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Cal’s defense has a #1 focus, and it’s the guy wearing #1 for TCU

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The Golden Bears are going into Wednesday’s game not wanting Jalen Reagor to beat them. Will they be able to contain the Horned Frogs’ star?

TCU Football vs Oklahoma State | Fort Worth, TX | November 24, 2018
TCU Football vs Oklahoma State | Fort Worth, TX | November 24, 2018
Melissa Triebwasser

Jalen Reagor has had a special season for TCU, leading the Frogs in receptions (by more than double the number two receiver), touchdowns (tripling up the next guy in line), and contributing in both the run game and on special teams. Reagor did it all for TCU, putting the team on his back down and stretch and willing them to a bowl game - one that they will play Wednesday in Phoenix against Cal.

Ahead of the game, the Golden Bears met with the media, and the defensive-minded team had one player heavy on their minds.

Cal linebacker Jordan Kunaszyk knows how tough to bring down Reagor in space can be. “When I think of dynamic and I think of elite, he’s the first player that comes to my mind on TCU. ... He’s silky when he gets the ball in his hands.”

Cornerback Ashtyn Davis, a player that could spend a lot of time lined up against Reagor, believes he is ready for the challenge, as well. But he understands that it’s not just what Reagor can do in the passing game, it’s how Sonny Cumbie and Curtis Luper free him up to make plays that makes him so dangerous. “The amount of volume that he gets, we know they like to get him the ball because he’s a talented dude. It’s something that we definitely look forward to.” Davis is prepared to see Reagor line up at different spots as he looks for open space. “[We have to] pay attention to where he lines up, how he lines up, splits, things like. Any type of tip we can get on what they’re going to do, we’ve been looking at. Still trying to study and make sure we’ve got everything down.”

A good example of just how many looks the TCU offense can give you in regards to Reagor, one just needs to look back at the last game of the season - the win over Oklahoma State that gave the Frogs a chance to play in a bowl game.

In that game, Reagor ran the ball five times for 122 yards and a touchdown, caught eight passes for another 91 and a second score, and added a 21 yard kick return as a topper. It was the quintessential Reagor performance, and yet another example of the Frogs’ biggest star showing up at the biggest moments.

For a TCU offense playing with their third string QB and without their first string running back, Reagor having a big game could be the difference between winning and losing. For Cal, slowing down the best player on the field is job one - something they have had some success with this season. The Golden Bears locked down Washington’s number one receiver, Aaron Fuller, and controlled the talented Wazzou trio of Dezmon Patton, Easop Winston, and Tay Martin to just 11 receptions and one touchdown. But, USC’s Tyler Vaughns and Stanford’s JJ Arcega-Whiteside found success against the Bears’ talented secondary. Reagor, who averaged 120 yards per game, himself, will certainly be up to the challenge. But he will be challenged by the best statistical defense the Frogs have faced all year, in Cal’s #16 ranked squad (for comparison’s sake, the top-ranked defense TCU faced this season was Iowa State’s 33rd ranked unit, a game in which Reagor had six receptions for 67 yards).

The TCU offense looked much different over the course of the last month than it did against the win over the Cyclones in September - partially due to injuries, partially to schematic changes and adjustments - but they will need to find an extra gear to find success against Cal.

Jalen Reagor and the Horned Frogs will certainly be up for the challenge.