Andrew Wild, sports editor at The Daily Californian, joins DM sports editor Grayson Weir to discuss Saturday’s matchup between Ole Miss and the University of California, Berkeley.
Andrew Wild: How has the team reacted to the late coaching change?
Grayson Weir: The team has reacted exactly how one could hope. The boys are fired up here in Oxford, have embraced the role of the underdog and are behind one another and head coach Matt Luke 100 percent. Like coach Luke said, “You don’t have to be blood to be family. It just has to be real.”
AW: What is the most dangerous part of Patterson’s game?
GW: His ability to extend plays, no question. Don’t get me wrong – his arm is unbelievable, and his legs are pretty quick, but it’s his ability to make nothing into something. Last year, we saw it in the A&M game, and people started hyping him up to Money Manziel. I don’t like that comparison because I see them as two different players. Manziel was/is a running quarterback, and Shea is a mobile quarterback – they’re separate entities. Shea uses his feet to make something happen when it appears the pocket has collapsed or he’s inches from being tackled.
AW: Most vulnerable aspect of the defense?
GW: The inability to wrap up. It’s a glaring problem that was emphasized in practice all week and needs to be fixed. We’ll see come Saturday.
AW: What player will be most crucial for the defense to play well in this game?
GW: I think I’m going to be lame and say the whole secondary. Our defensive line has been able to get a decent push between Victor Evans stepping up, Marquis Haynes having a good year so far and Josiah Coatney’s potential to blow up the middle. Once the running back, quarterback – whoever has the ball – gets past our line and into our secondary … God bless it. A.J. Moore has been pulling as much weight as he can, but the guys around him need to tackle.
AW: What is the most interesting tendency through the first two games?
GW: Our offense has put up 918 yards in the air and only 156 yards on the ground through two games. All pass, no run.
Grayson Weir: Short and sweet. Shea Patterson has accounted for more than 1,000 yards offense through two games. Cal gave up 431 yards in the air to Weber State’s quarterback. How is defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter preparing for Patterson?
Andrew Wild: Cal’s defense is a long ways from good, but I still feel that giving up 431 yards to an FCS quarterback was largely the result of fluky breakdowns in the secondary. The Bears’ corners actually looked pretty damn good against UNC before just blowing a few jump balls against Weber, and I’d expect to see some personnel moves in the very back of the defense that will help out. The bigger problem has been setting the edge in the front seven. DeRuyter is still in the midst of integrating a 3-4 scheme without the required personnel, and the results haven’t been pretty. My guess is that we’ll see more basic man coverage and maybe some added pressure, too, because right now, the basic pass rush isn’t getting the job done.
GW: Tre Watson is out for the year, but Patrick Laird stepped up and had a day in his absence. Is Laird the guy? How much confidence do you have in him? How big of a workload is he slated to have Saturday?
AW: Laird was named captain heading into this game, so I definitely think that he’s the guy. You’ll still see snaps for Vic Enwere, who Watson was splitting snaps with the whole way, but Laird should be primarily featured, especially because of what he’s given the team as a receiver. The offensive line just isn’t good enough to support the kind of offense that supports a power back like Enwere, so a more versatile scatback like Laird is naturally a better fit. I’ve been shocked by the speed he’s shown, but you can’t fake burst, so I would say he’s shown enough for me to trust him in this spot.
GW: Ole Miss wide receivers coach Jacob Peeler came over from Berkeley just a year ago and has brought a new swagger to an already deep, talented receiving core. The Cal secondary has been proven thin. Is the defense looking to change schemes for a stronger matchup against the air attack?
AW: Like I was saying above, the secondary had so many miscommunications and breakdowns against Weber State that I just don’t think it’s in a position to try anything that out-of-the-box to slow down those big wide receivers. Maybe we’d see some tricky zone schemes if the guys looked up to it, but I don’t think that’s the case. We’ve got two freshmen splitting one of the corner spots, but DeRuyter seems to really trust those guys, and I don’t expect that to change.
GW: Both teams have started slowly in the first two weeks of the season. If they come out flat again Saturday, who do you think will be the catalyst?
AW: Laird has been responsible for a shocking amount of the offense so far, but I expect you guys to key on him and limit his production. The guy it’s really up to is sophomore receiver Demetris Robertson. He’s one of the fastest guys in all of college football and got some freshman All-American honors last year. Quarterback Ross Bowers has been completely unable to make anything happen with him thus far, missing him wide open down the sideline a bunch of times already. After practice, Bowers talked about needing to get on the same page with Robertson, so that could be an important part of a hot start Saturday.
GW: What is it going to take for the Golden Bears to leave California Memorial Stadium 3-0? Prediction?
AW: The biggest things Cal needs to do is make sure Robertson is a major part of the game plan and continue to force turnovers on defense, which it’s been excellent at. The team has quickly developed a real penchant for punching the ball out, and if Rebels’ ball carriers aren’t ready, that could be huge for the Bears. Being able to set the edge on defense and get pressure out of the base rush packages would help, too, but that honestly looks like too much to ask for at this point. I’ll say Ole Miss takes it 42-34.
GW: Obviously, this Pac-12/SEC matchup is unique. Is there hype out in Berkeley?
AW: The writers covering this team are definitely excited to see an SEC team in action, but your stereotypical expectations about Berkeley are probably right in that most kids likely think SEC is a molecular compound. Additionally, with USC on the docket next week, that’s probably sucking some of the hype out of this matchup.