Sports » Paul Gackle

Cal offensive line in for stern test

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Cal Bears face-off against Arizona State University in their next game. - GETTY IMAGES FILE PHOTO
  • Getty Images File Photo
  • Cal Bears face-off against Arizona State University in their next game.

Cal’s battered offensive line will face another test Saturday when it lines up against the revamped Arizona State defense at Memorial Stadium.

Through four games, the Sun Devils (3-1) are tied for first in the nation with Tulsa for most tackles for a loss (39).

Even more impressive: 14 percent of the team’s tackles this season have come behind the line of scrimmage.
This isn’t good news for a Bears offensive line that is allowing an average of four sacks per game (116th in the nation), including nine last week against USC.

But Cal (1-3) should be optimistic for at least one reason: senior right tackle Matt Summers-Gavin might be healthy enough to suit up Saturday.

For the last three weeks, the Bears have featured a line with only one player who’d experienced live game action prior to this season. Coach Jeff Tedford said Summers-Gavin — who’s missed the last three games with a knee injury — practiced Tuesday and he considers him day-to-day right now.

“It [would be] nice to have a veteran up there when you need some direction and leadership,” Tedford said.

Nowhere to run: Last week Tedford said it would be challenging to get all three of his running backs — Isi Sofele, C.J. Anderson and Brendan Bigelow — involved in the offense against USC. In reality, Tedford was hard pressed to find carries for any of them.

The Bears’ backfield combined for only 17 carries against USC.  When the Cal did hand off the ball, they were effective picking up nearly 5.1 yards per carry.

But Tedford said the Bears weren’t gaining enough positive yardage on first down to stick with the rushing attack.
“We got stuck in a lot of long-yardage situations, so we needed to throw the football,” he said.

Tedford said he’d like to be more patient with the running game this week.

Stanford’s next step: After knocking off San Jose State, Duke and No. 13 USC in the friendly confines of Stanford Stadium, the Cardinal will try to replicate those performances on the road Thursday against Washington (2-1).   

No. 8 Stanford (3-0) has won six of its last seven meetings with the Huskies, but this game will be the first venture into a hostile environment for several first year starters, including quarterback Josh Nunes.

Stanford is practicing with cranked up noise, but coach David Shaw said it’s difficult to replicate the conditions his players will face at CenturyLink Field (home of the Seattle Seahawks), widely considered the loudest stadium in the NFL.

“We can’t simulate that environment, we can’t simulate the emotions,” he said.

Containing Price: Stanford’s front seven could be treated to a feast this week against a Huskies offensive line that has lost three of four returning starters to injury.  

The Cardinal defensive front showed their dominance against USC, sacking quarterback Matt Barkley four times while pressuring him throughout the game.

But Huskies quarterback Keith Price — who set single-season school records for touchdown passes (33), completion percentage (66.9) and passing efficiency (161.9) last year — can create extra time with his feet.

“He’s the X-factor,” Shaw said. “Our secondary has done an extremely good job, but when Price can make them have to cover for three more seconds — that’s tough.”