As Cal prepares to face TCU on Saturday afternoon, both defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave say their unit must — and will — make big steps forward this week.
The Bears (0-1) are coming off a 22-17 loss to Nevada in which the offense faltered badly after the first quarter and the defense was susceptible to big plays.
In the video above Sirmon answers my question about how well outside linebackers Cameron Goode and Kuony Deng played last Saturday — 3 tackles each but no game-changing plays.
“They graded out, actually, very well in terms of what we asked them to do,” he said, going on to explain both players were tasked with setting a defensive edge to help contain the run game. “I’m happy with how how they played, with how they executed the techniques.”
Sirmon was pleased with the effort against the run, with the Wolf Pack managing just 61 rushing yards. Singling out defensive ends JH Tevis and Luc Bequette, he said, “I thought they were fantastic.
”I thought (defending) the run game was positive. But other parts need to be significantly improved.”
Sirmon (above) talks about how Cal might utilize Cameron Goode and Kuony Deng
Circling back to Goode and Deng, Sirmon hinted the coaching staff may tweak their assignments this week, giving them more opportunity to make impact plays.
“What we need to do is give them a little more freedom to rush the quarterback on some of the down and distances," he said. "Let ‘em go and let ‘em make some plays on their own talent and kind of let their experience come through a little it more.”
Goode has been a big-play man since arriving at Cal, providing pick-sixes his freshman and sophomore seasons. Deng, at 6-foot-6, 240 pounds, forced two fumbles last year that helped secure the win over Oregon.
Sirmon on the performance of the secondary against Nevada
Sirmon echoed the evaluation of head coach Justin Wilcox, who said three Nevada pass plays covering at least 40 yards marred the Bears' defensive performance.
"Those three plays really stick out — they were a huge part of the outcome of the game," Sirmon said.
In the video above, he goes on to discuss TCU's wide receiving corps, which includes big targets such as 6-4, 201-pound Quentin Johnston and 6-5, 214-pound Savion Williams along with smaller, quick players including 5-9, 162-pound Derius Davis an 5-9, 173-pound J.D. Spielman.
Keys will be pressuring quarterback Max Duggan and talking in space, Sirmon said.
Musgrave says he anticipates a big step forward this week by the offense
Musgrave was not happy with the offense scoring just three points after the first quarter last week, but said improvement is on the way.
“We want more. We want more touches for everybody, more production. More across the board," he said. "Looking forward to making a big jump here between weeks one and two.”
Asked if he could explain the sudden drop-off against Nevada, Musgrave responded, “Across the board, we lost our rhythm and we didn’t gain it back until it was too late and then we couldn’t pull out the victory there at the end.”
Musgrave talks about TCU coach Gary Patterson's defense
Even if the Bears' offense takes a step forward, Musgrave knows TCU coach Gary Patterson's defense -- which led the Big 12 in 2017, 2018 and 2019 -- will provide a significant challenge.
“His defense has been doing the same thing for 21 years. They’re really good at it. It’s cutting-edge stuff with coach Patterson," Musgrave said. "They know what they’re doing and they’ve got really good people to execute it. They’ve got good pass rushers and their corners are good at what they do, covering people.”
Key players on the TCU defense are junior Ochaun Mathis, a 6-5, 257-pound defensive end who had nine sacks last season, and junior cornerback Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, the nephew of Hall of Fame running back LaDanian Tomlinson, who led the Big 12 last season with 13 passes defended.
Cover photo of Cameron Goode by Jayne Kamin-Oncea, USA Today
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo