Cal Safety Stefan McClure Talks UCLA, Paul Perkins and Josh Rosen

BERKELEY -- Cal safety Stefan McClure talks about becoming bowl eligible, turning in a paper before his last Thursday game and more as the Bears prepare to face UCLA. Plus, what's the secret to Cal's turnover success?

Jared Goff said on Sunday that he's completely past the Utah game. What's the mindset of the team? "We broke that film down, we learned from that film, and now, we really put it past us last week after we watched it, broke it down, did our correction practice, where we go over all the miscues, as far as defense. Now, full focus has been on UCLA for the past week and a half, and just the whole mindset is attack, attack from the start, and put four solid quarters together."

How much can you learn from UCLA's game against Stanford? "Stanford was able to do a lot of things, running the ball between the tackles, with [Christian] McCaffrey, getting him in space. Mainly, when I was watching, I was watching their offense, and seeing the type of plays that they run, and how they like to get [Paul] Perkins the ball, and different route concepts that they're probably going to use on us, and different things that they're going to do, and just reading their quarterback [Josh Rosen], seeing how he's progressed from when I watched him earlier in the year to now. He's improved a lot."

What did you see from Rosen? "He's young, but he does some things well. He has a strong arm. In that Stanford game, he hit one of those deep routes on the seam, so we've seen that he can throw the ball. He can get it there. He can make the right reads. He's a decent quarterback, a good, solid, young quarterback who'll be good in the future, also."

When Rosen is given time -- and you've gotten coverage sacks, where you've given the quarterback time, but he doesn't have anywhere to throw it -- he's been able to throw guys open. Is that more advanced than some other freshman quarterbacks you've seen, or does that remind you of anybody? "It reminds me of the quarterback we have, here. When he has time, he can throw guys open, and he's done a good job of, when he has a couple reads, he does a good job of looking off, looking safeties off, and moving safeties, so he can come back, backside or frontside, or whatever he's doing. He does some things well with his eyes on certain plays, and you don't see that a lot from young quarterbacks, so he does do that stuff really well. He's well-coached, and I would say they've simplified the system a little bit for him, which has enabled him to play the way he's been playing."

How much does reviewing the film of Cal's defense against Devontae Booker help get ready for Perkins? "It's helped us a lot, as far as on defense, just running our feet on contact, and when you're wrapping up, grab cloth, don't dive, and always bring your feet and get your chest in on tackles. Playing that game has really prepared us for this game, and playing two exceptional backs, back-to-back weeks, both of them are kind of similar, as far as they run hard, they're fast. We saw one of those long runs that Perkins had, where he gets in the second level and he can make guys miss. He's got good vision. He'll press the hole and then cut, jump cut, and can catch the ball out of the backfield. Perkins is a really good back. Playing against Booker the week before has helped us prepare for the challenge this week."

Do you try not to think too much about being one win away from bowl eligibility? "There's a lot of reasons why we want this game, and becoing bowl eligible is one of them. It's not one of those things, well, I guess, since it's here right now, that's one of those things that we can kind of think about, because there's so much riding on this game. There's stuff riding on this game: Getting a sixth win, beating UCLA (which we haven't done down there in a few years), so that type of stuff is the extra stuff that we think about. Now that we are 5-1, the next win, that's one of the goals, to get that sixth win, become bowl-eligible. The sooner we can get that out of the way, the better it'll be."

What kind of a challenge does a Thursday-night game pose to you? "It is a very different routine, as far as, we have to change the way we practice. We had to bump practice up, we had to change our days. Usually Tuesday and Wednesday are our hard-work days, and we had to move those to Saturday and Sunday, and then you have guys with classes that might have midterms, or papers due on Thursday. I know a couple years ago, when we played a Thursday-night game, I had a paper due on Thursday, so in the hotel, in the morning, I'm trying to submit the paper. It poses a challenge, as far as that. You really have to balance your schoolwork and your travel days, because you're missing two days of class -- Wednesday and Thursday -- so you really have to balance that, and prepare ahead of time for that, class-wise. It's a little more to think about, as far as it's not just Saturday, and you can strictly think about football. You might have Thursday, where you've got to turn something in Thursday night, or Wednesday, after you fly down to L.A., some guys might have to turn something in. You've really got to manage your time ahead of time."

