Bears head into the desert in search of defense

Usually if a team shuts out almost half of its opponents, it’s going to be pretty happy with how its defense has played.

But apparently sometimes that benchmark means that the defense needs significant work.

The Cal rugby team will look to shore up its defense as it takes a trip into the desert, first facing off with Arizona today at 6 p.m. at Kino Stadium is Tucson. The Bears will then head out to Tempe to take on Arizona State on Sunday at Sun Devil Soccer Stadium at noon. Both teams are in the Premier Division that Cal withdrew from earlier this season.

The Bears are looking to use the two matches as an opportunity to ramp up their defensive efforts, which — contradictory to what the scoreboards have read all season — they believe have been suspect.

Though Cal is coming off a 109-0 win over Stanford, the squad felt that its defensive play in the match left something to be desired.

“We weren’t so good in a couple aspects of play,” coach Jack Clark said. “We’re a little bit vulnerable on the outside, and we didn’t connect our wings as good as we could’ve to the midfield. We were downright bad in defensive line-outs.”

Clark put an emphasis on defense all week in practice, stressing it as an area of improvement. In seven games this season, the Bears have only allowed a total of 16 points, but have allowed their opponents to put pressure on their backs.

In the match against Stanford, the Cardinal were able to put themselves in scoring position numerous times — which Cal has attributed to its own mental lapses.

“There were some moments when we lost some shape around the game,” senior flyhalf Alex Aronson said. “There were some moments where you could see guys unplug.

Part of Cal’s defensive woes  — if you can even call them that — could’ve been explained by fatigue, as the frontline played its first full-length match of the season, and most of the players were gassed by the end of the match.

“You can train all you want, but in the game it’s a lot different,” Aronson said. “Getting in those minutes will help, and it’ll be a nice test to see where we are.”

However, the Bears won’t see any respite from that this weekend, as the top side will likely start in both games this weekend.

That combined with arid desert weather and a limited number of reserves due to travel budget restrictions should provide the Bears with yet another fitness test.

“This’ll be a good opportunity to take a step forward,” Clark said. “These will be among the best teams we’ve played thus far.”