BERKELEY -- California allowed 248 yards on the ground last Friday against Hawaii -- more than the Bears surrendered on average last season (209.8) and far more than the Warriors averaged on the ground last season (123.9 ypg). Coming up next week, Cal will face a power running downhill team in San Diego State, which averaged just 17.9 passing attempts per game, compared with 48.3 rushing attempts.
The Aztecs return Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year in Donnel Pumphrey, who, despite being limited to 85 yards by the Bears in their early meeting last season, was San Diego State's leading rusher (1,653 yards on 309 attempts, 17 touchdowns), and second-leading receiver (27 catches for 414 yards and three touchdowns).
It will be a very different challenge for Cal this week, than the spread attack of Hawaii, so with that in mind, I sat down with defensive line coach Fred Tate to discuss the differences between the two approaches, this Wednesday's scrimmage and from where the Bears are going to get a pass rush.
BT: Looking back at the tape from Australia, what did you see from the defensive line?
FT: I saw just a little bit of tentativeness. We didn't really know, going in, exactly what they were going to do. They gave us a couple different schemes that we struggled with, and a lot of the times, some of those bigger runs were just a mis-fit, whether it was the front guy or a second-level guy. When we saw the tape, it wasn't as bad as we initially thought, but there are some things we can do from a technique standpoint, in terms of our ends, when we're rushing the passer, and they're running the football. That's what got us a lot -- ends are up the field, and they run the ball up under us. I think, seeing that and getting after the first-game jitters, we'll be fine there.
BT: You had said during the week that you had to chase a few ghost plays, because you didn't know exactly what they were going to do.
FT: We did, but that wasn't one of them. One thing the gave us was a Y-off, we call it, the tight end's off the ball. We set that guy back all the time. We rolled him back -- what we call roll-back zone -- and they never rolled it back. They kept him front-side. That gave our ends some issues, and overall, some of the zone jet stuff, where we're thinking pass, and we're rushing, and the ball is cutting under us. Bottom line is, those guys have got to recognize run and pass, slow down, play the run. We fixed that, and we'll be OK.
BT: I didn't see much of a pass rush, when they were passing. Was that because it was a 'Wait, what are they doing?' scenario?
FT: Not 'Wait, what are they doing.' People think if they throw the ball, then it's got to be a pass rush. Well, if they're showing run, we're going to play run first, and then get in to your rush. That's why teams do all the RPO's (run-pass options) now. They're going to slow you down with that. I think we need to be better at pass rushing, there's no question about that. [We were] tentative and being slow to adjust to what they were really doing, versus what we were doing.
FT: Part of it is first game, just got to get going. First game. They'll be fine. We got to the guy, the ball sometimes came out more cooked than normal, but when he's holding it, we need to be in his face. Some of those times, we weren't.
BT: Saffle, on first viewing, looked pretty good ...
FT: Saffle and [James] Looney, I thought, played up to what they're capable of doing. I thought Tony [Mekari], the kind of game that it was, he didn't get into the groove, because it's kind of a lateral game, and that's not him. I think DeVante Wilson has got to play fifteen times better than he did. That's what we look at. That guy's got to be a beast for us, and in that particular game, he wasn't.
BT: What, from Looney, did you see that you were pleased with?
FT: James plays with a ton of energy. If we all started feeding off of that, in terms of our D-line, and everybody plays like that, then we're going to be OK. But, I saw some things with him -- chasing the ball, making some plays -- he may not have 75 tackles, but when he's off a blocker and the ball's in the backfield, and the ball carrier cuts back into the linebacker's hands, he made that play. That's what we see as coaches, when we go watch film, things like that that we're pleased with.
FT: We'll go and look at it, and see why was that. Was that a missed assignment on the offense, or were they kicking butt? We'll see. The whole thing is, you gauge those guys off of practice. You'd like to get some of the young guys in during the game, and if it warrants it, down the road here, we'll get those young guys in.
BT: How valuable was it when you saw Saffle in these bye week and Sunday scrimmages?
FT: It was very valuable, in terms of us seeing what he can finally do, when he's out there, all the time. Obviously, he played behind [Kyle] Kragen a year ago, and Kragen got a lot of snaps. He was young, and we probably didn't put him in until Utah, or whatever, but now, with him being pretty much entrenched in the starting spot, and playing down in and down out and playing as hard as we thought he would play, it's not a surprise. It's uplifting, that we're going to have that kind of guy. I don't think you could ever probably replace a guy like Kyle Kragen, but that doesn't mean you can't have a guy that's as good as Kyle Kragen, coming out of Saffle, if he continues to do the things that he does.
BT: You stopped San Diego State's running attack last year. Pumphrey had only 85 yards on 21 carries. You held them below their season average. What about them is different, or is there anything you can take from last year?
FT: We've watched a couple of games from the end of the season. Those guys didn't lose a game after they played us [sic]. Will they be different? We don't know. They open up this weekend, we'll look at that film, watch some film from last year, but the thing we've got to do is, we can't worry about last year. Last year is gone. That game's over with. Those guys probably have us marked on their schedule, and all we've got to do is go out and be us, be who we are, play, and play solid, sound and physical, and we'll be fine.
BT: Hawaii and San Diego State are very different offenses.
FT: Oh, they're going to run the football. They're going to run the football. Their M.O. is to run the football, and they're going to make you like it. They're going to be totally different from Hawaii. That's why we had a physical practice today, and that's why we're going to have a physical practice tomorrow, and we're going to be physical, because at the end of the day, that's not a new staff. We kind of get a feel for what they're going to do. Coach Long does a great job, ha done a great job since he's been there, and they're going to line up and say, 'OK, here we come, and you're either going to like it, or get out of the stadium.'
BT: Is going up against a more traditional, pro-style rushing attack like that something that the guys relish, because it's more straight-forward?
FT: I think it's something that they look at and say, 'OK, this is not just pin-your-ears-back-and-run-up-the-field.' There isn't a lot of, 'Does the quarterback have it? Does the running back have it?' and jet sweeps and all that crap. It's football. It's real football, and I think our guys like that, in terms of, it's a challenge. They're going to line up. 'You're coming at us in three-technique? We'll roll the tight end inside.' They're doing these things that they give an indication that they're going to do out of a formation, so our guys look at it and say, 'This is a football game.'"