After 15 tackles and the most playing time of his Cal career on Saturday, sophomore safety Avery Sebastian woke up on Sunday the way you might expect.
"Yeah, I'm pretty sore," he admitted, smiling. "Got in here at noon, got a lot of treatment, stuff like that. Tomorrow we get the day off, so I'll be able to get more rehab, get my body feeling a little better. I'll be fine by the first practice Tuesday."
The news of Sebastian's starting was a surprise to many, but on Sunday he revealed a little more about the process that led to that decision.
"After watching the USC tape, we came back, started practicing. Every week it's a constant competition with all the safeties rotating in. We have a lot of seniors – Josh Hill, Tyre Ellison, and Alex Logan. People like them. Those people, they know the playbook in and out. It's always a constant competition."
"Coach Pendergast said he liked what I had been doing in practice the entire time. He always told me to be ready, my number could be called at any time, and he said he wanted to call my number this week to see what I could do."
After the game, Sebastian said that he had a lot of interaction on Twitter and Facebook, not to mention his own family. "It was really good to hear from the fans – that they're still supporting us, that they still have our backs," he said. "I tweeted and facebooked a big thank you to all the Cal fans that sent me stuff like that."
"That was definitely great. It made me feel good, and kind of helps keep that fire going toward next week."
As to any first start jitters, he said there weren't any – and he certainly played like a veteran. "No, not at all. I think the only jitters I had was playing special teams last year, and the first game against Nevada, opening up the new stadium."
"Special Teams is a third of the game, so you're already playing anyway. When I got out there on defense, it was kind of like practice."
When asked to assess the team's defensive performance, he noted that the team "played fast", but that they allowed too many third down conversions to extend drives.
"They were 9 of 20, which was way too high. That's near 50 percent. We want them way down, lower than that. I think the third down situation really held us back a little bit. We could have capitalized on a few turnovers – I think we had two near picks that we could have got. Those tipped balls and not getting off the field on third down didn't really help us too well."
Those third down struggles cannot be pinned to just one part of the defense, Sebastian said.
"The coaches, they give us the call. We have to make every call work. Somebody didn't cover somebody, or somebody was out of their gap. It was either or. It falls on the entire defense. But after that happens, we just have to forget about it and go to the next play."
With the season now on the verge of being lost – if it hasn't been already – Sebastian was asked to report on the state of the locker room..
"I actually feel like the mood in the locker room today was a little better than it was last week. Last week, we came off the tough loss to USC knowing that we were the more physical team, that we actually had the better team…it's just we didn't play that well. Yesterday, we didn't play as well. They outperformed us yesterday. We wish we could have it back but you only get to play ASU once per year."
"We're keeping our heads up high. We have a big game coming up this week against UCLA. We're going to be prepared for them. It's really a bounce back week. We have seven games left. There's a lot more football to be played. All we really can do is progress from here."
Coming into this weekend's matchup with the Bruins, Sebastian spoke about the team's attitude, saying, "I feel like every week there's urgency. We're mad that we're mediocre right now. We're not complacent. Every week, we're trying to get better, not as individuals, but as a team. Nobody likes to be 1-4. We could easily be 4-1. Just little mistakes, every game. Every game has been a 4th quarter game. If we eliminate these little mistakes here and there, we'll be fine."
"Now that everybody's realizing their little mistakes, penalties, things that are actually hurting us, not getting off the field on third downs, I feel like these things are just making us better. We have a lot of young people on this team. That's a lot of learning – it's a big learning curve for them. I feel like once everybody's really gotten accustomed to, really gotten the feel of the team, we should be fine.
"This week should be a huge statement game for us. Last year, we definitely didn't have the outcome we wanted down in LA. That's stuck on a lot of people's minds."
"UCLA, they're a great team. I've got to give them props. I've watched them on TV a few times, watched a few films on them. They're a great team. Hats off to UCLA. It's going to be a big game this week."