Another home game, another Cal rout, another new recruit making a name for himself.
One week after the scintillating debut of freshman wide receiver Keenan Allen, the Bears received a five-star performance from first-year defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast.
Cal's 52-7 win over Colorado on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium came mostly on the strength of a 31-0 first half during which Pendergast's unit barely let the Buffaloes breathe. The Bears swarmed and stormed, sacking quarterback Tyler Hansen five times, picking off two passes, forcing two fumbles and holding Colorado to 2.3 yards per play.
The Buffs, from the Big 12 conference, finished with 239 yards in offense, most of it coming after the game had been decided. That they won the time-of-possession battle and finished with 17 first downs (to Cal's 18) doesn't amount to much when you consider they scored their lone touchdown late in the third quarter -- after which Cal responded with 21 points.
Colorado's baptism into the Pac-10, which it enters in 2012, sent the Buffs back to Boulder in a daze.
"We underestimated how fast they were," said Hansen, who ended up throwing three picks and being sacked six times.
"We got off to a bad start," Buffs coach Dan Hawkins said. "And it got worse from there."
Cal's defense showcased a marvelous display of hair-on-fire football -- something rarely glimpsed during eight years under the polite, generally conservative strategies of former DC Bob Gregory.
That brings us back to Pendergast. Or, as his players, call him, Coach P.
See, Gregory's delayed departure in February, coming nearly two months after Cal's season ended in a Poinsettia Bowl loss to Utah, put head coach Jeff Tedford in a bind. He needed a DC and the best candidates, including Pendergast, already had found new jobs.
Tedford didn't look far. He sought out Pendergast, who had been hired by the Raiders as a defensive assistant after one season as DC in Kansas City. Pendergast's 11th day as a Raider was his last.
For Tedford, it was a remarkable recovery. He had, in the clutch, lured a 15-year NFL coach back to college.
For Pendergast, it was highly convenient. All he had to do was pack up his professional tools and move them up the road to Berkeley.
"I had a good job," he said. "But I had an opportunity to be a coordinator."
Now, two games into the season, Cal already has established a new defensive identity. It attacks and continues to attack. That's how Pendergast, who was the DC for the Arizona Cardinals Super Bowl team two seasons ago, goes about the job.
"We want to be active," he said. "We want to be disruptive."
Eight quarters into his first college season since 1994, Pendergast's style has been a resounding success. The 10 points allowed in the first two games are the fewest not only during Tedford's tenure but by any Bears team since 1968.
"This game would have been a shutout," Cal quarterback Kevin Riley said, "if we'd sustained a drive in the third quarter and gave our defense a rest."
But here is what's special about Pendergast's schemes: They are being embraced by his charges.
"I'm loving it," said senior linebacker Mike Mohamed, who returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown late in the first quarter.
"When Coach P came in, right off the bat, we knew it was going to be an aggressive style defense," senior linebacker Jarred Price said, wearing a wraparound smile. "I love playing in an attacking defense -- not a wait-and-read (defense)."
What went without saying was that Gregory's reactive defense too often put his players on their heels. Yards would pile up. Points usually followed -- sometimes leading to inexplicable defeat.
Though Tedford was exceedingly loyal to Gregory, even as alumni grumbled, he wanted the new look and welcomes its results.
"He cut some of those guys loose and let them get after the passer," Tedford said. "It gets everybody fired up," he added, loosely referring to Cal's 11 tackles for loss. "I think (the offense and defense) feed off each other."
This day was mostly a matter of a defense feeding off its coach. Though Riley threw four touchdown passes and the Bears rushed for 159 yards, the defense set the tone and kept bringing pressure.
It was an unusual sight for the 55,440 at Strawberry Canyon. Very much welcome, however. As the season plays on, we'll see if Coach P's Wrecking Crew can sustain it.
Contact Monte Poole at firstname.lastname@example.org.