BERKELEY-Mychal Kendricks is a man of few words, but those words are filled with an innate intensity that one would expect from the Pac-10 sacks leader. Asked at Tuesday's press conference if he can replicate his four-tackle, 1.5-sack, 2.5-TFL performance against UCLA throughout the rest of the season, the junior linebacker gives a simple and straight-up answer.
"That's the plan," Kendricks says dryly. "Consistency is the thing. Got to keep up the performance. Once you set the bar high, I think you should stay there."
Through five games in 2010, Kendricks has set that bar to quite a lofty altitude, notching four solo sacks and one assist for 33 negative yards, six solo tackles for loss and four assists for 39 yards and two recovered fumbles.
"The schemes just allow one-on-ones," he said calmly. "That's about it. You've got to beat the guy in front of you, and that's the main focus. If you can beat the guy in front of you, then we should be alright as a defense."
The Cal defense, under the guidance of new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, has been more than just "alright." Cal has the No. 2 scoring defense in the conference, the No. 2 rushing defense and the No. 1 pass defense, adding up to the Pac-10's best overall defensive unit.
"You have to have high expectations," Kendricks said. "I feel that if you don't have high expectations, what are you doing out there playing? High expectations are what it's all about. You've got to set the bar high for yourself, and your team."
The Bears are No. 1 in the conference in pass defense efficiency, holding opposing quarterbacks to a 51 percent completion rate. Opposing signal-callers have a 94.5 passer rating, again, the lowest in the Pac-10.
"It's just our mindset. We're real confident in our coach and in ourselves, and in the scheme that we bring every week, whatever it might be," Kendricks said. "We're worrying about ourselves. It's not the other team, it's about ourselves.
"I was pretty sure that it was going to go just like this even before we started playing, when Coach Clancy came in. Everyone was really excited about the scheme he was bringing, and the pressures and everything he had to offer. The defensive guys were really excited about all of that. This is the type of defense we expected to have."
That defense will go up against a USC offense this Saturday that has plenty of playmakers, including sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley, who sits second in the Pac-10 with a 162.03 passer rating and true freshman Robert Woods, who ranks 20th nationally in all-purpose yards. Despite having lost their past two games and the fact that the Trojans are laboring under the effects of NCAA sanctions, all Kendricks sees across the field are the same cardinal and gold jerseys that he has seen since Day One of his college career; the same team that has beaten the Bears six straight times, and eight of the past nine games that the two squads have played.
"I'm not looking past any team," Kendricks said. "I'm not going to sit here and say that they're more beatable, because, regardless of the situation, it's still 'SC. They still play good ball. They're good competitors.
"I think we're up to the challenge, whoever we play. I'm not too concerned with what they have as long as we take care of our responsibilities and our jobs. That's all I can go off of."
Since head coach Jeff Tedford took the reins of the Cal program, the Bears have failed to record a single win at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
"Not just for the seniors, but for the team, everyone, at least once in their college careers, deserves to beat USC," Kendricks said. "That's what the goal is. The goal is to beat everybody, but everyone wants to beat 'SC. I feel like the seniors deserve it, as do the juniors, as do the sophomores, as do the freshmen.
"They're a good team. They've been a good team, and they have a real good history. The whole situation that they're in now, it really doesn't take away from who they are, as a team, or what they do, as a team. I feel like they have something to prove because of the situation that they're in. They'll probably come out with more fire than in previous times, so beating them would mean a lot."