Cal Hosts Colorado State
Aug. 31, 2003
This Week's Game
California faces a tough Mountain West Conference foe in Memorial Stadium Saturday when the Golden Bears host Colorado State at 3 p.m. Following contests against Kansas State and Southern Miss, Cal is meeting a team that played in a 2002 bowl game for the third consecutive week.
After an opening 42-28 defeat to No. 5 Kansas State, the Bears rebounded with a convincing 34-2 throttling of Southern Miss last weekend. Cal started the game slowly-gaining just 19 yards in the first quarter-but the Bears soon awoke and finished the afternoon with 417 yards of total offense, including 260 yards on the ground against a USM defense unit that returned eight starters and ranked 15th in the nation in scoring defense in 2002.
Leading the running attack were senior TB Adimchinobe Echemandu and junior TB J.J. Arrington. In his most extensive playing time since the 2000 campaign, Echemandu ripped off a career-high 127 yards on 17 carries, capped by a 60-yard TD sprint up the middle to complete Cal's scoring. Arrington had 114 yards on 16 touches to give the Bears two 100-yard runners in the same game for the first time in 10 years.
Junior QB Reggie Robertson, in just his second start in two years, continued to display the calm of a veteran. Through two games this season, he has completed 58.1 percent of his passes for 399 yards, five touchdowns and a 169.60 rating -- a figure that would have led the Pac-10 last fall.
On the defensive side, the Bears returned to their big-play ways of 2002 with a pair of blocked punts-one of which was returned for a touchdown by James Bethea-and seven sacks against USM. Sophomore ROV Donnie McCleskey led the charge with 14 tackles, including four for loss and two sacks, while junior Mike McGrath returned an interception 15 yards to set up a second-quarter TD. In addition, Cal's defense did not allow a point for the first time since a 17-0 shutout at UCLA in 1999.
Cal-Colorado State Series
This marks the first time Cal and Colorado have met. The Bears will also host the Rams on Sept. 8, 2007 and will make a return trip to Fort Collins, Colo., on Sept. 27, 2008.
A Quick Look at Colorado State
Colorado State enters Saturday's game vs. Cal at 0-1 after dropping a 42-35 decision to state-rival Colorado last weekend. The Rams, behind senior QB Bradlee Van Pelt, rang up 585 yards of total offense. Van Pelt, the 2002 Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year, threw for 339 yards (18-for-38) and three touchdowns and rushed for 77 yards and two scores in his 2003 debut. Junior RB Marcus Houston added 104 yards on the ground, while senior WR Chris Pittman hauled in seven catches for 144 yards. CSU returns 16 starters from a team that finished 10-4 and earned a berth in the Liberty Bowl last season, the program's seventh bowl appearance in the last 10 years. The Rams entered the Colorado contest ranked 23rd in the Associated Press poll.
Jeff Tedford, California (Fresno State '83), who directed Cal to its first winning football season (7-5) in nine years and the nation's biggest one-year turnaround in the regular season in 2002, owns an 8-6 mark in his second season as head coach of the Golden Bears. After taking over as the program's 32nd head coach in December 2001, he transformed Cal from a 1-10 team in 2001 to a 7-5 club last year. A vote of his fellow conference coaches awarded him the 2002 Pac-10 Coach of the Year award. Tedford arrived at Cal after four highly successful seasons at Oregon, where he served as offensive coordinator and helped the Ducks to a combined 38-10 record, including an 11-1 mark in 2001 when Oregon won the Pac-10 championship and earned a No. 2 national ranking. Tedford began his coaching career in 1989 as an offensive assistant with the CFL's Calgary Stampeders. In 1992, he returned to his alma mater, Fresno State, as quarterback coach. A year later, he was elevated to offensive coordinator, a position he held through 1997. A native of Downey, Calif., Tedford was a record-setting quarterback as a player at Fresno State, graduating with a degree in physical education in 1983.
