Defending Cal's Passing Attack

There are no off-weeks for Pac-12 defenses. Coming off a 47-6 loss to Colorado where the Oregon State defense gave up 563 yards of offense to the Buffaloes, will now turn their attention to one of conference’s top offenses when they host Cal on Saturday.

Cal is one of six Pac-12 teams to average above 40 points per game, scoring 42 per contest en route to their 3-2 record entering Saturday. The Golden Bears have only once be held to fewer than 40 points (last week against Utah) and twice eclipsing the 50-point barrier.

“Great offense, highly dangerous, the quarterback has an unbelieve arm,” said defensive coordinator Kevin Clune. “I like the running backs, I like their receivers--there’s a lot of great players on that offense.”

Running Sonny Dykes’ “bear-raid” attack is graduate transfer Davis Webb, who has wasted no time orchestrating the offense in the same manner as former No.1 pick Jared Goff had when he was playing in Berkeley.

Through five games, Webb is the only Pac-12 quarterback to average more than 400 yards passing per game, his 22 touchdown passes and 2,143 passing yards are the most of any quarterback in the country. An impressive feat for a graduate transfer playing his first season at Cal. What impresses Clune is Webb’s arm talent.

“He’s got an incredible arm, and can flick the ball all over the field,” Clune said. “He can start on one hash and launch into the other end, it’s amazing.”

The Cal offense will test the Beavers’ secondary especially with their vertical routes according to Clune. Their ability to stretch the field in the passing game will be a test for the secondary.

“The corners are going to have to have a heck of a ballgame to beat this team,” said Clune.

On the receiving end of many of Webb's’ passes has been Chad Hansen, who like Webb, is among the nation’s leaders in most of the receiving categories. His 55 reactions, 754 receiving yards and eight touchdowns are all the best of Pac-12 receivers--and it isn’t very close.

Senior Treston Decoud will be tasked with covering Hansen, a challenge that he is more than ready fore.

“He thinks of himself as the best and I think of myself as the best,” Decoud said. “It’s a good matchup and I’m ready for it and I’m going to take my duties and do what I have to do to be successful.”

Cornerbacks coach Cory Hall had to face his fair share of quality receivers in his playing days, he offered how he would defend a receiver of the caliber of Hansen.

“I would study his releases, not only study, I would be physical with him,” Hall said. “We would play the scheme, the scheme wouldn’t just be based around him, we would just have to be aware of where he was.”

When it comes to defending talented receivers, Hall likes to stick to his philosophy that helped him when he was having to face the Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison’s back in the day. It’s the mindset he wants to instil into his corners.

“I believe in being physical on the edges. As much as possible I want to be up on press,” Hall said. “I want to say I’m better than you, I’m tougher than you...and let’s play football. At the end of the day we will see who wins.”

Cal’s receivers are more than just Hansen, they a pair of freshman in Demetris Robertson and Melquise Stovall who have combined for 37 catches and seven scores. 

“All of them jump off the screen at you,” Hall said. “(Robertson), (Stovall), they are a talented corp of receivers.”

While the defense is tested, there is a way that the offense can help the defense by staying on the field. Last week against Utah, where the Utes held the Golden Bears to only 28 points--well below their season average. The Utes were able keep the game close by keeping Webb, Hansen and the rest of the Cal offense on the sideline.

“The thing that was pretty awesome was that Utah’s offense stayed on the field for 42 minutes, kept Cal’s offense off the field,” “Hopefully we can match something like that. That was a team situation where the team made sure that the Cal offense didn’t score a lot of points.” 

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