Midweek Notebook: Week 9

Photo: Safety Brett Johnson and the Cal defense had trouble wrapping up Arizona's offensive weapons--like tight end Rob Gronkowski--during the Wildcats' 42-27 win last Saturday.
Nick Fradkin/File
Safety Brett Johnson and the Cal defense had trouble wrapping up Arizona's offensive weapons--like tight end Rob Gronkowski--during the Wildcats' 42-27 win last Saturday.

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Defense Addresses Missed Tackles

When asked about the major factors in Arizona's 28-point third quarter last Saturday, several members of the Cal football team's defense pointed to a dropoff in one fundamental area--technique.

"Guys just took turns messing up," senior linebacker Anthony Felder said. "People weren't playing their technique."

The Bears, who hadn't allowed a 100-yard rusher all season, gave up 149 yards on the ground to the Wildcats' backup running back Keola Antolin. Cal seemed to have some uncharacteristic trouble wrapping up the 5-foot-8 Antolin, as well as Arizona wideout Mike Thomas and tight end Rob Gronkowski.

"Tackling's a want-to thing," linebacker Worrell Williams said. "There's nothing more, coaches do all that we need to do during the week to prepare. In the game, in the heat of the moment, you just lose certain techniques, you forget to wrap, or you just try to knock somebody out and really don't follow through with the hit."

Cornerback Darian Hagan also voiced the idea that tackling is a "mentality thing," and that improvement isn't based as much on repetitions as in-game focus.

"Everybody has to have that mentality that, 'I'm not gonna miss this tackle,'" Hagan said. "Just get it done. It's on us, really."

Tavecchio Makes Case for Starting Role

With kicker David Seawright injured, walk-on freshman Giorgio Tavecchio made the first road trip of his Cal career and, in the first quarter, was called upon for his first career field goal attempt-from 50 yards.

"I guess it was just throwing into the fire, best way to start," Tavecchio said. "That was the longest field goal I've ever attempted by about 10 yards."

The Milan, Italy, product said that his longest attempt in high school was 42 yards. Still, Tavecchio's kick on the 50-yarder had enough distance, but missed just outside the right upright.

"I was on the right hash so my view was that the ball was going right down the middle," Tavecchio said. "I went back and looked at my steps. I think I made a small--about an inch or two--mistake going wide that cost me a couple yards in the air, which cost me the field goal."

Tavecchio's performance on Saturday was something of a pleasant surprise for the Bears. He made his second and third attempts from 42 and 40 yards, respectively, converted all three of his extra point attempts and averaged 61.3 yards on six kickoffs--a sore spot for Cal through the first half of the season. After apparently mishitting his first kickoff, Tavecchio proceeded to land the next couple around the Wildcats' five-yard line.

It was also reassuring for the Bears, as Seawright's status for Saturday's home game against UCLA is still up in the air.

"I would fully anticipate that Giorgio continues to kick," Tedford said. "He did a pretty good job the other day."

First Conference Slip-Up Doesn't Phase Bears

With their first Pac-10 loss on Saturday, the Bears (4-2. 2-1 in the Pac-10) actually dropped from first to fifth in the conference, as four teams are currently 3-1.

Tedford, though, was adamant in saying that Cal has in no way written off its shot at a Pac-10 title.

"Shoot, we're 4-2," he said. "We're not gonna start playing for the future. We're still in the hunt, big time."

Last year, after the Bears had their first conference loss come in heartbreaking fashion against Oregon State, they proved unable to recover. And after falling to UCLA the next weekend, Williams came out and said that the team had little left to play for other than pride.

But on Tuesday, the senior linebacker said that this year's squad is more likely to handle--and bounce back from--their first Pac-10 defeat.

"It's a lot better leadership, a lot of guys who are more vocal," Williams said. "I think we're-well equipped to lead this team, have a loss, have a letdown, get right back up and get back on task.

"After the game was over, I kind of gathered the guys up and said, 'We can't expect to play like we did and expect to win.'"

Hagan, for one, bought into the senior's words.

"We feel, as a team, as if we're going to win the Pac-10," Hagan said. "We're not really worried about that. We're just going to take one game at a time ... We're still in a good situation, just like Coach Tedford said. We control our own destiny."

For that reason, when asked about the possibility of starting Kevin Riley in the interest of preparing him for next season, Tedford made it clear that his focus is on the here and now.

"We're not playing for the coming years," he said. "No way. This is about this year. This is about being productive right now."


Contact Matt Kawahara at [email protected]

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