Sonny Lubick, Colorado State (Western Mountana '60) is in his 11th season as head coach of the Rams with an 84-39 record. In his 10 previous years, Lubick has become the winningest coach in Colorado State history -- guiding the Rams to seven bowl appearances since 1994. Under Lubick, CSU has won six conference titles (58-18), earning him four conference coach of the year awards (1994, '97, '99, 2000). Lubick started his coaching career at Montana State as an assistant in 1970. In '78 he became head coach of the Bobcats, and stayed there for three seasons before moving to Colorado State for the first time as an offensive coordinator in '82. Lubick ventured to the Bay Area in '85 where he was an assistant at Stanford. Then in '88 he moved to Florida to become defensive coordinator at Miami, where he stayed for four seasons before taking over the Colorado State program in '93.
Gameday Promotions - Jeff Tedford Bobbleheads
The first 10,000 fans at the Cal-Colorado State game will receive a free Jeff Tedford bobblehead, sponsored by Carl's Jr. In addition, Saturday is IKON Office Solutions Faculty/Staff Day. General admission tickets for Cal staff with proper ID and coupon are only $5. The FunZone tailgate party opens at 12:30 p.m. on Maxwell Family Field and the March to Victory begins at 12:45 p.m. in the Kleeberger Parking lot north of Memorial Stadium.
IKON Office Solutions Play of the Week
Each week throughout the 2003 football season, IKON Office Solutions salutes the Golden Bear Play of the Week. Against Southern Miss, senior TB Adimchinobe Echemandu burst up the middle for a 60-yard TD scamper to give the Bears a 34-2 fourth-quarter lead. The rush was the longest of Echemandu's career.
The Times Player of the Game
Each week throughout the 2003 football season, the Contra Costa Times will recognize the Cal Player of the Game. In the Southern Miss contest, sophomore ROV Donnie McCleskey rattled the Golden Eagles for 14 tackles (10 solo), including four for loss and a pair of quarterback sacks.
Cal Defense Rebounds from 42-Point Opener vs. Kansas State to Post School's 1st Defensive Shutout in 4 Years
Talk about an about-face from one week to the next, Cal's inexperienced defense rebounded in dramatic fashion from its season-opening 42-point, 535-yard drubbing at the hands of nationally No. 5 Kansas State by producing one of the nation's finest defensive efforts of the young season against Southern Mississippi Saturday. The Golden Bears thoroughly muzzled the Golden Eagles' offense, allowing only 277 yards and 16 first downs in registering Cal's first defensive shutout since 1999 (17-0 at UCLA). Southern Mississippi's only score came on a safety that resulted when Cal punter Lucas Everett dropped a snap in the end zone in the first quarter. One week earlier in Kansas City, the Bear defense was gouged for 330 yard on the ground by K-State-thanks to the unworldly performances of Heisman Trophy candidates Darren Sproles and Ell Roberson-but last weekend in its home debut, Cal held Southern Miss to a measly 65 rushing yards and 1.8 yards-per-carry average. A ferocious and relentless pursuit resulted in seven sacks and 12 tackles for losses of 53 yards by the hometown crew, as there were heroes galore in the Cal locker room afterwards. Leading the hit parade were super sophomore rover Donnie McCleskey (team-high 14 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 tackles for losses of 19 yards), the JC transfer tandem of junior safety Matt Giordano (8 tackles, 1 TFL) and junior defensive end Ryan Riddle (3 sacks for 15 yards in losses), and junior defensive back Mike McGrath (3 tackles, 1 INT, 1 TFL). McGrath's interception and return to the Southern Miss 36-yard line with 31 seconds left set up a final TD of the half which gave Cal a commanding 20-2 lead at intermission. Junior linebacker Joe Maningo, another JC import, also created havoc with two tackles-including one for a five-yard loss-in the first half before missing the final 30 minutes with an injured right knee. McCleskey and Giordano are tied for the team lead in tackles with 20 stops each after two games this season.