What was the class? "This was my freshman year. I want to say it was Political Science that I had to. I got a B on the paper, so it worked out."

Is the Thursday game the reason why you practiced before the sun came up today? "Yes, with the schedule change, we get a Monday practice in, and Monday is usually our heavy academic say, where guys have class anywhere from eight o'clock all the way to 6:30 at night, so there was not time in the day where we could get the whole team to practice. That contributed to our early-morning practice."

Can you talk about your defense's continued ability to generate turnovers (an FBS-best 21 turnovers gained), and how important that has been to the way you can play, defensively? "That's a tribute to coach [John] Lovett, coach [Art] Kaufman, guys really preaching ripping the ball out -- second man in, rip the ball out -- and also the way that we practice. They've really emphasized getting the ball out. We might be doing defensive practice sometimes, and there might be two footballs on the field, and that's how you've got to practice now, with these offeses running combo plays. There might be a run left, working on a pass to the right, or even just a run left and they might just throw a ball out for a fumble recovery. Really, just getting a lot of practice in, on getting the ball out, scoop-and-score recovering fumbles and taking time to practice that, and doing a good job emphasizing that."

Are turnovers a consequence of offenses now, and not being able to get many three-and-out stops? Is this the way you have to play? "Yes, you really do. The game of three-and-outs, grind-it-out, where teams are just running the ball and are going to run through a wall for a two-yard gain, or a three-yard gain, teams aren't really doing that nowadays. They're four-wide, five-wide, getting guys in space and making everyone play one-on-one football, so you do get a lot more yards per play, and that's how you've got to play -- you've got to force turnovers. Any time we can get the ball back into our offense's hands, we feel like we're doing our job and putting our team in the best position to win."

As a senior, who's seen the push and pull between academics and athletics, what do you think about a Thursday-night game? Is it fair to demand high academics and call you student-athletes, and have these games that are just because of the television schedule? "I wouldn't say it's fair, as far as when some guys have midterms on Thursday, and they might have to bump them up to take them during their Tuesday class. I wouldn't say it's the most ideal schedule, but I know, for myself and other guys, we enjoy playing on Thursday night. You're playing primetime football. I know every Thursday night, the game that's on, we're watching it in the locker room. As soon as we get off practice, we're watching whoever's playing. The game's on the TV and we're watching it. It's a great time for us to really be the focus of the night for college football, and we enjoy it. We know a lot of other schools are going to be watching. They're going to be free, our families can watch and everything like that, so it's a good opportunity to just play in front of a national audience."

As a guy who's dealt with knee injuries, what did you think of Cameron Saffle coming off an ACL as a true freshman? "It's a tribute to his hard work and his dedication through the offseason, coming back and working hard with the trainers. I've seen him rehabbing all camp, and every day during this season, to come back. Being a freshman, too, it's a tribute to his hard work and his work ethic, that he can come in, halfway through the season, and physically be ready for playing a demanding position, such as D-end, where now, you're going against 300-pound linemen. He probably didn't have to face that every single play in high school, so it's a tribute to his hard work, and hats off to him. I enjoy seeing him out there, and getting back on his feet, running around."

Being an L.A. guy, this is your last shot to beat an L.A. team in L.A. What does that mean for you? "It means a lot. Since I've been here, we haven't won in the Rose Bowl. We came close my freshman year, but it would mean a lot just to get another Pac-12 win, become bowl-eligible, and the road games are so fun with this group. It's just us, into a hostile environment -- well, not the most hostile, but on the road, in the Rose Bowl. So many great memories have happened in the Rose Bowl, and it will just be great to go out this senior year with wins against teams that we haven't beat on the road, and another step closer to our team goal."


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