One week after putting up 471 yards on the then-15th-ranked Tennessee Volunteers, the California Golden Bears had trouble getting their offense going against a scrappy CSU defense Saturday.
Two long plays – a 73-yard end around by Heisman Trophy candidate DeSean Jackson in the first quarter and a third quarter sweep by freshman Jahvid Best that went for 64 yards – skewed the final numbers against the Rams defense, who, despite some miscues, seemed to have played well enough to win.
“We did, for the most part, a fairly good job – minus those two plays,” said junior safety Mike Pagnotta. “Last week we felt like we let one slip through our fingers and this week too.”
Part of the problems for the defense stemmed from the field position that the Bears had all game, particularly in the second half. Cal had six drives that started in CSU territory, including 5 of its 7 drives in the second half.
“It seemed like in the third quarter every time we went on the field defensively we were on our side of the 50,” coach Sonny Lubick said after the game. “We turned them back five or six times, which I thought was going to be one of our defensive efforts that we could talk about.”
The Bears ended the game with 391 total yards on offense, including 245 yards rushing (137 of which game on the two long runs) and just 146 yards through the air from their much-touted passing game. Perhaps most importantly for Cal, however, was the number in the turnover column: 0.
“Obviously it wasn’t enough,” senior linebacker Jeff Horinek said. “We were holding them, but we need to get in there and create turnovers.”
With two weeks before their next game at Houston, Pagnotta feels like the defense will be ready to go.
“I think we’re getting close, our defense is starting to gel together as a unit,” Pagnotta said. “We’re going to win games this year. It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when we can put a game together.”
Sports writer Nick Hubel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org