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October 9, 2011
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BERKELEY -- 'No rest for the weary' takes on new meaing with the California football team. After losing soundly to Oregon last Thursday in Eugene, Ore., the Bears get right back at it this Thursday night against USC, a team which has beaten Cal seven straight times.
Last season, the Trojans dealt the Bears perhaps their worst half of football since head coach Jeff Tedford came to town, going up 48-0 before eventually coming away with a 48-14 triumph in Los Angeles.
"We typically don't talk about what happened last year," Tedford said on Sunday. "It's more about what we need to do this year and that type of thing. It kind of snowballed on us last year a little bit, and we got taken out of the game early. We're not going into every day talking about last year, last year. This is about now and this is about now, and about how we have to prepare and about how we have to execute to play this week, this year's team against their team."
This week, Cal returns to its home away from home -- AT&T Park in San Francisco -- after playing in a different venue each of the first five weeks of the season.
"I haven't really thought about it that much, because it is what it is," Tedford said. "You can't spend time making excuses about it or whatever, but we played in five different venues in five weeks. That's nothing to make excuses about. We've got to play, and that's the mindset that we've had. Settling into a home field would be nice, because we have been traveling a lot."
Sunday being the first time the media were allowed access to Bears players and coaches since the 43-15 loss, Tedford answered questions about injured defensive back Marc Anthony, who separated his shoulder against the Ducks.
"Marc Anthony has a shoulder issue that will be day-to-day," Tedford said, not confirming whether or not Anthony will play this Thursday.
In Anthony's place will be true freshman Stefan McClure, who played the bulk of the game after Anthony went down. Behind McClure, defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said that true freshman Kameron Jackson, redshirt freshman Adrian Lee and junior Josh Hill would back up at corner, with Hill possibly seeing time in the base package as well as as the nickel back.
"It was a tough assignment," Tedford said of McClure's outing. "He played a lot of man coverage in it, and so it's a learning experience. It reminds you a little bit of when Syd Thompson took his first start. You saw what kind of player he turned out to be, and I have no doubt that Stef will do the same thing. He competed well."
In his first game, Thompson -- now on the Denver Broncos -- made five tackles against Tennessee, but was soundly abused by the Volunteers' offense, which piled up 514 yards -- including 298 through the air. McClure was not aware of Thompson's debut performance, but has had time to reflect on his first collegiate contest.
"None of it really concerns me. It all goes back to technique at the line of scrimmage, using the hands at the line of scrimmage, watching the hip when he goes down field and all that can be eliminated," McClure said. "When you're playing man-to-man coverage, it's won at the line of scrimmage, whether you've got good coverage or not. You make them throw off his timing or you can jam him in the chest -- anything -- and that's how you win the one-on-ones right there, so I've just got to work on that, work on my hands, because I was out there playing like I had no arms, so I've got to make sure I use the arms and the footwork."
McClure is excited to get back to playing at home and getting some juice from the blue and gold crowd.
"It's going to be real exciting, we'll get ready to go and with our home faithful, we'll have a good turnout out there, and hopefully it just usually causes problems for the offense, so they can't hear on their audibles," McClure said. "On defense, we're working on hand signals this week, and we're out there, you've got to know what you're doing and then just run around and play fast."
McClure will likely get another shot this week, as will true freshman defensive end Mustafa Jalil, who recorded three tackles against Oregon. Starting defensive end Trevor Guyton was sidelined on Sunday with an unspecified injury, and if that lingers, chances are that 'Moose' will see plenty of time against USC. On the season, the left defensive end in Pendergast's scheme has recorded eight tackles, including half a sack, playing in all five games.
"We liked his athleticism from an evaluation standpoint, and his high school film, and obviously, he progressed in fall camp. It doesn't surprise me at all how he's played, but he is a guy that is going to continue to get better and I like his skill set," said Pendergast, who also plans to play true freshman defensive tackle Viliami Moala more this week. "I think with Moala's situation, Kendrick Payne and Aaron Tipoti have been pretty solid in there at the nose, so that's why he probably hasn't played as much, but he'll get his feet wet more and more as the weeks move forward. He played the other night and did a good job, I felt."
Redshirt freshman outside linebacker David Wilkerson came out of Oregon relatively healthy, having struggled with an ankle issue all season. Wilkerson spent time at outside backer alongside senior Mychal Kendricks and true freshman Chris McCain, while true freshman Cecil Whiteside -- who has recorded five tackles in three games, including two sacks and two forced fumbles -- was conspicuously absent.
"Because of the package, he didn't play much last week because, especially against them, that's a package-oriented defense that you have to have because of the style of offense that they play, but he will have an opportunity to get out there and get in the mix this week," Pendergast said. "I thought [Wilkerson] played well. I liked a lot of the things that McCain did. I'd like to see [McCain] set the edge a little better a couple times, but they were yanking in there a little bit, but you've got to learn to get off that. They're not going to call that every time."
Stay tuned for more in-depth preview coverage of the passing game on both sides of the ball for Thursday's primetime match-up.