EUGENE, Ore. -- Cal's performance against Oregon last season suggests defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast has a pretty good grip on the Ducks offense.
Now the question is whether Pendergast still has the players to duplicate the effort.
The Bears shut down Oregon's powerful offense like no other team in last year's regular season in a 15-13 loss, holding the Ducks to one offensive touchdown and 317 yards. Oregon ended up leading the country in scoring offense (47 points per game) and total offense (530.69 yards per game).
But three key players from last year's defense were taken in the NFL draft last spring, and so far the Bears are struggling to overcome it. While its run defense has been solid, Cal has been gashed for 236 passing yards per game, seventh in the Pac-12. Take away the 28 yards the Bears allowed to Football Championship Subdivision opponent Presbyterian, and the number jumps to 305.3. The Bears are allowing 25.7 points per game against the three Football Bowl Subdivision opponents they have played.
"We're a different defense now," Pendergast said. "We've lost guys. We have guys playing in different spots. We're not thinking about what we did last year. I don't want the guys to even think about that. I told them to forget about what we did last year."
Defensive end Cameron Jordan was taken in the first round of the NFL draft, safety Chris Conte went in the third and linebacker Mike Mohamed was selected in the
While the Bears return key players such as linebackers Mychal Kendricks and D.J. Holt and safety Sean Cattouse, they also are inexperienced at other important positions.
Their rotation at outside linebacker includes true freshmen Cecil Whiteside and Chris McCain and redshirt freshman Dave Wilkerson. Senior Ryan Davis and redshirt sophomore Dan Campreale also see time after not playing much before this season.
"This is this year. You can't take last game and just think it's going to happen again," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "It's a very difficult offense to defend, obviously. It's not going to happen by just talking about what happened last year. I know they'll be motivated to make sure they show better."
Oregon's players and coaches say the Bears didn't do anything that surprised them last season but gave them credit for having a sound scheme and excellent execution. With Heisman Trophy candidate LaMichael James and quarterback Darron Thomas back, the ninth-ranked Ducks are once again piling up big numbers. They again are leading the nation in scoring offense (52 ppg) and are sixth in total offense (533.75 ypg). James leads the nation in rushing (153.25 ypg).
"Cal did a good job last year," Thomas said. "They came out with a good scheme. But this year we're prepared for it. We just have to come out and play our game, execute our game plan."
While the Bears defense has struggled this season, it hasn't faced a spread offense like Oregon's. Cal thinks it has the type of speed on defense that can contend with the Ducks' wide-open attack. But a handful of those fast players are inexperienced and aren't used to Oregon's fast-paced, no-huddle offense.
"I've been on all the young guys, letting them know this is not an easy game," Holt said. "It's going to be tough out there. We have the speed to cover it. If we go out and execute and do our job, everything will handle itself."
The Bears have had a few extra days of practice to prepare for the Ducks because they are coming off a bye week, but Oregon was off last weekend, too. Still, the additional preparation time has helped Cal get ready for the Ducks' frantic pace, as the scout team offense has run the defense up and down the field.
"We know their scheme. We're familiar with it," Cattouse said. "It gives us a lot of confidence that we can do even better this time. They're going to definitely have something different, but no team is going to get too much (away from) what they do well. I think (last year's) experience will keep us a step ahead."