If Dykes’ Cal team is going to snap its 14-game losing streak against Pac-12 Conference competition at Stanford Stadium in the Big Game on Saturday, its defensive front will need to hold its ground against the No. 10 Cardinal’s bullish offensive line.
Stanford (8-2) is fourth in the Pac-12 in rushing offense this year (205.5 yards per game), gashing defenses with a line that features Outland Trophy candidates David Yankey and Cameron Fleming and 2012 five-star recruit Andrus Peat.
Dykes said No. 23 USC beat Stanford last week by “playing well up front.”
“That’s the strength of their defense,” Dykes said. “I thought they did a good job up front, thought they limited Stanford’s big plays for the most part and tackled well, so we know what the formula is, we’ve just got to do a good job of playing now.”
But run stopping isn’t exactly a strength of the injury plagued Bears’ defense. Cal (1-10) is ranked 11th in the Pac-12 in rushing defense this year, surrendering an average of 188.8 yards per game.
“We’ve just got to play tough, got to use our hands, got to play with great leverage, get off blocks,” Dykes said. “At times this year, we’ve been pretty effective at stopping the run — we’ve just given up too many big plays.”
The Bears might be the biggest underdog in Big Game history this season, but Dykes is reminding his team that “a lot of crazy things have happened” in the rivalry’s 115-year history.
“A lot of upsets in this game,” he said.
Bigelow’s breakthrough: Running back Brendan Bigelow broke loose against Colorado last week, scoring his first and second touchdowns of the season while recording Cal’s first 100-yard rushing game.
Dykes is optimistic that Bigelow can carry the momentum into his senior year.
“I talked to him last week and he said he felt good, he felt comfortable, he felt faster than he has, his knee felt better than it has,” Dykes said. “He thought going in that he might have a big game and he did.”
The junior tailback is picking up 4.4 yards per carry this year after averaging 9.8 yards per carry on 44 touches last season. Bigelow missed spring ball with a knee injury and Dykes said it hindered his progress.
“We expect great things from him and still have high hopes for him,” he said.