BERKELEY-After Cal senior linebacker got home to Berkeley from a long day in San Francisco at the Big Game Luncheon, he was informed that he had earned the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week Award for his 16-tackle, one-sack performance last Saturday against the nation's No. 1 offense. Mohamed accomplished the feat while effectively playing with one hand tied behind his back thanks to a thumb injury suffered two weeks ago. In his first game after surgery against Washington State, Mohamed was held to just three tackles.
"That first game, I didn't really get to practice. I think it was just four days after surgery, so I was a little apprehensive," he said at Monday's presser. "But then, with this last game, I had all week to test it out, get comfortable with it, so going into the game, I wasn't worried about it at all. It felt fine and I went out there and just tried to play my game."
Mohamed proved a big reason why the Bears were able to stymie Oregon, holding the Ducks to a season-low 15 points and 317 yards of total offense in Strawberry Canyon. Coming into the game, Oregon had averaged 54.7 points and 567.2 yards per game.
"It definitely helped a lot," Mohamed said of the boost to morale that the performance against the Ducks provided. "Any time you've got a great team coming into town, you've got to have complete focus, complete effort and it definitely brought a lot of excitement to the team and we just knew that we were going to have to bring our best in order to compete with them. This week is going to be no different."
Mohamed's 16 stops were also a career-high, equaling the most tackles by a Cal player since 2007 and moving him into the team lead with 69 total tackles on the year, averaging 7.7 per game. Last season's conference-leader now ranks 10th in the Pac-10 in tackles with at least two games to go. The senior inside linebacker has flourished in the schemes provided by defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, who, with his masterful planning against Oregon, has taken on a national reputation as a bit of a mad scientist in his first season as a collegiate coordinator.
"I guess you could say that about him a little bit," Mohamed said. "He's definitely a great game-planner and he develops what will put us in the best position to win the game. Last week, he had a great game plan, and, for the most part, it worked. I'd imagine that we'll have another thing to the tune of Stanford that will put us in a good position to try and win the game."
Mohamed is the Bears' active career leader in tackles with 314, good for fifth all-time.
His selection as a Player of the Week is the fourth weekly award that a Cal player has taken home this season, following Darian Hagan (Defensive), Bryan Anger (Special Teams) and Keenan Allen (Special Teams).
Mohamed also received an honorable mention nod this week from College Football Performance as the Linebacker of the Week.
This Saturday, Mohamed and the Bears will clash with No. 6 Stanford in the 113th Big Game at California Memorial Stadium in what will be the last such contest played at the historic venue in its current configuration.
Cal (5-5, 3-4 in the Pac-10) is fighting for its postseason life this week after what can only be termed as a sub-par season. With one win, the Bears will become bowl-eligible. The Cardinal, on the other hand, are jockeying for position in a possible BCS bowl, which would be the first time under head coach Jim Harbaugh that Stanford has the chance to participate in one of college football's most prestigious postseason contests.
"The season hasn't gone completely the way we wanted it to, up to this point, but this definitely could be it for us," Mohamed said. "If we can win this thing, then boom, we can be bowl-eligible. Then, we'll have Washington and hopefully, a bowl game. Hopefully, we can finish this season off with three wins, and 8-5 isn't too bad of a record. It's going to take total focus this week, and hopefully, we can make this a turning point."
Mohamed and the Bears will be tasked with halting the conference's No. 2 offense. The Cardinal have scored 51 touchdowns this season and average 39.8 points per game. Stanford averages 467.1 yards of total offense per game, thanks in large part to sophomore quarterback sensation Andrew Luck, who averages 251.1 yards through the air per game and has thrown for 22 TDs to just seven picks. Luck's 69.6 completion percentage is second in the conference to Arizona's injured signal-caller Nick Foles, who has played just eight games to Luck's 10.
"He's great under pressure, he knows how to move away from it and make a throw under pressure," Mohamed said. "He's got a great arm, but basically, we're going to go after him. We've got to do a great job of coverage on the back end and up front. We've got to get a little bit of pressure on him and hopefully, he'll make a couple mistakes that we can capitalize on."
On the ground, Luck has proven his ability to make plays with his feet, running for 373 yards-second in the Pac-10 only to the Ducks' Darron Thomas.
Protecting Luck is a stout offensive line comprised of three seniors and two sophomores. The Cardinal average just a shade over 6-foot-5, 300 pounds up front, and all five starters going into this weekend's contest have started every single game at the same position this season.
"It's been good, it's been good. They've grown together as the season has gone on, and this will be the biggest challenge of the year for those young guys up front," Harbaugh said. "Cal, defensively, will knock you back. They're very physical at the point of attack, very physical up front and, like I said before, they're sixth in the nation in sacks. There's tremendous speed and athleticism on that defense with that All-Pac-10 middle linebacker, et cetera, et cetera. It's the biggest test for those youngsters. It will give them a chance to prove their mettle, and we'll see what happens. Right now, looking at the film, it'll be a great advantage for Cal, there."
Stay tuned for more comprehensive Big Game Week coverage from BearTerritory leading up to Saturday's 113th Big Game.