Already with 2ï¿½ Sacks, Cal Rover McCleskey Among Nation's Premier Sophs
How many college football teams can say that their top returning tackler is a sophomore? And how many of those teams can say that their sophomore didn't even crack the starting lineup until midway through his freshman season? Well, Cal's rover Donnie McCleskey fits the bill. Making a remarkable transformation from high school running back to the college secondary, McCleskey averaged 5.4 tackles in starting the Bears' final seven games. A member of The Sporting News' Pac-10 All-Freshman Team, he finished the season with 45 tackles, five pass break-ups and one interception. After two games this year, McCleskey has clearly established himself as one of the premier sophomores in college football. On a team that returns only two starters on defense-All-Pac-10 honorable mention tackle Lorenzo Alexander is the other starting holdover-McCleskey has been nothing short of sensational. The 5-10, 180-pound rover has belted out 20 tackles, 2.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for losses of 21 yards. Last Saturday, he swarmed for a game-high 14 tackles, including two sacks and four tackles for losses of 19 yards. It marked the first time a Cal defensive back had posted two sacks in a game since Dewey Hale turned the trick at Washington State on Sept. 22, 2001. In fact, McCleskey's 2.5 sacks this season are already the most by a Bear DB in three years. Nnamdi Asomugha, the Oakland Raiders' first-round pick this year, bagged three sacks in 2000.
Offense Clears 400 Yards, as Echemandu & Arrington Become 1st Cal Tandem to Rush for 100 Yards in Same Game Since 1993
Despite inexperience at key positions like quarterback and running back, the Cal offense has hit the ground running-both figuratively and literally-this year. The Bears are averaging 31.0 points and 428.5 yards per game in splitting their first two contests. In the opener against Kansas State, it was a high-octane passing game that produced 378 yards and four touchdowns en route to 28 points and 440 yards in total offense (which was more than 16 points and almost 200 yards above K-State's season averages last year). Then last Saturday, Cal's rushing game awoke to steamroll Southern Mississippi's nationally acclaimed defense for 260 yards on 48 carries. Southern Miss had eight starters returning from a defensive unit that ranked No. 15 in NCAA scoring defense last year. But the Golden Bears were buoyed by the electrifying running of senior Adimchinobe Echemandu (formerly Joe Echema) and junior J.J. Arrington, who became the first Cal tandem to rush for 100 yards in the same game since 1993. Echemandu, returning to the lineup after a two-year absence due to personal reasons, bolted for a career-high 127 yards on 17 carries, including a 60-yard touchdown that was the longest run from scrimmage by a Cal back since the year 2000 (Joe Igber, 80 yards at Arizona State). Arrington, who transferred from College of the Canyons this year, topped his two-touchdown game in the Kansas State opener with a 114-yard, 16-carry effort Saturday against Southern Miss. Not only did both backs average more than seven yards per attempt, they also triggered a second-half barrage which saw the Bears rush for 229 yards on 29 carries after intermission. In the second half, Echemandu netted 115 yards on 13 carries and Arrington added 80 yards on eight attempts. The last time a pair of Cal rushers both cracked the century mark in the same game was Nov. 27, 1993, when Lindsey Chapman (147 yds., 30 att.) and Reynard Rutherford (101 yards, 13 att.) combined for 248 yards at Hawaii.
All-Pac-10 Candidate Mark Wilson Anchors Cal's Veteran Offensive Line
With 36 starts to his credit entering this Saturday's game against Colorado State, senior offensive tackle Mark Wilson ranks first in the Pac-10 and tied for fourth in the nation among all offensive linemen for most career starts. Wilson, voted All-Pac-10 honorable mention last year, is the quiet leader of a veteran offensive line that appears to be one of the strengths of the 2003 California Bears. Thus far, Wilson and his fellow starting interior linemen-tackle Chris Murphy, center Nolan Bluntzer, and guards Jonathan Giesel and Chris Murphy-have opened up holes for 322 rushing yards and have protected quarterbacks Reggie Robertson and Aaron Rodgers for 535 passing yards. They also improved their sacks allowed figure in Game 2, yielding only two vs. Southern Miss after being stung for four against Kansas State in the opener.
