Game Day Central: Cal vs. SDSU

Get ready for Cal's Saturday tilt with San Diego State at Qualcomm Stadium with all of our previews, videos, interviews features and more.

California (1-0) vs. San Diego State (1-0)

Weekly Press Conference Thread (members)
Live Game Thread (members)

When: Sat., Sept. 10, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Qualcomm Stadium (link courtesy our Stadium Journey review folks)
TV: CBS Sports Network -- Carter Blackburn (play by play), Aaron Taylor (analyst), Jenny Dell (sideline)
Radio: KGO 810 AM - Joe Starkey (Play-by-Play), former Cal QB Mike Pawlawski (Analyst), Todd McKim (Sideline)
Sirius/XM Satellite Radio: Sirius Channel 119, XM 203, Internet 963
Cal Student Radio: KALX 90.7 FM - Glenn Borok (play by play), Jeff Clancy (analyst), David Straub (analyst)
Series History: Cal leads, 4-3
Last Meeting: at Cal 35, San Diego State 7 (Sept. 12, 2015)
Last Meeting at SDSU: at SDSU 33, Cal 9 (Sept. 2, 1995)
First Meeting: at Cal 28, SDSU 0 (Sept. 18, 1982)
Current Win Streak: Cal, 2
Injuries: San Diego State: None; Cal: None

Cal Game Notes

San Diego State Game Notes

What to Watch When Cal is on Offense:

  • What To Watch: 3 Things on Offense (video)
  • Left tackle Aaron Cochran will return to action (sprained knee), but it is unknown how many snaps he'll get.
  • Key to the Game: Power Up Front (members) -- How has Cal's run game evolved, and how will the Bears' offensive line manage San Diego State's multiple, blitzing, unconventional fronts? Will Tre Watson, who rushed for just nine yards on just three carries last year, get more run? He seems to think so. In 2015, it was Daniel Lasco leading the charge on the ground with 19 carries for 123 of Cal's 164 yards, while this year's running backs combined for just 52 yards on 12 carries.
  • "As much line moving and blitzing and run-throughs as they do," said head coach Sonny Dykes, "they don't give up many big plays, and that's something that they do a nice job of getting people on the ground. They find a way to get you down."
  • A Closer Look: San Diego State's Secondary (members) -- With five players returning with major starting experience in the Aztecs defensive backfield, Davis Webb knows that the young receivers are going to need to step up. After going to Chad Hansen 14 times for 160 yards and two touchdowns, Webb knows he'll need to spread the ball around to the likes of Melquise StovallJordan VeasyJordan DuncanVic Wharton and Demetris Robertson. Will their speed prevent San Diego State from pressing? "They've got a lot of experience," said offensive coordinator Jake Spavital. "I think two of them have got over 40 games of experience. That alone shows that these kids have seen almost everything. You watch all the tape from last year, teams are trying double moves, slants and slant returns and stutters, all sorts of things, trying to trick these guys, and these guys have seen it all. Obviously, experience is going to play a lot into their favor."
  • Cal, for all its exciting new toys in the receiving corps, return just two players who caught a pass in last year's game: running back Vic Enwere and inside receiver Ray Hudson, each of whom caught a single pass. That's two, out of 17 catches, coming back. "We've still got a ways to go," Spavital said, of his young receivers.
  • Given how much San Diego State shifts up front, their stand-up defensive line, do-everything linebacker Calvin Munson and MWC Defensive Player of the Year Damontae Kazee, Webb's experience will play a big role in picking apart the defense and shifting the Bears into the proper play, as he did against Hawaii: "They're a defense that can get into every type of front imaginable, pretty quickly," said Spavital.
  • Speaking of Hansen, San Diego State told him when he wanted to leave Idaho State that he wasn't good enough to play for them.
  • Bug Rivera Returns to San Diego -- After leaving the University of San Diego, the nephew of Ron Rivera has found a home in Berkeley as a walk-on, and was one of the Bears' leading receivers against Hawaii, catching five balls for 54 yards.
  • Hawaii Redux (members) -- What did Spavital think of the Bears' performance against the Warriors? Why was the offense disjointed? What did Davis Webb do so well once he got settled in? Why so many runs inside? Find that out and more.

