How did California Golden Bears’ defense perform against the BYU Cougars? Did we really feel the loss of Cameron Goode?
Joshua Morgan: How did the defense perform, you ask? If you even feel the need to ask this to yourself, then you definitely didn’t watch the game. I said last week that I loved the first three quarters from the UNC game, but wanted to see that we could eliminate the fourth-quarter blow-up as well as hold up against a better team. Well, we did both of those things. The defense dominated from start to finish! It was truly fun to watch. Even when the offense and special teams did their very best to make the defense’s job hard via turnovers, they held strong every single time. Wow.
As far as Goode, while the defense didn’t really look like they suffered without him, losing a player of that caliber obviously hurts. We just have to hope that it doesn’t hurt them too badly and they can still be able to play as well as they did against BYU. If we start to struggle, then maybe we should consider playing Evan Weaver at every single one of the linebacker positions. It could work!
Ruey Yen: Without Cam Goode this past Saturday, Evan Weaver really stepped up for the Cal defense by posting second straight dominant game (12 tackles in week 2 after 13 tackles in week 1). Seeing the Cal defense forcing turnovers isn’t necessarily something new—the Sonny Dykes era had its share of picks while giving up a ton of yards. What is truly impressive with the Cal defense is how the Bears allowed about 300 yards of opponent offense in back-to-back games. I do think the Cal defensive dominance have been buoyed by playing bad offensive opponents in these first two weeks, but it was still great to see.
I do feel a bit worried about the Cal defense allowing the opponent to score TDs late in the game to come back for the second-straight game. I can’t help but feel that the defense may have been tired by the fourth quarter.
boomtho: I honestly don’t have enough superlatives to describe our defense. I’m in awe of what HC Justin Wilcox, DC Tim DeRuyter, DB coach Gerald Alexander (!!), and the rest of the staff have been able to help our players achieve through two weeks. Cal generated consistent pressure without having to (always) blitz; our DBs made play after play on the ball (PBUs or INTs); and the tackling was solid, consistent, and powerful. Evan Weaver was listed with 12 tackles, which to my recollection undercalls it by half—he was everywhere and made several solo tackles to slow or end BYU drives. Until BYU’s last (long and slow) drive to bring the game within one score, Cal basically didn’t allow BYU to do get anything going on offense. This was honestly one of the more impressive defensive performances I can ever remember Cal producing, especially after BYU scored 28 the week before. The scary part of this game for me was that—as well as the defense played—Cal still put the game at risk in the fourth quarter due to a combination of special teams gaffes, turnovers, and close-but-not-quite-there third- and fourth-down plays. BYU had no right to be within even two scores by the end of the game.
Nick Kranz: I’ve already spilled plenty of words about the defense in the Monday column, but in terms of Goode I’d say that his absence was felt in the first half, when Tanner Mangum generally had time to allow receivers to come open and Cal struggled to create pressure without blitzing. That was less the case in the second half, which speaks strongly of either Cal’s conditioning, depth, or halftime adjustments (or all of the above?)
Piotr Le: I think we will feel the lack of impact more down the road. With Tevin Paul playing rush OLB we basically employed a 4-3 base kicking in Zeande Johnson/Lone Toailoa inside. I think this would’ve been done with Goode active, albeit not as often as it was actually employed, since the BYU OL is a much bigger and more physical than most OL we’ll face in 2018.
ragnarok: The defense was outstanding, giving up just a field goal until the Cougars’ final drive (and the D even forced a 4th and 9 on that drive, but then gave up a big pass play to a desperate offense). We may eventually feel the loss of Cam Goode, but probably not for a couple weeks, at least.
atomsareenough: They were pretty excellent. Even when BYU was moving the ball, it was generally in small chunks, with our guys able to run to the football and keep things in front of them and force them to string long drives together, which for the most part was a task the Cougars were not up to. Evan Weaver was like a man possessed; dude was all over the football field making plays. I was so incredibly impressed with him, I’m ready to start the Evan Weaver Chowder & Marching Society. Anyway, I’m sure we would’ve benefited to have Cam Goode out there, but we were able to get by without him.
