Cal's Defense Was Hit or Miss Against WSU in Win

Photo: <b>Cameron Jordan</b> celebrates after sacking Washington State quarterback Jeff Tuel in the third quarter. The defensive lineman recorded six tackles and a team-high 2.5 sacks.
Skyler Reid/Staff
Cameron Jordan celebrates after sacking Washington State quarterback Jeff Tuel in the third quarter. The defensive lineman recorded six tackles and a team-high 2.5 sacks.

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Although the score indicated otherwise, the Washington State football team had the momentum heading into halftime on Saturday.

Down 35-3, the Cougars scored the last two touchdowns of the first half and blocked Cal's last-second field goal attempt to cut the deficit to 18.

Quarterback Jeff Tuel had picked apart the Bears' passing defense to the tune of 232 yards and two touchdowns by that point.

In the eyes of the coaching staff, it was simply the little things that were not being done.

"We lost our focus," defensive coordinator Bob Gregory said. "We got out to an early lead and thought it was too easy and lost our focus, particularly the secondary."

Concerned with the letdown, members of the coaching staff and backup players voiced their opinions during the halftime meeting.

"We had some nice fire words in the locker room at halftime," defensive end Cameron Jordan said. "It even came from one of the young bucks. Steve Fanua came in and fired everybody up. He doesn't like losing. The boy is crazy."

One of the points emphasized was tackling.

Arguably the most noticeable player guilty of missed tackles was cornerback Darian Hagan. Despite coming off one of his best performances ever last week against UCLA, Hagan struggled to make several key tackles in the open field and gave up a couple big passing plays against WSU.

"He needs to be more consistent, no question about it," Gregory said. "Very poor game today, and we just got to keep working with these kids to grow and mature."

While Hagan, along with the rest of the secondary, managed to stay in front of the Cougars' offense more in the second half, it was the play of the defensive line that stepped up in key moments. The first, and arguably most important, occurred on Washington State's first drive of the second half.

Tuel had just completed a 13-yard strike to move the ball to the Cougars' own 34. After a false start, Tuel dropped back to pass on first down only to be sacked by Jordan for a 10-yard loss.

Washington State was forced to punt two plays later and went three-and-out on its following two series.

"That sack was huge," nose tackle Derrick Hill said. "They were moving and Cam's sack stopped the momentum and brought it back to our side."

Overall, the group of Hill, Jordan, Tyson Alualu and Trevor Guyton combined for five sacks, 19 tackles and a pass break-up.

In an effort to get more one-on-one situations on the line, the defense switched to the 4-3 scheme on several series and put all four players up front.

"To be back out there (in a 4-3) was a great experience," Hill said. "When we first used it, (defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi) was like, 'Welcome back.' We had a lot of fun doing it."

The defensive effort resulted in just 141 yards and zero points in the second half for the Cougars. On the day, Washington State had just 55 rushing yards.

Still, the lackadaisical effort in the second quarter by Cal led to the Cougars churning out their highest offensive output of the year -- 440 yards. For the Bears, those numbers will serve as a reminder for a more complete effort in future games.

"It's going to take all four quarters," Gregory said. "No one in this league is good enough to ease up ... Every week is a battle."


Contact Jimmy Tran at [email protected]

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