Despite Loss of NFL 1st Rounder Boller, Cal's Passing Game Continues to Hum at 267.5-Yard Clip With Robertson & Rodgers
When you lose someone the caliber of Kyle Boller at quarterback, you would assume the passing game might hit a lull. After all, Boller-who's starting as a NFL rookie with the Baltimore Ravens this year-torched defenses for 2,815 yards and 28 TDs with his patented laser-like passes as a Golden Bear last fall. However, the Tedford Touch continues in Berkeley, where the Cal coach simply rolled up his sleeves and reinvented another high-powered aerial game. Against Kansas State in Week One, starting QB Reggie Robertson and backup Aaron Rodgers combined for 378 yards and four touchdowns through the air vs. a Wildcat defense that ranked first in the country in fewest points allowed (11.8 ppg) and second in total defense (249.0 ypg). Ironically, the 378 yards were more than any game of the Boller era at Cal, and were the most by a Cal passing attack in six years (503 yards in a 56-55, four-overtime win vs. Arizona Nov. 2, 1996). Then in last week's home opener against a vaunted Southern Miss defense that ranked 15th nationally in scoring defense last year, the Robertson-Rodgers combo were simply efficient (11-for-18, 157 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT) in a game plan designed around the run. Together, the Cal passing pair have completed 60.0 percent of their attempts (36-for-60), averaged 267.5 passing yards per game, and totaled six touchdown passes and only one interception. Robertson, who had started only two games in his college career as Boller's backup before this season, has been an early revelation in connecting on 58.1 percent of his passes (25-of-43) for 399 yards, five TDs and one interception. Rodgers, the third team JC All-American who threw for 28 TDS and only four interceptions at Butte College last year, has threaded 64.7 percent of his attempts (11-of-17) for 136 yards, with one TD and no picks.
Returning to 2002 Form, California Tight Ends Score 2 TDs Saturday After Being Held Reception-Less in Season Opener
Since head coach Jeff Tedford and offensive coordinator George Cortez arrived in Berkeley last year, the tight end position has played a much more prominent role in the Cal offense. Under a previous coaching regime in 2001, the Bear tight ends mustered only 18 receptions as an entire unit. But last year, under the direction of Tedford and Cortez, the tight end corps produced 50 catches. In fact, senior Tom Swoboda-who had managed only eight grabs the previous season-exploded for 42 receptions for 451 yards and seven touchdowns in 2002. Swoboda's seven TDs led all Pac-10 tight ends and his catch total tied him for the league lead last year. While Swoboda has graduated, the Bears again figure to dissect opposing defenses with sure-handed tight ends this fall. Yet, in their season debut in Kansas City, the tight end triumvirate of senior Brandon Hall (8 rec., 79 yds. In '02), junior Garrett Cross and true freshman Craig Stevens all failed to collect even one reception between them. But you can chalk that up as an aberration, thanks to an impressive showing in Game 2 that was reminiscent of 2002. The duo of Hall and Cross combined for four catches for 47 yards and two touchdowns against Southern Mississippi's highly-reputed defense. Hall, fully recovered from last year's ankle injury, showed flashes of his 2001 form when he snatched 26 passes for 295 yards and two TDs at Orange Coast College and was one of the nation's prized JC recruits. He snagged three passes and scored his first Cal career TD on second-quarter, four-yard pass play from quarterback Reggie Robertson. A first team JC All-American who hauled in 39 passes for 590 yards as a teammate of QB Aaron Rodgers at Butte College in 2002, Cross tallied his first major college score when he danced into the end zone on a wide-open, 30-yard TD strike from Robertson in the third quarter. Cross is certainly no stranger to the end zone, as his 10 touchdown grabs last year led all JC tight ends in California.
McArthur Averaging 6.5 Catches, 130.5 Yards As Cal's Go-To Receiver
Off to a blazing start, junior wide receiver Geoff McArthur has hunted down 13 passes for 261 yards and one touchdown in the Bears' first two games. Those numbers translate into some gaudy early-season averages of 6.5 receptions, 130.5 yards per game and 20.1 yards per catch. He shredded Kansas State's secondary for eight catches and a career-high 169 yards in the opener, including a career-best 65-yard touchdown reception, then came back last weekend to again lead the team with five grabs for 92 yards. McArthur, whose 169-yard effort vs. K-State were the most receiving yards by a Cal player in five years (Bobby Shaw, 11 rec. for 204 yards at Houston, Sept. 6, 1997), was well on his way to a big year in 2002, averaging 6.0 catches and 60 yards per game over his first five contests. However, a hamstring injury limited him to only one start and six catches in the final seven games last season, as he finished with 36 receptions for 454 yards and one TD.
