BERKELEY -- Fifth-year senior defensive tackle Mustafa Jalil was fired up on Tuesday for California's Saturday night tilt with Oregon. How fired up? He brought his lunch to the weekly press conference.
"You guys caught me off-guard a little bit," smirked the 6-foot-4, 315-pounder as he walked in and set down a parcel, wrapped in a plastic bag, on the table. "I had to bring my lunch out."
Taking off the bag, Jalil unveiled a clear plastic clam shell and, as he did so, said, matter-of-factly, "this Saturday, we've got a big test ahead of us, so I said, 'Let's start with some duck on Tuesday, and get the party started.'"
Incredulous, one media member asked, "Is that really duck?"
"It's really roast duck," Jalil said. "I'm not joking."
Roast duck, to be precise, from nearby Mandarin House.
"Moose, Moose is, uh, well, it doesn't surprise me at all," said tailback Daniel Lasco, who described last week's loss to USC as a deep, profound hurt.
"That's just Moose," said head coach Sonny Dykes."I don't really like duck, myself. I don't know if I've ever had it. That's Moose. He's got a good personality that way. I don't think there's much to that, except he just likes duck."
Jalil may have been playing the fricasseed fowl for laughs, but the rest of his Tuesday press briefing was pure competitive fire. After taking its 12th loss in a row to USC on Saturday, Cal isn't taking the Ducks from Eugene lightly, especially because the Bears haven't beaten Oregon since 2007.
"We're not looking ahead, but I'm here saying, 'Why not get the feast started?'" Jalil continued. "I think it would be a mock to us to say we're down on ourselves, and we don't. We took three good punches in the face. To start the season off, we gave five good punches, and we'll see how good the team is when we come back this Saturday and give them a punch."
Oregon's Ducks probably run just a bit quicker than the one on Jalil's plate, and pace the conference in scoring offense and rushing offense, averaging 283.5 yards per game on the ground, led by Royce Freeman, who paces the Pac-12 with 138.6 yards rushing per game.
"He's a great back, a step above what he did last year," Jalil said. "I think he's a great back. They use him pretty well for what they do. Their offense is really pretty much the same the last couple of years. Big back, hard running, but I think we've got a pretty big defense, that's a harder hitter than he is."
The Bears watched Oregons' 61-55 triple-overtime squeaker over Arizona State last week together, and the biggest thing that stuck out to Jalil was the esapability of Vernon Adams.
"Shifty little guy, isn't he?" Jalil asked. "Shifty little man. A couple of us watched it in the stadium, and I wish they didn't keep us up until midnight, but it was a great game. We saw a lot of things from Adams and the whole offense. We've really got to work on pass rush discipline, and not letting him get out of the pocket, even last week. Cody Kessler got out of the pocket a couple of times. That's what we're going to work on this week. 100-percent dedication. This is going to be the hardest week we work as a team. In the five years that I've been here, this is going to be the hardest week that we all put together, and truly show that we're not just another random team in the Pac. We're not just a mid-level team. We're here for real."
There have been some that have compared this year's 5-0 start and then 0-3 slide to last year, when the Bears went 4-1 to start the season and then won just one of their final seven games. Jalil has heard those critiques, and he's not happy about it.
"I think everyone's jaw is a little bit hurt, for the past three weeks. We're trying to go out there mean and aggressive, and truly show what Cal football is, and what that 5-0 meant," Jalil said.
The latest punch in the mouth, according to Jalil, was self-evident.
"There's not much that needed to be said," Jalil said. "You don't bring your A-game, and you don't do what you need to do to win, you're not going to win in this league. That's the only thing. There's no moral victories. There's nothing like that. We've got to come out this week with our hair on fire, and want this one like we haven't wanted any other game, and that's how we'll get it. I know they want this one just as bad. Actually, I take that back: They don't want this one as bad as we do."
Press Conference Notes
Cal has played 14 of its last 18 contests on the road at night ... "We're accustomed to playing these games at night, on the road," said Dykes ... Linebacker Michael Barton (sprained knee) will practice "in a limited role" on Tuesday ... linebacker Jalen Jefferson (shoulder) will practice more and more as the week progresses, but he'd be questionable for Saturday ... Goff's completions to his top six receivers -- Kenny Lawler, Bryce Treggs, Trevor Davis, Darius Powe, Stephen Anderson and Maurice Harris have dropped, as a proportion of all of his completions, by 5% from the first five games to the last three. Dykes said, "We need to get those guys more involved."
While both Goff and Dykes fumed over the second interception on Saturday, on a pass intended for Lawler, neither vocalized precisely what they thought should have been flagged, at the time.
On Tuesday, Dykes said he had not sent the play in to the league, but did watch it on film, and saw exactly what he thought he'd seen, though he did not say what precisely that was. Goff, when asked about his eight interceptions over the past four games, said, "I don't think there's a pinpoint to it. The Utah game was kind of an anomaly. It was probably the worst game I've played in my life, and things didn't go my way didn't go our way on offense. I forced some stuff in that game that I probably shouldn't have, but this last game, a ball got tipped out of my hands, and the cornerback moved Kenny out of the way and picked it off."
Dykes said "I don't even bother," with filing a report with the Pac-12.
"Not really worth talking about," said Dykes. "Time to move on."