What to Watch When Cal is on Defense

  • San Diego State has won 11 straight games, with only one decided by less than 14 points. They like to run, and last season, the Aztecs were 14th in the nation in rushing offense (233.3 yards per game), but last season, the Bears held them to 152 yards on the ground. But, gone are Mustafa JalilDavid DavisTrevor KellyJonathan JohnsonKyle KragenTodd Barr and Puka LopaJames Looney and Tony Mekari should have a better time of things in the middle (Looney played exceptionally against Hawaii, and the Aztecs' more straight-ahead, downhill running style fits Mekari better than the Warriors' lateral movement), and overall, defensive line coach Fred Tate likes the more straight-up smash-mouth, manhood-challenging prospect of facing the Aztecs (members).
  • Dykes: "What they do defensively is unique, and what they do on offense is unique. They're a pound-you, run-the-ball-down-your-throat offense, which you don't see that much of, anymore, in college football."
  • Reviewing the Film: Cal vs. San Diego State, 2015 (members) -- New quarterback Christian Chapman is much more mobile than his predecessor, and when the Bears saw him in 2015, he gave the Aztecs new life, and opened up new offensive possibilities: "He's got a good grip of their offense, where to throw the ball, and they don't ask him to do stuff he can't do," said defensive coordinator Art Kaufman. "They have a package, and he knows where he's going with the ball, and if it's not there, he'll pull it down and take off.
  • Kaufman talks about Chapman and what worked against Mountain West Player of the Year Donnel Pumphrey, who was the only player in the nation, other than Stanford's Christian McCaffrey, to have over 1500 rushing and 400 passing yards last season.
  • On the topic of Pumphrey, Dykes said: "The biggest thing is, we got him on the ground, and really made him earn his yards. That's the big thing with him, is they're going to be patient and keep feeding him the ball. He's one of those backs that gets stronger the more carries he gets."
  • Three Things to Watch on Defense -- Cornerback Darius Allensworth will be deployed in a variety of roles, much as he was last year. As a cornerback, he's been able to lock down his side of the field, but the Bears want him to get in on as many plays as possible, so we'll see him in nickel and dime formations at times. Last year, he led the Bears with 10 tackles. The next six most prolific tacklers in that game are no longer at Cal.
  • "The two linebackers that were playing most of that game, the two safeties that were playing most of that game, we've lost some experienced guys," Kaufman said. "The tackles played, one of the ends (DeVante Wilson) played, the nickel (Cameron Walker) played and the right corner (Allensworth) played. Everybody else is different."
  • Two of the three Bears who came down with interceptions last year -- Michael Barton and Darius White -- are gone, and that's symbolic of what the Cal defense is facing this season, on the whole. As experienced as the Aztecs are on the back end, that's how inexperienced the Bears are. Despite the lack of linebackers, though, the Bears will still go with a three-man look in the middle, though that third man may very well be a nickel back cheating up. "We've been tested on a couple different things this week," Dykes said. "I don't know if we're going to bring in an extra D-lineman, or a linebacker. It helps that we know that they're more run than pass."
  • "We'll do that some," Kaufman said of having three linebackers, with one cheating up to cover Pumphrey. "Mostly, we're going to fit it up with the guys we have."

Special Teams

This week, Cal punter Dylan Klumph was thrust into the news because of an Instagram post that, for all college football's bluster, seemed fairly innocuous. His 31.3-yard punting average was brought up in response, to taunt him.  But, as mentioned in BearTerritory's recap of the game, he did put two of his punts down inside the Hawaii 20-yard line.

Cal did not make Klumph available this week, despite media requests. While it's his social media that's been in the headlines, it's his feet that have done the talking over the last two weeks, as he's booted almost every punt over 45 yards, with a 70-yarder and multiple 50-yarders thrown in, for good measure, with consistent 4-second hang time. 

"Keep in mind, the 31.3, we had two down inside the 20, and we'll take that," said special teams coordinator Mark Tommerdahl. "He's had a good fall camp, and the consistency aspect doesn't matter until we see it on game day. His performance against Hawaii can be improved upon, but he did some good things, as well. Getting it inside the 20, those are really good, hidden yards. He's getting more comfortable all the time, getting the ball off and getting comfortable with [longsnapper Bradley] Northnagel. He'll be fine."

Pumphrey, aside from being a top tailback, is also a threat in the punt return game, though he didn't return any last year.

"A chute can open up, and they have great anticipation, getting to the hole," Tommerdahl said.

While Pumphrey may be returning punts, his fellow running back, Rashaad Penny, was the Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year as a kick returner. Penny tied for second nationally with three kickoff returns for touchdowns last season, becoming the second player in school history to have multiple kickoff return touchdowns in a season (Colin Lockett returned two for TDs in 2012). He was second in the nation in kick return average (33.5) and San Diego State as a team was second in the nation as a team (29.1).

"They're one of the best," Tommerdahl said. "They're really, really well-coached on special teams. I've known Bobby Hauck for 20 years. Rocky Long and I worked together 30 years ago, so they'll be well-coached."

That familiarity has bred a bit of insight for Tommerdahl.

"The guys on the back end are just really talented," Tommerdahl said. "They have great, great vision, and the people in front of them, they run the same thing a couple different ways, and they're good at it. It's a good challenge for us in the return game. They've got a good base scheme and a good counter off of it."

Other Notes

  • Though he no longer plays baseball, linebacker Calvin Munson was a pitcher on the 2015 Mountain West Championship team for San Diego State, and throws in the mid-90s. He was drafted 935th overall in the 31st round of the 2013 MLB Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals.
  • One of Webb's childhood heroes was Tyler Henley, one of his father Matt's former players, who, after tearing his ACL in a football game, came back and played baseball a year later, went on to play at Rice, and then was drafted by the Cardinals.
  • Webb, who was once a high school catcher as a freshman, was going to pitch and play shortstop as a sophomore, but decided he wanted to concentrate on football. This summer, he began using the arm exercises espoused by former Texas Rangers pitching coach, Tom House.
  • Munson has six interceptions in his career, including three for touchdowns (all three in 2014). Munson is fifth all-tim at San Diego State with 232 interception return yards.

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