Special Teams Continue to be Truly Special Under Tedford Regime
Although the Bears have changed special teams coaches this year, the results remain similar. And for Cal football fans, that's a good thing. Under the direction of Dave Ungerer, last year's special teams unit enjoyed a banner year. Cal ranked first in kickoff return average (24.5) and third in punt return average (12.80) in the Pac-10. However, gone is kick returner LaShaun Ward, who averaged 28.9 yards per attempt as a senior last year to rank first in the conference and fifth nationally, and Jemeel Powell, the Pac-10's third-leading punt returner last season and California's No. 3 career punt returner, has also departed. Cal's coverage units were also very respectable last year, limiting their foes to a 17.4-yard kickoff return average (1st in Pac-10) and 11.2 punt return figure. What's more, Cal special teams blocked four punts and three kicks last season. Then last spring, the Bears also lost Ungerer, who joined Alabama as their special teams coach. Given the task of reshaping the 2003 unit is Pete Alamar, the former Arizona special teams coach. After a so-so opener, Cal's special teams shined against Southern Miss. Harrison Smith blocked a first-quarter punt, while later in the second period, Andy Briner also smothered a Southern Miss punt which was returned 20 yards for a touchdown by James Bethea. Meanwhile, the Bears averaged 19.4 yards on five punt returns in the game, led by Smith's 28-yard gem in the first quarter. And placekicker/punter Tyler Fredrickson turned in a solid effort with field goals of 26 and 18 yards-and a near-miss of a 48-yarder that hit the goal post-and two punts that both measured 41 yards.
California Reels Off 8 Plays of 30 Yards or More in 1st 2 Games
Last year, Cal was the master of the big play. The Bears ripped off 22 plays that measured 50 yards or more. Well, Tedford's troops are at it again. Thus far in 2003, California has registered eight plays that have gone for 30 yards or more, including three that have popped for 60 yards or beyond. In the Kansas State opener, Cal manufactured a 65-yard Reggie Robertson-to-Geoff McArthur TD pass and a James Bethea 62-yard kickoff return. Then Saturday at Memorial Stadium, Adimchinobe Echemandu uncorked a 60-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter of the Southern Miss game that concluded the game's scoring. In 2002, Cal featured such home run plays as a 100-yard TD interception return by Matt Nixon vs. Baylor, a 94-yard TD kickoff return by LaShaun Ward vs. Arizona, and a 90-yard TD punt return by Jemeel Powell at Michigan State.
Fredrickson 1st Starting Punter-Kicker at Cal Since Longwell in 1996
When senior Tyler Fredrickson replaced JC transfer Lucas Everett at punter in the second quarter Saturday, it marked the first time in seven years that a Cal player as done double duty as the No. 1 punter and placekicker. From 1994-96, Ryan Longwell handled both chores and still ranks in the school's Top 10 in both punting (5th, 41.9 avg.) and kick scoring (9th, 177 points). Longwell, now the long-time NFL kicker with Green Bay, was brilliant as a Cal senior in '96 with a 45.2-yard punting average and 70 points, including 11 of 16 in field goal attempts. Fredrickson, a film major who has already held summer jobs at George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch and Dreamworks Studio, averaged 39.5 yards per punt last year, including seven punts of 50 yards or better and 19 boots that landed inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
Goal Line Rushing Game Plaques Bears in Early Season
California's inability to convert on fourth-and-goal at the one-yard line has been an early-season bugaboo for the Bears. Cal has faced the situation on three occasions in its first two games, and has come up empty handed. Looking to punch in their second touchdown of the game and claim a 14-10 lead, the Bears saw a Robertson quarterback keeper snuffed by Kansas State linebacker Josh Buhl to open the second quarter at Arrowhead Stadium Aug. 23. And last weekend, the Bears failed twice in the first half in similar situations. Facing a second-and-goal at the Southern Miss one-yard line in the opening quarter, Cal proceeded to come up inches short on consecutive Robertson keepers and a fourth-down carry by Echemandu that was stopped by USM linebacker Paul Terrell. Then midway through the second quarter, the Bears had a first-and-goal at the Southern Miss one, only to have Arrington lose a yard on first down, Robertson to misfire on a pass play on second down and then rush for zero yards on third down-which brought on Fredrickson for a successful 18-yard field goal.
