September 27, 1998
Berkeley - A day after Cal's dominant defensive performance in the win over Washington State, defensive coordinator Lyle Setencich said the films indicated that the Bears are beginning to develop into one of the top defenses in the Pac-10.
"We are dramatically improved from last year," said Setencich. "The key is we're playing better for longer periods of time. It's a matter of having more experienced players who are playing smarter. We need to keep improving and growing as a defense, because we have some challenges ahead of us. However, I'm awfully proud of this group. We're playing hard every play. Defense is truly a team effort and that's what we got against Washington State."
The Bears had six turnovers against Washington State, three of which resulted in touchdowns - a 10-yard TD by defensive end Mawuko Tugbenyoh after he stripped WSU's DeJuan Gilmore of the ball and sprinted into the endzone, a 76-yard interception return by Deltha O'Neal and a 26-yard interception return by Drae Harris.
Cal allowed WSU, which finished second nationally in total offense last season, only three first downs in the first half. However, the Cougars had a 75-yard TD play on the second play of the third quarter and Cal gave up a 43-yard pass, a 26-yard run and a 29-yard TD pass in that third quarter. Take away those four plays (a total of 173 yards) and the Bears would have held Washington State to only 160 yards.
"We were almost error free in the first half, but we had some assignment errors in the second half that allowed some big plays," said Setencich. "It was similar to the Nebraska game in some ways in that we played great defense for long periods, but still had some breakdowns.
"As a coach or a player, you cannot tolerate assignment errors. I hope our players are upset with those mistakes like I am. That's the way we're going to get better."
The current NCAA stats show the Bears are now tied for 19th nationally in scoring defense, allowing 15.0 points a game. Cal is 9th in pass efficiency defense with a 83.6 rating and is tied for 48th in total defense (330.0 yards per game). The Bears are tied for 7th in turnover margin at +1.75 turnovers per game.
The Bears are first among all Pac-10 teams in turnover margin, 2nd in scoring defense, 2nd in pass efficiency defense and 5th in total defense.
Setencich said that defensive end Andre Carter hoped to be back in time for the USC game after missing the entire second half with a sprained ankle and that the status of free safety Pete Destefano, who missed the WSU game with a sprained knee, was uncertain for the next Cal game.
"We can use this bye week to get a few of our players healthy," said Setencich. "We're hopeful of getting both Andre and Pete back, but that may be optimistic. We'll just have to wait and see how they respond to treatment."
Setencich also said that he was not shocked by the Nebraska rout of Washington. "I wasn't surprised by that score at all," he said. "Lincoln (home of Nebraska) is a tough place to play and they can really get it going at home."