BERKELEY -- Saturday, it will be the Bear Raid against the Air Raid, as California heads north to take on Mike Leach’s Washington State, a team that’s taken top-10 Oregon to the brink, and a team that overcame a 21-0 deficit against Utah just last week.
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Head coach Sonny Dykes said that a night game – scheduled for 7:30 p.m. – on the road “will be a challenge for us,” particularly against a front seven that sacked Heisman contender Marcus Mariota seven times.
“They’re physical, they’re big, they get up the field well, they push the pass protection well, and they create a lot of problems for you,” Dykes said on Tuesday.
[READ MORE: Details from Tuesday's Practice]
The Cougars play an odd front, but with even principles at times, which will be a challenge for the offensive line, which has plowed the way for two straight 100-yard rushing games for Daniel Lasco.
“In my opinion, I think all of it’s just him,” said left guard Chris Borrayo. “This past summer, he harped on becoming a running back that’s strong. He decided to be a good running back.”
Lasco and the run game will be very important in forcing the resurgent Washington State defense to think twice about dropping eight against quarterback Jared Goff, and it’s no accident that the run game has picked up after a lackluster performance against Northwestern in the season opener.
“Getting told after the Northwestern game that our run game wasn’t as good as we thought it was, we needed to pick it up,” Borrayo said.
As for Goff, he’s averaging nearly 17 yards per completion.
“I think it’s mainly a credit to the receivers,” Goff said. “I’ve been throwing the same type of deep ball for a few years now. It’s the receivers. They’re running great routes. They’re perfecting their streaks and their posts, and becoming masters of their craft.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Bears have allowed a total of 975 yards and a 65.96 completion percentage (93-for-141).
Facing a pass-happy offense that will throw as much as any team Cal has faced this season will be a tall order for defensive backs coach Greg Burns’s crew.
“Every game prepares us for another game, and the reality is, we’re just playing another team that likes to throw the ball,” Burns said. “They’re very good. They’re very efficient. Their quarterback (Connor Halliday) is one of the best in the conference. We have a lot of great quarterbacks in this conference, and to be honest with you, the expectations are that every week, we’re going to have to deal with some great quarterback in our conference.”
Is the passing defense due to a lack of depth (with a not-quite-100-percent Avery Sebastian, an injured Stefan McClure and a not-quite-ready Darius White), or is there a key that the Bears have to fix?
“It’s a combination,” Burns said. “What ends up happening is, the fundamentals start to wear down towards the end, so the biggest thing we’ve got to try to do is to keep them fresh, get some rotations in there and play more guys.”
What the Bears won’t know until late this week is how much and if McClure is able to play, to shore up the back end.
“I’m hoping to know sooner,” Dykes said. “But, probably will be Thursday before we’re for sure, what kind of role he’s going to have this week.”
McClure did vey little on Tuesday, save for sideline sprints, and did not participate in team drills or one-on-ones.