PASADENA -- Cal's defensive line has become a disruptive force, and it's all because of true freshmen Mustafa Jalil and Viliama Moala.

No, not because of their pedestrian 14 combined tackles this season. They have forced the starters to play at a higher level in fear of losing their jobs.

"I definitely think they are pushing us," said starting defensive end Ernest Owusu, who has emerged in recent weeks. "The fact that we're competing so much every day, it's going to show on the field. We're all pushing each other. That forces you to play better."

And Cal's defensive line has played much better the past three weeks. Owusu and Trevor Guyton on the outside along with Aaron Tipoti at nose tackle have been getting more consistently into the backfield, combining for seven tackles for loss during that span. Owusu and Tipoti each has a forced fumble as well.

"I'm not big on playing a lot of guys. You have to earn your way on the field," Cal defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said. "We have our guys that we're going to play. If you want to have a chance to spell people, you have to show us in practice that you can go out there and do the job."

The defensive line's play has made things easier on the rest of the defense. At times, Pendergast can keep a linebacker back in coverage instead of devoting him to stopping the run. It also has helped the Bears get increased pressure on the quarterback.

While in some 3-4 alignments the defensive linemen are there to eat up blocks so linebackers can make the plays, Pendergast wants everyone to play aggressively.


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"Everything starts up front," Pendergast said. "We feel comfortable with how they're getting off blocks. I try to put them in a position where they're going to have an advantage on an offensive lineman. This defense is built on everybody making plays, and that starts with the guys up front. They want to have fun, too."

The Bears had a defensive end picked in the first round of the NFL draft in each of the past two years (Tyson Alualu and Cameron Jordan). Guyton and Owusu feel the need to keep the position playing at a high level.

"We want to build a tradition of great defensive linemen," Owusu said.