Mansion was Cal's third-string QB that season. And Johnson's comment wasn't meant for public consumption. He was making the remark to colleagues in the press box but didn't realize that he had left his mic open.
Mansion wound up throwing two passes that day. This weekend, in the wake of Riley's injury, he figures to be tossing the ball around Martin way more.
But the Cal running attack figures to be leaned on even more heavily.
| Cougars (1-8) vs Golden Bears (4-4)|
AT A GLANCE
1:00 pm Pacific Time
Players to Know
Brock Mansion, QB: With Kevin Riley out for the season with a knee injury, the Bears turn to the inexperienced Mansion -- a 6'5 junior who had previously attempted just seven passes. He looked just okay in his first meaningful action last week, going 14-for-24 with the game out of reach against the Beavers. But OSU put some heat on him, and he never looked comfortable.
Shane Vereen, RB: He's one of the top three running backs in the Pac-10. One of Cal's few explosive playmakers, Vereen was blanked last week but still has has 13 touchdowns and averages about 100 yards per game -- though that workload is expected to increase markedly against a Cougar D that's been woeful against the run.
When Cal wins, the offense leads the way, scoring a strong 48 points per game. They've averaged just 15 points per game in their losses. They run the ball as much as possible to keep the the pressure off the passer. And the Tedford offense relies in part on passing efficiency. They put up points in bunches when the QB is in a good situation. When the offense falls behind budget and gets stuck in 3rd and long situations, things tend to fall apart. With Riley's injury, the running game will be leaned on even more and the opportunity for a defense to put Cal in those long yardage situations will only increase -- if they can limit the run game.
The Cougar D wants to keep the Bears under 21 points. With an inexperienced QB, a realistic opportunity does present itself. Expect the Bears to lean heavily on Vereen. He's one of the conference's better backs and should collect plenty of defensive attention. Cal will sprinkle in some play action pass to try to keep the Cougs honest, and WSU needs to punish any mistakes he makes. They also need to try and rattle Mansion early and set the tone. And WSU has not started fast this season, not in the slightest. They need to this week if they want to win.
THE BEARS ON DEFENSE
Players to Know
Mike Mohamed: Cal relies on their four year starting middle linebacker to provide a stabilizing force to their D. Like the rest of the front seven, he is built for run stopping.
Cal runs a base 4-3 defense. They have looked dominant at home, giving up just 9 points per game in Memorial Stadium. But they look like a completely different group on the road, surrendering a massive 36-plus points per game. They have a young secondary with shaky confidence.
The Bears focus on run stopping most of the time, but will likely put most of the defensive scheming around Jeff Tuel this week. WSU's running backs corps are suddenly decimated by injury and WSU didn't run well when they were healthy. But draw plays might offer some cheap rushing yards against Cal and gain some critical first downs. Keep the deeper passing plays oriented around the inexperienced corner backs and let Jared Karstetter use the sideline and his height to go get some chain movers. .
THE BEARS ON SPECIAL TEAM
Giorgio Tavecchio is a solid kicker but with limited range. Overall, the Bears are fairly unremarkable here. Sometimes that's a danger signal -- just when an opponent's special teams don't scare you, bam, you give up a big punt or kick return. WSU cannot allow that this week and win, they have to play at a high level regardless of the opponent's special teams in front of them.
In four home games the Bears are undefeated, winning by an average of 39 points. Away from Berkley, the Bears are winless, falling by an average of 22 points. The Cougs would love for that trend to last one more week.