QB Bradlee Van Pelt Leads Ram Players with Football Bloodlines
Quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt, defensive back David Foley and running back Marcus Houston have been blessed with big-time bloodlines when it comes to football heritage. Van Pelt, the 2002 Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year, is the son of former Michigan State All-American linebacker Brad Van Pelt, who played more than a decade in the NFL with the New York Giants. Foley is the son of Steve Foley, a long-time defensive back with the Denver Broncos. And Houston is the cousin of defensive back Ken Houston, a 12-time Pro Bowl selection and Pro Football Hall of Fame member with the Houston Oilers and Washington Redskins. The younger Van Pelt has grabbed the most headlines among the three players, having completed 150 of 287 pass attempts for 2,073 yards and 10 touchdowns, and rushing for 819 yards (a school record for QBs) and 11 TDs last year. He has started the last 24 games at quarterback for the Rams.
Colorado State Has Produced Many Top NFL Players on Defense
Defense has played a key role in Colorado's football success over history, as evidenced by players who have later stamped their mark in the National Football League. Among the notable defenders who once wore the Ram uniform include: tackle Mike Bell (1977-78), the second overall pick in the 1979 NFL Draft by Kansas City; tackle Thurman 'Fum' McGraw (1948-49), the school's first consensus All-American who played on three World Championship teams with the Detroit Lions between 1950-54; end Al 'Bubba Baker (1966-67), a second-round pick by the Detroit Lions who played 13 seasons in the NFL; linebacker Kevin McLain (1975-76), a first-round pick by the Los Angeles Rams; and end Joey Porter (1995-98), a third-round NFL pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The 2003 Colorado State defense is chock full of top veterans, including defensive back Dexter Wynn, a two-time All-MWC first team choice; linebacker Drew Wood, No. 4 in MWC sacks with seven in '02; and linebacker Eric Pauly, a 2002 second team All-MWC selection who led CSU in tackles with 121 last year.
Lubick Elevates Colorado State into Nation's Elite with Gilded 10-Year Record
When he served under the late Jack Elway as an assistant coach at Stanford from 1985-88, Sonny Lubick probably could not envision the success he would have as a head coach less than one decade later. Yet, Lubick has been golden as head coach of the Colorado State Rams over the past 10 years. During that period, Lubick has guided the Rams to an 84-38 record, six conference titles and seven bowl appearances (including a current streak of four consecutive years). Master of the turnaround, Lubick inherited a Colorado State program in 1992 that had endured a 43-72-1 aggregate record with no league championships and only one bowl berth over the previous 10-year period (1983-92). This year's Rams edition, ranked No. 23 nationally in Associated Press' preseason poll, returns 16 starters from a 10-4 club that won the school's third Mountain West Conference crown in the past four years in 2002. Last season's club claimed victories over such top programs as Virginia (35-29), Colorado (19-14), BYU (31-12), Air Force (31-12) and Louisville (36-33), and climbed as high as No.13 in the AP poll at one juncture of the season. Lubick has reeled off nine straight winning seasons, which is the sixth-longest current streak in NCAA Division 1-A football.
