BY JEFF EVANS, Californian staff writer
Tyrone Crawford faces a new experience today in his Bakersfield College career.
For the first time, he won't be lining up alongside fellow defensive lineman Maurice Hayes.
Ventura at BC
When: Today, 7 p.m.
Where: Memorial Stadium
Records: BC 7-1 (4-0 conference), Ventura 6-1 (3-0)
Radio: Live, 1180 AM
SoCal rankings: BC No. 4, Ventura No. 9
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Of note: Ventura's top two players, quarterback Antavius Sims (781 passing yards, 354 rushing yards, 13 total TDs) and cornerback Travaun Nixon (state-high six interceptions) were both hurt in the first half last week and didn't return, and both could miss today's game. Nixon hasn't practiced all week and Sims only returned to limited practice on Thursday.
Hayes and Crawford, both All-Northern National Conference picks last season, have been a 1-2 punch coach Jeff Chudy has called the most dominant pair of defensive linemen he's had in his BC coaching career that started in 1992.
Hayes' BC career is over after he suffered a right knee injury last week that will require surgery.
"I can say that (Hayes' absence) is not putting pressure on me, but that's lying," said Crawford, a 6-foot-4, 273-pound sophomore from Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
"It's putting a lot of pressure on me, and it's putting a lot of pressure on all of us," Crawford added. "But we've got to fight through it. We have to play hard like he's still with us. People have got to step up."
Hayes said he's confident Crawford is up to the challenge.
"That's my boy," Hayes said. "I have no worries. If I was to slip, I knew he had my back. ... The guys just need to pull together."
BC is 7-1 overall and 4-0 in the NNC. Tonight, the Renegades face Ventura (6-1, 3-0) in a showdown between the final two unbeaten teams in NNC play.
Crawford is having a strong season. He leads the Renegades with seven sacks, with Hayes a distant second with 31/2. He also leads the team with 111/2 tackles for losses, with Hayes next in that department with 81/2.
Chudy said he isn't putting all the burden on Crawford to control the line of scrimmage against Ventura.
"All three of those guys: Tyrone, (Mitchell) Knoy and Cory Wright (who replaces Hayes as a starter) will need to step up to the plate," Chudy said. "Those guys will have to perform and it is what it is. We're not asking them to do anything they're not capable of doing."
But the focus will be on Crawford, and Chudy said he'll be up to the challenge.
"He's one guy who's really focused, who has an extreme goal set mentality," Chudy said. "I don't know if we've had anybody work harder than he has. ...
"Does anybody out-work him? No. Is anybody more focused that him? No. Is anybody more dedicated than him? No."
Crawford was set to play football at Boise State but didn't have the grades to get past the NCAA Clearinghouse, he said.
Crawford said BC came into the picture after he received recommendations to play for the 'Gades from Boise State coaches and other college recruiters.
"A lot of people talked about Coach Chudy and his staff. His name kept coming up," Crawford said.
Crawford said his game has improved noticeably since he arrived at BC.
"The coaching this year and last year made me more aggressive coming off the line," Crawford said. "It made me play 100 percent of the play. It's made me a better player, a better man I'd say."
Crawford said he plans on transferring to Boise State after finishing his BC degree in the spring.