BERKELEY-The Cal offense started at the defense's 20-yard line with a first down and a simple instruction: score with the clock winding down. After three quick completions and a spike to stop the clock, quarterback Beau Sweeney had sailed the offense to within smelling distance of a victory, but there were stormy waters ahead.
"We didn't really execute the way we should as an offense," said tight end Anthony Miller. "But the defense played well."
On second and goal from the six, Mychal Kendricks broke through the offensive line and forced Sweeney to throw the ball away. The next play, Kendricks was back in the quarterback's face, only this time Sweeney's throw landed in the hands of linebacker D.J. Holt.
The Bears' air attack had been on display all week, but Monday afternoon, the defense would allow none of it. In the final twenty minutes of practice, the blue shirts dominated in a performance that included three interceptions and forced a fumble.
"Today we went back in the film room and watched the practice before. We just learned from our mistakes that we made before," said defensive back Marc Anthony. "We came out and applied the teachings that they gave to us in the meeting and took care of business today."
First it was Tyre Ellison snagging an overthrown pass from redshirt freshman quarterback Allan Bridgford. Soon after, Sweeney attempted to hit freshman receiver Keenan Allen, but Allen was wearing a blanket named Chris Conte who hauled in the pick. Senior signal-caller Kevin Riley did not take any reps before the media on Monday.
In between takeaways, the secondary continued to deprive the offense of receiving yards. When junior QB Brock Mansion dialed long distance for redshirt freshman wideout Spencer Hagan, junior safety C.J. Moncrease and true freshman defensive back Adrian Lee instantly closed the seam to knock down the ball.
Mansion then tried hitting sophomore receiver Ross Bostock on a quick route, but Anthony was right there to break up the shallow pass. On the next play, Anthony sniffed out Jeremy Ross's tunnel screen and abruptly wrapped him up before surrendering any yards after catch. There's no doubt in Anthony's mind that the arrival of defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast has made an immediate impact.
"He's bringing an NFL-type scheme to our team," Anthony said. "He's bringing a lot of pressure to make the quarterback confused on what we're doing. It's making our job a lot easier because all we have to do is be patient and wait for him to make a mistake."
The men up front on the defensive line were critical in allowing the secondary to make plays. Kendrick's pressure forced a throw away and an interception to prevent the offense's scoring chance.
In the next round of the drill, senior linebacker Jarred Price sacked quarterback Ryan Wertenberger on the first play. Junior backer Ryan Davis got around his block on the next play and stripped Wertenberger, ending the drive with a 31-yard field goal, nailed by Giorgio Tavecchio. That resulted in offensive line coach Steve Marshall blasting his players after practice, screaming "you got to grow up!" among other choice words.
"It starts on all levels. It starts from the d-line and them getting pressure and then us being patient," explained Anthony. "We see what's going on, we read the quarterback and then we go and swam. It's all eleven hats to the ball."
With all sorts of different defensive players stepping up on Monday, determining the depth chart may be more difficult than previously thought.
"We got some young guys that are competing," Anthony said. "Together we're all learning and all fighting for a spot. Everyone's doing a good job so far and hopefully we can continue this throughout the year."
The receivers and secondary have been competing hard against each other all week. While the defense reigned supreme today, Anthony knows that it won't be this easy every time.
"We've got a whole bunch of wide receivers that give us a good look everyday. We just got to bring it everyday because they're going to bring it, and if we don't they are going to make us look bad. It's good competition both ways."
• It wasn't all defense at the end of Monday's practice. Bridgford hit tailback Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson for a gain of 25 yards and Sweeney had a completion to Isi Sofele and an impressive run in his own right. Sweeney has shown great legs in the past few practices.
• Freshman wideout Kaelin Clay's all around game has been nothing short of impressive for the past several days, and indeed, all of camp. He has extremely soft hands, to the point where you can rarely hear the impact of the ball on his gloves when he catches in drills.
• Cornerback Steve Williams displayed excellent speed while closing on the ball and turning interceptions up field in drills. Earlier in the week, head coach Jeff Tedford said he was pleased with Williams' performance in camp. Tedford was unavailable for interviews after Monday's afternoon practice.
• Tight end Anthony Miller has been named on the pre-season watch list for the John Mackey Award, given to college football's most outstanding tight end, and was surprised upon hearing about the honor.
"I actually didn't know that," said Miller. "It doesn't really change much. I still have to come out here and work, compete every day and try to get better."
• Tavecchio went 2-for-2 on a pair of 31-yard field goals from both hash marks; his kick from the right hash hit the right upright before falling through. Vince D'Amato went one-for-two on the same kicks, missing his try from the left hash.
• A couple Tedford quotes from this morning's practice:
On why linebacker David Wilkerson is in the mix to play as a true freshman: "He's physical. High school kids, when they come in, mentally, physically and emotionally have to be ready to play. The physical part of it is definitely there for him. Once he gets it down, he can run, he's big, he's strong. He can do a lot of things, on special teams and on defense."
On why Wilkerson was moved from the inside to the outside: "The depth at the outside backer wasn't great. When you look at the guys we had available to go out there, he was the best fit at the time. He'll play outside and maybe later on in his career move inside. But right now, that's the fastest way to get him on the field."
On Shane Vereen's health and his ailing hamstring: "Vereen ran pretty well today. He'll keep increasing that as the week goes on."