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September 28, 2011
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BERKELEY -- Ever since spring practice, California quarterbacks have donned green no-contact jerseys to give the paradoxical red light to defenders. For the Bears, it seems, green means stop.
Not that junior quarterback Zach Maynard doesn't get at least a bit nervous, especially this week, as Cal prepares to face the green-and-gold of Oregon next Thursday night.
"Yeah, I guess you could say that," Maynard laughed. "The scout team has done a great job, as well as the defense. I'm not sure what they're doing, but we've run against them a couple times with some spread stuff to give them a good idea of what to do against Oregon. They do some good stuff."
Before choosing to attend Buffalo out of high school, Maynard made a visit out to Eugene to take a gander at the Ducks, and witnessed firsthand how loud Autzen Stadium can get. In 2007 -- the same year Maynard visited -- during a game against USC, the Oregon faithful recorded a record raucous of 127.2 decibels, the very point at which tinnitus (ringing in the ears) begins, and the same level at which permanent hearing loss can occur.
"It was pretty crazy," Maynard said. "I think I've seen them in one game when Dennis Dixon was playing, and it was pretty tight, pretty live. It's crazy. It's loud. It's the loudest game we're going to play this year, probably."
In contrast, last week's venue -- Washington's Husky Stadium -- has recorded its own decibel record of over 130 decibels, but that was back in 1992. Not that history matters much to Maynard, who said that the Bears' week two opponent -- Colorado -- seemed to be a more hostile environment.
"Washington was pretty loud, but I feel like Colorado was louder than Washington, just to me. It got pretty loud in Colorado, so I feel like it's going to be louder in Oregon, just because it's Oregon," Maynard said. "It's loud. They're right on top of you. It's a bowl, basically, so we've got to communicate well. That's going to be key. We've got to shut them up early."
Maynard and the Bears did just that to start the second half against the Huskies, leading Cal on a 58-yard, 7:13 drive which ended in a 25-yard field goal by senior Giorgio Tavecchio.
That drive proved emblematic of the Bears' offensive problems last week, as Cal scored four out of five times in the red zone, with three of those being Tavecchio field goals.
Against a typically high-powered Ducks offense which has averaged 52 points per game -- second in the nation behind Georgia Tech -- the Bears won't have the luxury of settling for three.
"We feel confident in our offense. We've done some great things this week," Maynard said. "We're installing right now, and we've got some great plays going against these guys. We just have to keep scoring. It's a quick team. They can get up on you fast, so you have to score as many times as they do. I have all the confidence in the world in our defense, that they can stop them for us, get some three-and-outs, but we've got to put the ball in the end zone."
Trying to stop Cal -- which ranks 17th in the nation with 39.5 points per game -- will be a speedy Ducks defense which surrenders 208.25 yards per game. That figure makes them 55th out of 120 FBS schools, and came against LSU, Nevada, Missouri State and Arizona. The Wildcats, for one, are ranked fifth in the country in passing offense (372.50 ypg). The Tigers are 98th (179.0) and the Wolfpack is 84th (198.33).
With two of the nation's top pass catchers in national receiving yards leader Keenan Allen and senior Marvin Jones -- who is on pace for a 1,000-yard season -- Maynard will have plenty of weapons with which to work.
"Every game, it's important the offense is at their best," said head coach Jeff Tedford. "It comes down to execution, of course, the same as with any other defense. I think we match up with everybody well, it's just about making plays. That's what it's going to come down to."
Last week, the Bears had execution problems aplenty, particularly when it came down to red zone offense.
With the Ducks defense practicing daily against their warp-speed offense, they will put even more pressure on the first-year staring quarterback Maynard and first-year starting tailback Isi Sofele.
"Still the same thing [as last year], a lot of speed around the edges, a lot of quick guys on the field," Maynard said. "We just have to get the ball out.
"The safeties are pretty good. We just have to get good leverage on them."
Oregon's passing defense and passing defense efficiency are ranked second in the Pac-12, headed by free safety John Boyett, who is tied for ninth in the conference in tackles per game (7.3) and tied for sixth in the league with three passes defended. Sophomore linebacker Boseko Lokombo has one pick on the year, and the Ducks' three picks rank second in the Pac-12.
"I've made that comment a couple of times, that, because they're so explosive on offense, that they get a lot of the attention, but the defense is really built around speed, and they do an excellent job, as well," Tedford said. "They're really prepared and they do an excellent job."
Junior cornerback Cliff Harris -- who last year led the Pac-10 in picks with six -- has played sparingly this season, registering just four tackles, two pass break-ups and two passes defended, with no interceptions.
"He's been off and on this year as far as playing time is concerned, but he played more last week and he's a solid corner, no doubt about it," Tedford said. "They have quite a few guys back. They're very good in the secondary, very good with the pass. When you talk about being built on speed, they are. They can really run, sideline to sideline."
-- Speedy redshirt freshman wide receiver Kaelin Clay is still not with the team. According to Tedford, Clay is "still working" on an academic issue. Whether or not this winds up being a wasted year for Clay, "depends on what the outcome is."
-- Tailbacks Dasarte Yarnway and Trajuan Briggs are both sidelined with knee issues. Tedford said that Yarnway recently had a scope done on his knee.
"Him and Trajuan have really been hurt ever since they got here, so those guys have never really been able to get into the swing," Tedford said.
-- After true freshman tailback Brendan Bigelow played exclusively on special teams last week, Tedford said that whether the dynamic runner plays on offense next week will depend on the situation.
"It comes down to really what we're doing and what he feels comfortable with and what we feel comfortable with him doing," Tedford said. "You bring him along, he's really a freshman who hasn't played football for two years, so you bring him along slowly, as far as, there's some complication in the offense from time to time, and he continues to learn every week, and improve. You can tell, as he runs, like returning kicks and getting hit, he's proven that he can hang on to the football, and that's what you always worry about with young guys. He just keeps getting better and better and learning more and more."
-- Defensive end Trevor Guyton wore a yellow jersey on Wednesday, but Tedford said that it is more precautionary than anything, and that he should be available next week in Eugene.
-- Michael Coley and Matt Williams were in red jerseys and shorts during the full-pads practice.