Rebuilding or Reloading? Cal's Recruiting Class Must Help '03 Club That Returns Only 9 Starters
It's not Jeff Tedford's style to lay awake at night worrying about his team's potential, but any way you slice it, the Bears suffered heavy losses from last season's 7-5 club. Tedford and his club were forced to say farewell to the school's No. 2 career passer (Kyle Boller), No. 2 all-time rusher (Joe Igber), No. 3 career sack leader (Tully Banta-Cain) and No. 5 career kickoff returner (LaShaun Ward), plus a cornerback in Nnamdi Asomugha who joined Boller as NFL first-round picks last spring. Yet, perhaps more importantly, Cal lost 23 seniors from last year's team, and returns only nine starters-a figure that ranks dead last (tied with Florida and South Carolina) among 117 NCAA Division 1-A schools. While those facts and figures may sound gloomy for the '03 Bears, there may be reason to believe another winning season may be in the cards. Why? Because Tedford and his Cal coaching staff enjoyed one of the finest recruiting years in school history. The Bears signed 28 players in February, including 11 who received All-American accolades. Virtually every recruiting publication and web site ranked Cal's incoming class among the nation's Top 20. In Rival.com's ranking of the state's Top 100 prep players, the Bears landed 14 from the list (only USC had more among NCAA schools). Cal also boasted six of the country's Top 125 junior college players, according to PrepStar magazine.
Tedford Continues QB Tradition at Cal
Since the days of All-American John Meek, who passed Cal to an unbeaten season and Rose Bowl title in 1937, the Golden Bears have been a cradle for college quarterbacks. Twelve years later in 1949, Bob Celeri also earned All-American honors after guiding the Bears to a 10-1 mark and Rose Bowl appearance. In the past four decades, Cal has produced an extraordinary list of polished passers. They include such legends as Joe Kapp (1956-58), Craig Morton (1962-64), Steve Bartkowksi (1972-74), Pat Barnes (1993-96), Joe Roth (1975-76), Rich Campbell (1977-80), Gale Gilbert (1980-84), Troy Taylor (1986-89), Mike Pawlawski (1988-91) and Pat Barnes (1993-96). Perhaps, the best is yet to come in Berkeley, thanks to the arrival of head coach Jeff Tedford last year. Tedford, himself a former All-American honorable mention QB at Fresno State, has recruited and/or developed five quarterbacks who have become high first-round draft choices in the NFL. As offensive coordinator at Fresno State, he worked his magic with Trent Dilfer (No. 6 pick by Tampa Bay, 1994) and David Carr (No. 1 by Houston, 2002). As offensive coordinator at Oregon, he transformed Akili Smith (No. 3 by Cincinnati, 1999) and Joey Harrington (No. 3 by Detroit, 2002) into college superstars. And last year at Cal, he inherited senior Kyle Boller, who after three previous seasons of frustration, blossomed into perhaps the nation's most improved quarterback. Boller, who later would become a first-round draft choice of the NFL's Baltimore Ravens, finished his Cal career ranked first in TD passes (64) and second all-time in passing yards (7,980) in school history. Now, on the horizon, are four new faces on Tedford's QB assembly line. Returnees Reggie Robertson and Richard Schwartz, plus newcomers Aaron Rodgers (Butte JC) and Cary Dove (Taft HS), provide promising arms for the head coach. Robertson saw limited action as Boller's understudy the past two years, completing 30 of 67 passes for 362 yards and two TDs, while backup Rodgers was a JC third team All-American in throwing for 2,408 yards, 28 TDs and only four interceptions last year.
Gregory a Wizard in Molding Turnover-Minded Defenses
At age 40, Cal defensive coordinator Bob Gregory may be one of the top young defensive minds in all of college football. As defensive coordinator at Boise State two years ago, he molded that unit into the Western Athletic Conference's No. 2 ranked scoring defense. And inheriting a Cal defense that had surrendered a school-record 432 points (39.2 ppg) in 2001, he transformed virtually the same group of players into one of the Pac-10 most opportunistic defenses. The 2002 Bear defense yielded 26.5 points per contest-almost two touchdowns less per game than the year before-and ranked among the nation's best in many key statistical categories. Cal boasted a +18 turnover margin, which led the Pac-10 and ranked No. 7 nationally. Much of the credit for that wide differential must be given to Gregory's defense, which ranked second in the NCAA in fumble recoveries (21) and seventh in total takeaways (36). Last year's Bears also ranked fifth in the Pac-10 and 19th nationally in rushing defense (114.0). In fact, the Bears held their last three 2002 opponents to 87 combined rushing yards-vs. Arizona (-5), Arizona State (-2) and Stanford (94). Gregory heads a defensive coaching staff that features another former defensive coordinator (defensive line coach Ken Delgado at San Diego State), a former four-time Super Bowl starter (DB coach J.D. Williams at Buffalo), and the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Dave Wilcox (linebacker coach Justin Wilcox).
