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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“Sans Best, Bears still pose danger”

The California football team won’t be at its best during Saturday afternoon’s contest against Arizona, but that doesn’t mean the Golden Bears aren’t dangerous.

Star running back Jahvid Best won’t play against the No. 18 Wildcats after he sustained a severe concussion during last week’s 31-14 loss to Oregon State. The junior might not play for the rest of the season as he continues his recovery, but there won’t be much of a drop off as sophomore Shane Vereen will shoulder the load for the time being.

“”(Best) is the nation’s best running back, and I’m sure Cal is really going to miss him. He’s definitely a big part of their offense,”” said UA defensive end Brooks Reed. “”I’m sure their next guy is going to be another great athlete so we’re going to prepare the same for him as if Jahvid was still there.””

Quarterback Kevin Riley could take some of the pressure off of Vereen if the junior signal caller can play with some consistency. In the Bear’s six wins Riley has thrown 13 touchdown passes compared to only one interception. In his team’s three losses Riley has just one scoring toss and two interceptions.

If Riley can regain his form during Cal’s three-game win streak in October — he had eight touchdown passes and one interception combined against UCLA, Washington State and ASU — he might make life difficult for the Wildcats.

“”He’s had a pretty good season overall. Every game he comes ready to play against us,”” said UA linebacker Sterling Lewis. “”(Cal head coach Jeff) Tedford, he coaches up the quarterbacks pretty good so we’ll come out prepared against them for sure.””

Despite how Riley and Vereen play against Arizona, the play of the Golden Bear’s defensive unit against the Wildcats will likely determine the outcome of the game. In the team’s three losses it’s allowed 30, 31 and 42 points. Cal’s defense particularly struggled defending the pass — the team ranks 93rd in the nation in pass efficiency defense out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams — and ranks 78th in total defense.

Arizona boasts the 13th best offense in the country in terms of total yardage and ranks 35th in passing yards per game. That combination doesn’t bode well for Cal.

“”We have to make some plays on the ball. … I think our guys are competing for the ball but (the opposition is) coming up with them,”” Cal head coach Jeff Tedford told local media earlier this week. “”… Defensively, as far as defending the pass, it comes down to pressuring the passer, re-routing receivers, not letting guys run free and then making plays when you’re in position to make plays. So it’s an accumulation of everything, it’s not just one thing.””

The one thing the Bears will have working undisputedly in their favor is the home crowd. The last time Arizona made the trip to Berkeley the team got pounded during a 45-27 Cal win. It wasn’t even close as the Bears lead 28-3 after the first quarter and 31-10 at halftime. This year, the Wildcats will visit Strawberry Canyon during Cal’s Senior Day.

With all the festivities that go along with the final home game of the season, on top of the injury to Best, the Bears could be buoyed by all the emotion surrounding a critical conference clash.

“”When you play at Arizona, I know that’s a hostile environment, and so when they come here you leave the confines of your own stadium you have to deal with crowd noise,”” Tedford said. “”… This is the last game of the year at home for us, the last game for our seniors to walk down that tunnel, and so I hope that the fans come out and pay tribute to our seniors and make it a home field advantage for us. A lot of that has to do with the fans, and so I’m hoping that they’ll come out and give the team full support this week.””

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