De­fense flexes its mus­cles in scrim­mage

San Francisco Chronicle - - SPORTS - By Rusty Sim­mons Rusty Sim­mons is a San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle staff writer. Email: rsim­mons@ sfchron­i­ Twit­ter: @Rusty_SFChron

Cal run­ning back Vic En­were ap­peared to have se­cured a catch over the mid­dle, but he got drilled in the back be­fore he could tuck away the ball.

After the loose ball was bat­ted around sev­eral times, de­fen­sive back Josh Dray­den snagged it out of the air to com­plete the play and bring the prac­tice to a close.

It was a fit­ting way for Satur­day’s prac­tice to end as the Bears’ de­fense gen­er­ally dom­i­nated a scrim­mage se­quence that in­cluded 19 series of live 11-on-11 ac­tion.

The de­fense stopped the of­fense on 14 of 19 series, record­ing six three-and-outs and four turnovers.

“We call them takeaways,” se­nior in­side line­backer Ray­mond Dav­i­son III said. “It’s not even about hold­ing them or get­ting off the field. We want to get the ball back to our of­fense.

“That’s some­thing we want and some­thing we know will help to change the par­a­digm of the de­fense.”

Cal’s de­fense has widely been con­sid­ered the weak link for a pro­gram that has been in a tail­spin. The Bears have ranked among the na­tion’s bottom five in both points al­lowed and to­tal yardage yielded in three of the past four sea­sons.

The Bears al­lowed 42.6 points per game (127th out of 128 teams) and 518.3 yards from scrim­mage (125th) last season be­fore a trans­for­ma­tion that brought in head coach Justin Wil­cox, who has been a de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor in 11 of his 16 sea­sons in college coach­ing, and de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Tim DeRuyter, who has helped to in­stall a 3-4 de­fense and change the cul­ture of the ma­ligned unit.

“As a group, we want to be great,” Dav­i­son said. “We’re tired of hear­ing Cal’s de­fense is this or that. We have a chip on our shoul­der, and we want to make a dif­fer­ence.”

That was cer­tainly ob­vi­ous dur­ing Satur­day’s prac­tice, dur­ing which sopho­more de­fen­sive back Jaylinn Hawkins had two in­ter­cep­tions and Dray­den added the prac­tice-en­der. The most game-chang­ing play, how­ever, came a lit­tle ear­lier in the ses­sion.

Quar­ter­backs Chase For­rest, Ross Bow­ers, Chase Gar­bers and Bran­don McIl­wain pretty evenly split snaps, and Bow­ers had the best sta­tis­ti­cal day. The sopho­more com­pleted 10 of 15 passes for 145 yards and drove the of­fense from the op­pos­ing 20-yard­line to 6 yards away from a touch­down.

On a fourth-and-goal play from the 6-yard line, Bow­ers got hit as he was throw­ing. The ball wob­bled be­hind the line of scrim­mage, and Dray­den picked it up at about the 20 and raced 80 yards.

“I saw the ball be­hind the line of scrim­mage, so I scooped it up,” Dray­den said. “You know me, I don’t like to fall on it. I don’t think any DB wants to fall on it. We want to pick it up and run.

“When I was run­ning, I was think­ing: ‘I know D-Rob (Demetris Robert­son) is on the field. Don’t get caught by DRob.’ Once I saw (James) Looney got the block, I knew we made it.”

“We want to be great. We’re tired of hear­ing Cal’s de­fense is this or that. We have a chip on our shoul­der.” Ray­mond Dav­i­son III, se­nior in­side line­backer

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