Sept. 7, 2002
Cal had many stars in its 34-13 victory over New Mexico State Saturday, but one defender outshined them all. Tully Banta-Cain recorded 4.5 sacks for 26 yards and forced a fumble, as the Bears ran their record to 2-0.
"Things have been going our way so far this year and I hope they continue that way," said Banta-Cain, a senior defensive end. "Today was probably my biggest game. I really wanted to play well today, and luckily things worked out in my favor."
His performance moved Banta-Cain into ninth place on the Bears' all-time sack list with 19. With 4.5 sacks today, Banta-Cain now has posted an amazing 9.5 sacks in his past three games, dating back to last year's season finale at Rutgers.
"I have to give my teammates all the credit for the sacks I have been getting," he said. "If everyone doesn't do their job then, I wouldn't have the time or space to get to the quarterback."
Along with his defensive teammates, the Cal offense has also been playing an important role in Banta-Cain's success.
"I also have to thank the offense for building a big lead," Banta-Cain added. "When we force our opponents into passing situations, then it makes it easier for me to get to the quarterback."
The Bears, who have yet to trail in a game this year, have forced their opponents into many long-yardage situations, where Banta-Cain has been given the luxury to pass rush without worrying about the run.
"In passing situations I am given the green light to pin my ears back and go, that's when football is fun," he said.
The Bears seem to be having a lot of fun on defense so far this season, forcing a total of seven turnovers and giving the quick-strike Cal offense good field position.
"We have a very aggressive defense," head coach Jeff Tedford said. "When you swarm to the ball like we do your going to force turnovers."
The defense seems to be gelling at the right time as it set its sights on the biggest challenge of the young season next weekend.
"I felt we really needed this game today. It was really important to us to go to Michigan State 2-0," said Banta-Cain.
The Bears will try to carry the momentum from their early season success to East Lansing, Mich., Saturday when they take on the Spartans in search of their first 3-0 start since 1996.