BERKELEY -- California defensive end Evan Weaver came to the Bears out of Spokane (Wash.) Gonzaga Prep, and he'll have quite a cheering section on Saturday when he returns to his home state, and as such, he's going to have quite a cheering contingent.
"Woah, man, that's a number I really don't know," Weaver demurred, before finally offering a tally: "It's a little bit over 50, from what I've heard."
The Weaver contingent has chartered a bus -- a Weaver Wagon? -- from Spokane to Pullman, to watch Weaver play Washington State on Saturday, at 7:30 p.m., at Martin Stadium.
"I did get recruited a lot by Washington State, as well as a bunch of other schools, but I chose Cal because I thought it was a great fit," Weaver said. "Mike [Leach] is a great coach, has a great program, but Cal's a great fit with me, and a good family atmosphere."
Named the Washington State High School Football Player of the Year last year, Weaver -- who has 14 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss -- and fellow Washington native Cameron Saffle -- who has 48 stops (tops among Bears defensive linemen) and a team-leading 6.0 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks -- will take over the role of Kyle Kragen, who led the Cal defense to seven sacks of Luke Falk last year with 2.5 of his own. On the Pac-12 teleconference on Tuesday morning, Cougars head coach Mike Leach said that his team's 69-7 drubbing of Arizona was the best he's seen his offensive line play all year; Falk wasn't sacked once.
"They have a good offensive line," Weaver said. "They obviously know how to protect the passer, because that's their main thing, passing the ball."
Six of the top seven tacklers in last year's 34-28 Bears win are gone, and the Cal defense has now given up 207 points in the last four gams, and 2,342 total yards of offense over that same span. Also in that four-game span, Cal has given up only one team rushing performance of under 200 yards, and three over 280.
In fact, the Bears have allowed six performances of over 240 rushing yards by teams this season.
"We've seen a lot of great teams, a lot of great rushing offenses," Weaver said. "Our defense knows what we have to work on, and it's just honing in on those things, and making sure that we make good plays when we're able to, and hopefully go from there."
The Cougars, though they are running more, are a pass-first team, and Luke Falk has been sacked 23 times (for 144 yards) this season, on 452 drop-backs. Falk, who is known to hold on to the ball a shade too long, was sacked 37 times on 681 drop-backs in 2015. That could benefit the Bears, who have just 14 sacks -- second-to-last in the Pac-12 -- this season. Last week, Saffle had one sack, while Weaver and James Looney split another on Jake Browning.
"I wasn't here last year, but from what I know, they actually run the ball a little bit more this year," Weaver said. "They have a few playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. We like our match-ups, so far, and we'll have to see in the game. We feel pretty prepared."