BERKELEY-Aside from the absence of senior linebacker Mike Mohamed on Friday against Nevada, the Cal football team was also struggling with the fact that true freshman wide receiver Keenan Allen was slowed by an ankle injury suffered against Colorado, an injury that kept him largely out of practice last week. Allen caught only one pass for eight yards, and saw a ball bounce out of his hands that led to an interception.
"Yeah, he was banged up. He didn't practice last week. It was an ankle. He's fine," said head coach Jeff Tedford after practice on Monday. "The other guys did a fine job. Normally, he'd probably catch that first ball that got intercepted. There could have been a little rust there from not practicing. He'll practice 100 percent this week."
Those 'other guys' were headed by junior wideout Marvin Jones, who had a career night against the Wolf Pack, hauling in 12 passes for 161 yards. In the run game, junior tailback Shane Vereen also had a career night, rushing 19 times for a career-high 198 yards.
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"(The offensive line) did a good job. Shane made some people miss in the secondary, but those long runs were pretty cleanly blocked," Tedford said. "He got in the secondary and made some nice moves and then showed his speed, but the line did a nice job."
The Bears will need all three this Saturday as they open up conference play with No. 14 Arizona, which stunned then-No. 9 Iowa from the 24th spot with a 34-27 victory in Tucson, Ariz. Vereen, for his part, will have to contend with a Wildcat defense that ranks No. 22 in the nation against the rush, allowing just 86.33 yards per game on the ground. Overall, Arizona ranks No. 3 in the nation in total defense, behind Oregon and Texas.
Particularly stout against the run is Lolomana Mikaele, a 6-foot-2, 305-pound senior nose tackle.
"Their inside guy, No. 94, those guys, when they put their ears back, they were getting after it, and the Iowa offensive line is no slouch," Tedford said. "They play very hard, and so it's tough sledding against those guys."
For Cal, the conference opener is a chance to get a fresh start in its pursuit of a conference title.
"Absolutely, the new season of Pac-10 play is, you're playing every game to win, of course, but the Pac-10 race starts this week," Tedford said. "It doesn't matter if you're coming off a win or a loss. The focus is always the same. There's no real difference in preparation or anything like that. It's just that the Pac-10 is the preparation to win a conference championship. Our first opportunity is this week, to play a great Arizona team, which is very, very tough at home."
The Bears are all too aware of the Wildcats' home dominance. Cal has lost its last two contests at Arizona Stadium.
"It's always been a frenzy there. The environment's not something that's going to surprise us, because we've been there before and we know what they're capable of there," Tedford said. "They really feed off of it and they play hard. They're playing really, really well. I think they're probably the No. 1 or No. 2 defense in the conference, third in the country. Then, offensively, they can light it up. They can spread you out and throw it, and they can line up and run it downhill on you, probably as well as any team in our conference as far as doing both-spreading it out and running downhill. Their special teams are really good as well. They're a solid group and very difficult to deal with at home. It's going to be hostile. It's going to be loud, and so there's going to need to be a lot of focus."
The Bears' loss to Nevada was due-in part, perhaps-to a lack of focus, as much as it was due to the difficulty of preparing for such a unique offense in the pistol.
"It's hard to prepare for it. You know, talking about the simulation of the speed and what they do and the precision that they run it, it's different than anything that we're going to see, outside of Oregon," Tedford said. "It's similar-similar but different. We're getting ready to play a little more conventional offenses."
Helping in that ambition will be the return of senior defensive captain Mike Mohamed, who will see a doctor tomorrow to determine whether he'll be good to go for practice this week.
"You've got to watch and see how it feels," Tedford said of Mohamed's sprained big toe. "I don't think you can predetermine anything like that, but we anticipate that he practice and play."
Mohamed had some insight as to the defensive lapses on Friday, and hopes to be able to correct some of those this weekend.
"Guys were angry, guys were upset, because obviously it wasn't the outcome that we expected," Mohamed said. "We thought we were going to do a lot better. Nevada did a good job; we just didn't execute well enough. We were running the defense, and, as we look back on it, it wasn't the scheme. It was individual players. It seemed like every play, somebody took a turn messing up and not doing their job, and that's what Nevada wants. They exploited that. We get 10 guys doing it right, and one guy doing it wrong, and that's all it takes."
Mohamed also noticed that outside containment was lacking on Friday, allowing Wolf Pack QB Colin Kaepernick to run seemingly at-will.
"It was the backers taking turns, the safeties, the corners, the D-line; it wasn't just one person. Depending on the call, it was somebody different on the outside. Guys just took turns messing up."
Tedford saw the failures on defense as the result of schematic issues.
"It was scheming. With such a new offense with so many phases, everybody's got to be exactly in their right gap. One time, if they're not, if a backer's not in the right gap, then on the next play the safety thinks he's got to get in there and then there goes the ball around the corner," Tedford said. "There's so many phases to it that you have to be perfect with what you're doing on defense, pretty much. We had some guys out of position because of the different looks and so many things that they were doing. Sometimes they took the dive away great but didn't play the outside very well. They got a guy on our alley player a lot of times, but that's what makes that offense so tough to deal with. It's like a triple-option, and then he's throwing the ball the way he was throwing it, I mean, he was on the money. We got those posts covered, and boom, right there. No room for error. He scrambles to the left and hits the guy right on the boundary with a rope, and he just threw the ball extremely well. And the pass game as well, which, on third down, the third down conversions, when you get them in third down, you're forcing him to pass the ball and that's when you've got to get off the field. They converted some third downs, which hurt us."
While kept out of practice for most of last week, frosh linebacker David Wilkerson was dressed out and back in the thick of things today ... Tight end Jarrett Sparks was on the field, but in a red jersey as he continues to recover from an injury suffered in Week One ... Jeremy Ross and Isi Sofele saw the majority of action in kick returns during special teams work ... Giorgio Tavecchio, who averaged 67.6 yards on his five kickoffs with a touchback against Nevada, got all of his kickoffs inside the 10-yard line on Monday.