BERKELEY -- Cal's defense has endured a steady diet of running quarterbacks through its first four games, but that changes on Saturday when pass-happy Washington State visits Memorial Stadium.
"Now we can let all the dogs loose, go up field and go get 'em," defensive tackle Viliami Moala said. "Let the big men up front eat first."
It only seems like the Cougars (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12) throw the ball on every play. WSU coach Mike Leach -- co-originator of the Air Raid offense that is the basis for what Cal (1-3, 0-1) now does -- has his team throwing the ball about 77 percent of the time.
And quarterback Connor Halliday, expected to play after spraining an ankle last week against Stanford, has a strong arm but little interest in running the ball.
That should be a welcome relief to Cal's defensive line, which has just four sacks through four games, partly because it's been preoccupied with boxing in running threats such as Ohio State's Kenny Guiton and Oregon's Marcus Mariota.
"I feel we've been containing them pretty well," nose tackle Deandre Coleman said. "It's important for us to pressure him, get sacks, force turnovers."
Coach Sonny Dykes has been somewhat critical of his defensive line, expected to be the most veteran group on that side of the ball. Now the line faces a bigger challenge due to attrition at end, with injuries claiming Brennan Scarlett and Sione Sina, and Chris McCain dismissed from the team.
"I've been a little surprised we haven't been more productive, honestly," Dykes said. "We haven't seen a lot of straight drop-back passes. Quite frankly, we haven't put people in a lot of those situations. A lot of sacks come as a result of putting people in third and longs."
Opponents have run the ball so effectively against the Bears -- who are allowing a conference-worst 262.5 rushing yards per game -- that foes rarely are forced into must-pass situations.
Against the Cougars, who are averaging just 60.6 rushing yards per game, a pass rush becomes more important.
"That needs to get better. We need to pressure this week and get some sacks," Dykes said. "We've got to make the quarterback uncomfortable."
Dykes credited Leach as having the biggest influence on him as a football coach of anyone he's been around.
"I've always respected Mike for being himself," Dykes said. "Sometimes in a world of coaches, whatever the flavor of the month is is kind of what people like.
"Mike's original and one of a kind. He taught me about being authentic. Players can see through bull. There's no bull with him."
His résumé far exceeds his achievements at Cal, and includes being the first Michigan athlete to earn 12 varsity letters, serving as an assistant coach under Bud Wilkinson at Oklahoma, and as head coach at Nebraska, Miami and Illinois, where he coached Dick Butkus.