Rob Hwang: We won’t feel the impact immediately and especially not if one of our younger guys develops into a real contributor. If that happens and we get Cam Goode back later on in the year, that will only make our depth and fearsome pass rush that much more effective.
Could this be the best DB group we have ever had? Is the hype for real?
Joshua Morgan: I have followed Cal football since 2007 and I think I can confidently say that it has been the best in that time. As far as ever, I can’t speak, but this group is truly remarkable regardless. Cam Bynum is playing like a first-round pick and is easily the best corner we have had since Syd’Quan Thompson. Jaylinn Hawkins has three interceptions so far. Ashtyn Davis has an interception of his own, looks great on special teams, and absolutely laid a guy out. Elijah Hicks has been solid. Our slot corner rotation of Traveon Beck and Josh Drayden has been great. Basically, every individual has been amazing and the unit as a whole has been even better. I can’t wait to keep watching this group.
Ruey Yen: They certainly could be, but it’s way too early to say. As an entire unit, the Cal DBs have been the best position on the team thus far. Camryn Bynum followed up his Co–Defensive Player of the Game honor from week 1 with another solid week. Jaylin Hawkins and Traveon Beck got the picks this week after Hawkins had two last week. I am impressed by the number of defensive playmakers on this Cal team, yet I am only cautiously optimistic that this type of performances are sustainable for the entire season. Just like I believe that the Cal offense will play better, the Cal defense will unfortunately probably regress to the mean of merely being very good, but not historically great.
boomtho: This is the best DB group I can remember since I came to Cal in 2007—with the massive caveat it’s early in the season and we’ll have to see how they hold up through conference play to really make that assessment. While 2007 had our beloved Syd’quan Thompson, there are a few guys on this team that look like they could end up being as productive as Thompson was.
Nick Kranz: Looking back on past Cal football rosters, the best competition is 2006, when senior Daymeion Hughes and true frosh Syd’Quan Thompson held things down at cornerback and senior Thomas DeCoud and Junior Bernard Hicks played at safety. That’s three dudes who had some level of a pro career, although it’s worth noting that Syd wasn’t quite yet Syd—though he had a strong second half of the season.
Could this year’s group be better? I’m not denying the possibility. Hughes’ senior season was one of the very best seasons ever had by a Cal cornerback—a consensus All-American and Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year. But could the group as a whole be more productive? Considering what appears to be a rather down year for Pac-12 offenses, the numbers very well might look better that the 2006 numbers come the end of the year.
Piotr Le: Yup. Hype thrusters are at 100% as well as the surging movement to get Coach Alexander a pay-raise lest he be poached in January by a less skimpy football program.
atomsareenough: I want to see some more data points against a more elite QB and receiving corps, but so far they look legit. Give Gerald Alexander a raise! I love the swagger those guys play with. By the way, that penalty on Hawkins for “striking a pose” after the interception was total garbage and the ref should be ashamed of himself for calling that nonsense. Also shoutout to Ashtyn Davis for flying in and laying the boom on that BYU receiver with an absolutely fantastic hit to stop him short of a first down. Like the coaches have been saying, that’s a football player who runs track, not a track star trying to play football.
Rob Hwang: 2007 was certainly one heck of a DB group: Syd’quan, Chris Conte, Thomas DeCoud, Bernard Hicks, Marcus Ezeff (The Savior of the Oregon Game), Darian Hagan, and Brandon Hampton. We were legitimately 2-deep at every position. The fact of the matter is the size, speed, ball skills is different with this current group and that’s what could set them apart. Especially if Evan Rambo turns out to be the player we all expected him to, we could turn some defensive plays into three-safety sets, where one of the safeties is allowed to free roam. That would be scary.