BERKELEY -- The good news for California football fans: The Bears will get a chance to extend their unbeaten streak against visiting UCLA to 13 games at Memorial Stadium on Saturday with the help of safeties Stefan McClure, Michael Lowe and Avery Sebastian.
The bad news: Left guard Chris Borrayo is questionable with a “ding” to his head, suffered against Washington.
“We’ll see what he can do,” head coach Sonny Dykes said after practice on Thursday. “We’re not really quite sure on him yet. We’ll wait and see how he feels. He got dinged a little bit. I don’t know what his situation’s going to be, yet, so we’ll see how he does.”
Borrayo did not practice on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, was not in shoulder pads.
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In Borrayo’s stead, the Bears have 6-foot-2, 300-pound guard Matt Cochran -- the backup center and the man who relieved Alex Crosthwaite at the end of Saturday’s game against Washington. Cochran started the first three games of 2013 before going down due to injury, and has played in three games this season.
“He’s played a lot,” Dykes said. “He was a starter last year and has played a lot, so we’ll see how it goes.”
But, back to the positive for the beleaguered Cal secondary. Having McClure back – who practiced almost in full this week – from a series of calf issues will do a lot to shore up the back end of the defense.
“I think McClure will start the game, and, again, assuming something doesn’t happen in pregame,” Dykes said.
Both Lowe and Sebastian being back, though, means that the Bears will have their three most experienced safeties back and available -- pending any more pregame warm-up mishaps – to help spy on and defend UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley.
“The biggest thing you’ve got to do is keep him covered on the back end, because he can scramble around and throw it down field, but at the same time, you’ve got to do a good job of staying in your rush lanes and the ends keeping contain and just doing all the stuff that you have to do, and then get your linebackers to fill,” Dykes said. “It’s really kind of a team effort to try and keep him in the pocket, and then he obviously does a nice job when they have designed runs.”
Hundley has also been susceptible to the sack.
“They’re a little bit young up front, and they’ve probably given up more sacks than they want to,” Dykes said. “But, I’m sure they’ll have a good plan to get the ball out of his hand quickly.”
Defensive end and pass rusher extraordinaire Brennan Scarlett once again did not practice on Thursday, and will almost certainly not play on Saturday, with Noah Westerfield starting in his place.
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Reserve linebacker Edward Tandy was back in pads this week following his recovery from a concussion, but won’t play on defense against the Bruins.
“Tandy’s been out, and he should play on special teams, some,” Dykes said. “He just hasn’t played a lot. He’s missed some time, so we’ll get him back in the mix on special teams. I expect him to play some and continue to work his way back into the defense.”
Dykes also talked about the experiment of moving Bryce McGovern to safety.
“Good, good. He just hasn’t played a lot over there, so we’ll see. I just talked to (defensive coordinator) Art [Kaufman] about him, and he’s picking things up pretty quickly. He’s a smart kid. I would expect him to play some, defensively, but I don’t know how much, though," said Dykes, who also acknowledged that Dykes will be more of a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency safety. “Yeah, yeah, just depending on how the game goes. I could see him getting in some series, and we think if he gets in, he’ll play well.”
On offense, inside receiver Ray Hudson was out earlier in the week, but will be available to play on Saturday.
Tailback Khalfani Muhammad has caught passes and run the ball in team work this week in practice, all despite wearing a cast on his surgically-repaired thumb. He didn’t play at all against Washington, but he’s returned kicks and been a part of the offense this week, and Dykes expects him to get in against UCLA.
“The cast, what’s going to happen with that is, it’s going to get cut down a little bit every week, so it’s in a more manageable cast now than it was a week ago, so we think he’ll play,” Dykes said.
That said, expect to see plenty of speedy Tre Watson in the backfield on Saturday.