Editor’s note: The following is a Q&A between Andrew Wild, sports editor of The Daily Californian, and Riley Youngman, news producer and sports editor at the Daily Barometer. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Andrew Wild: The Beavers have played two very close games since coach Gary Andersen left. What have you noticed the team doing differently?
Riley Youngman: I think the offense under interim head coach Cory Hall has been energized. We’ve seen a lot more of the Wildcat formation with running back Ryan Nall recently, that’s something we didn’t see under Andersen. Overall, the team is a little more energized; it’s helped on both sides of the ball, but offense in particular.
AW: Were those close games against Colorado and Stanford ones you were lucky to be in or ones you should have won?
RY: In both games, especially against Stanford, the Beavers should have come away with a victory. Had it not been for a last-minute fumble against Stanford and a conversion on fourth and 10 on Stanford’s last drive, they would have come away with the victory. In both games, the Beavers were unlucky to come away with the loss; they literally came up short on a field goal that would have won the game against Colorado, and with Stanford, giving up a touchdown with 20 seconds on the clock to go down by 1. They haven’t been lucky. The Beavers have put themselves back in those games and deserved to be where they were and were a bit unfortunate with the final result.
AW: What sort of impact has Nall had on the game as he’s gotten more touches?
RY: Nall is a game-changer whenever he’s out there on the field. He traditionally is a hard-runner, big guy, and he can take it up the field. But with the past few weeks, with the Wildcat direct snap to Nall, it adds a new dynamic to the team, and I think that’s going to change things this week. He brings another level of speed and energy to the Beavers offense that can light up the whole team.
AW: Has quarterback Darell Garretson, who stepped in because of injury, been able to manage games?
RY: From my perspective, I think he’s done just enough to keep the Beavers in the game. Garretson is benefiting from having the run game, with Nall and other guys really helping the offense. The Beavers’ numbers with him aren’t stellar, so having that run game definitely benefits him, I think he relies on it quite a bit.
AW: Which player on defense is most key?
RY: One of the biggest stories on defense is that linebacker Manase Hungalu did not practice but dressed, and he was cited by the police last week for violent conduct in an incident over Halloween weekend. His status is unknown, he’s a team leader in tackles and really just a leader on defense. His status is the biggest storyline of the defense to me.
But last week, we saw an improved Beavers defense compared to what we’d seen this season; keeping Stanford to 15 points was a good showing for the Beavers. The defense under Hall is fired up and has had a couple good performances and is ready.
AW: What’s your prediction?
RY: I think the offense is going to have a tough time having to rely a lot of the run game, so I’m going to go Beavers 17, Cal 14.