Defense bright spot in loss
LOS ANGELES (Calif.)— After Cal's heartbreaking 17-3 loss to USC, most of the team was upset about letting their mistakes get the best of them and letting another winnable game in the LA Coliseum slip through their fingers. While the same can be said for the defense, there was an aspect of pride that they had held USC's offense to 17.
"I mean that's an explosive offense right there," linebacker Worrell Williams said. "I thought our defense did a great job. At the end we gave up the touchdown and it kind of broke our back but overall I thought we did pretty good."
It was a sentiment that was shared by many on the defense and the coaching staff. USC had been putting up over 40 points a game including 35 against the stingy Ohio State defense. Until the Cal offense got into desperation mode in the mid-fourth quarter, putting the defense back on the field fairly quickly after each stop, the Cal defense had only given up 10 points.
"Yeah, I thought our guys ran hard to the ball," said head coach Jeff Tedford. "They're tough guys to tackle and sometimes when you run so hard to the ball you're over-running people which we did a couple times today, (but a bunch of) plays were made because of the hustle."
"That's just all hustle," Williams agreed. "I think last week we were more impressive but today, yeah, we were impressive. We did what we wanted to do. Against a team like this, they're going to get some. I think for the most part we held our own. I think we made it loud and clear that we're a defense that it's going to be hard to get points on."
Not only did the defense keep the point total low, they also kept the yardage and time of possession numbers low. USC, while significantly out-gaining the Cal offense, was still held below their season averages for both rushing and passing. More importantly, their time off possession numbers under 30 minutes ensure the game was balanced to give their offense plenty of chances.
That said, Tedford saw time of possession as one of the areas where the offense contributed to success.
"I think the offense held the ball for a long time too," Tedford commented. "Our time of possession, I don't know the exact numbers but I think that we had a 17 play drive at one point so it kept our defense off the field. But I thought the defense did do a pretty good job of stiffening up, especially in the red zone."
In the end, neither the time of possession nor the strong defense performance was enough to over-come the offensive mistakes that plagued the Bears. The defense however was not willing to absolve themselves of the loss.
"Obviously it wasn't good enough," said Williams. "We've got to hold them to zero. Otherwise you won't win."
Despite that, the defense still feels like they played a good game and were quick to credit defensive coordinator Bob Gregory.
"Our whole goal was to attack," Williams surmised. "to keep them on their heels instead of them keeping us on ours. For the most part I though coach Gregory did a great job of scheming against them. I feel comfortable out there. I knew everything that was coming. After a while everything started to become predictable. I knew what they were going to do."
In the end, despite having the disappointment of losing an otherwise winnable game, the defense could hold their heads high knowing they played a good game against a very difficult opponent.
Ken Crawford is a staff writer for BearTerritory. A lifelong Cal football observer, Crawford covered the Bears during the 2007 season, which included the memorable 31-24 victory over Oregon at Autzen Stadium in Eugene. Crawford will continue to handle Cal football assignments during the 2008 season.