the Rise of the Defense

Lots of women’s basketball articles prior to yesterday’s pre-season game.

Washington v California Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Enjoy this special Friday edition of Golden Nuggets. Worked from 8am-midnight yesterday so I couldn’t do one yesterday, but knew this WSU game was too important to not show you these articles before the game. Obviously wouldn’t make much sense to post them Sunday.


  • The improving Cal defense has the Bears on the verge of bowl eligibility.

Cal defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter has noticed a pattern in his Sunday chats with buddies from the coaching fraternity this season.

During every conversation, there are complimentary remarks about how hard the Bears’ defense plays — a remarkable achievement considering how the unit was perceived when DeRuyter and head coach Justin Wilcox arrived in Berkeley 21 months ago.

“The defense used to be an afterthought here, but now it’s really at the forefront of where our program is and where our toughness is,” said junior inside linebacker Evan Weaver, the reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week.

Through two-thirds of the 2018 schedule, the numbers are dramatically better still: 22.3 points and 312.0 yards allowed, just 165.5 via the pass, which is eighth-best in the country. The Bears also are in the top-10 nationally with 12 interceptions and three defensive touchdowns.

“For it to change the way it has, two years ago to now, is really cool,” said Kunaszyk, who arrived from junior college in 2016. “Being a leader on a great defense is something I’ve always wanted to do.”

Offensive tackle Patrick Mekari was a freshman in 2015, when Jared Goff and the offense shouldered the weight.

“I feel like the roles have slowly switched since I first got here. The defense has been unreal,” he said. “I knew it was going to turn around eventually. It’s awesome to see.”

  • Can the Bears make it two Top-15 upsets in 8 days? They will look for that victory on Saturday.

Cal[‘s offense] held its own against a strong Washington defense last weekend, but the Bears struggled to finish and make plays plays in the red zone, a facet of their game that they must improve upon against a WSU team that averages more than 40 points per contest.

While Cal is seemingly out of the storm of its three-game losing streak, in recent history, the program’s downfall has been its failure to string together enough significant wins to be taken seriously in the football world.

“I know a lot of teams that are coming off of big wins — they are nonchalant and get complacent at times … but I feel like we are trying to give it to them again,” Hawkins said.

  • Chase Garbers has established himself as the quarterback. What does that mean for the WSU game?

“He just keeps getting better and better. The mistakes he made, I doubt those are going to come up again,” Cal head coach Justin Wilcox said. “… Nothing is too big for him.”

How much does Cal trust the redshirt freshman?

Nursing a two-point lead in the final five minutes against the heavily favored Huskies, offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin called four consecutive pass plays.

Wisely, Garbers didn’t throw it on all of them. His first read wasn’t open on the first two plays, so he took off running and kept the clock ticking.

  • Hunter Abel has aspirations of being a US Senator, and is very engaged in politics (“Honest Abel”) and wants to go to UCLA, Yale, or Harvard for Law School.
  • Relive the win vs. Washington!

Women’s Basketball

Prior to Tuesday I had planned on dedicating Thursday’s GN to the Cal/Westmont game, but I got called into work in the afternoon that day. Luckily, all of the Daily Cal’s WBB articles still work as yesterday’s game was merely an exhibition. They wrote a few articles in advance of that Cal win.

  • Their overall season preview notes that this is the best chance Cal has had in years for a deep postseason run.
  • The beat writers for WBB did a roundtable where they answered a few questions including the Bears’ ceiling and what could prevent the Bears from having a successful post-season.
  • The first grad-transfer in Cal WBB history is Receé Caldwell, and she has gone back and forth between the states of California and Texas for college.

I’ll be at Women’s Soccer and Volleyball today. Go Bears!

Beat the Cougars!