Three-Headed Tailback to Replace Igber in 2003
It will be rushing by committee in 2003, as Cal running back coach Ron Gould fields three quality ball-carriers who will replace the departed Joe Igber, who zoomed for 1,130 yards on 241 carries last year to become the first Bear thousand-yard rusher since 1993. Igber, who capped his Berkeley tenure with a career-best 226 yards vs. Stanford in his final game, claimed the No. 2 spot behind Chuck Muncie on Cal's career rushing list with 3,124 yards. While the diminutive back will be missed, the Bears may actually be deeper and better on the ground this fall. Senior Adimchinobe Echemandu (formerly Joe Echema), a former prep All-American who has risen above personal adversity to claim the starting tailback position this year, is a strong (6-0, 225 pounds), versatile back that Coach Tedford compares favorably to his former Oregon star Onterrio Smith. As a sophomore in 2000, the Lagos, Nigeria, native was the Bears' third-leading rusher with 215 yards. He is backed up by junior J.J. Arrington, who barrelled for 769 yards and 19 TDs for College of the Canyons last season. and Marcus O'Keith, a former prep All-American who was one of the surprises of training camp. Although the Bears' ground game was held to 62 yards on 27 carries by Kansas State in the Aug. 23 opener, Cal has rushed for 315 yards and averaged 5.34 yards per carry over the past six quarters of football. Tedford's club chiseled out 55 yards on 11 carries in the second half vs. K-State and exploded for 260 yards on 48 attempts in the Southern Miss tilt.
Total Transformation: Cal Made Dramatic Upgrade in '02
Very few college football programs underwent such a positive one-year transformation as the likes of last year's California team. In their 11-game schedule in 2001, the Bears were saddled with an 1-10 record and were outdistanced by an average score of 39.2 points to 18.3 points. A year later, a revitalized Cal club carved out its best record (7-5) since 1994 and outscored its opponents by a margin of 9.1 points (35.6 to 26.5).
California's 6-Win Increase in 2002 Tied Nation's Lead, Ranked 2nd Best Ever in School History
With their impressive 7-5 mark last season, the 2002 Golden Bears produced one of the biggest one-year turnarounds in college football history. They bettered the previous year's mark by six wins, which tied for the biggest increase among NCAA Division 1-A teams last year (regular season games only). And their 5.5-game improvement (margin of wins and losses divided by two) equals the second best one-year turnaround in Cal history. The greatest one-year flip by a Cal team came in 1947, when first-year coach Pappy Waldorf led his Golden Bears to a 9-1 record-a six-and-a-half game improvement from the previous season (2-7 in '46 under Frank Wickhorst).
Injury update from the Cal training room: for the second year in a row, linebacker Ryan Estes has failed to see playing time due to physical mishaps. After transferring from Modesto JC, Estes missed the entire 2002 campaign due to a foot injury. Then, Estes underwent back surgery this past week and has decided to withdraw from school. On another front, Joe Maningo suffered a right knee sprain in the first half of the Southern Miss game and underwent MRI tests Sunday, with results still pending....Under Jeff Tedford, Cal has scored at least 28 points 11 times in 14 games; prior to Tedford taking over the program last year, the Bears had reached the 28-point plateau only 10 times in their previous 48 contests....Cal's defense was particularly stifling in critical situations last weekend, as Southern Mississippi's offense was successful on only three of 15 third-down conversions, and was 0-for-3 in fourth-down tries....Tyler Fredrickson's 26-yard field goal, which gave the Bears a 3-2 lead over Southern Miss in the second quarter, was his first career FG as a collegian....Prior to Saturday's 127-yard outburst, Adimchinobe Echemandu's career high-water mark for rushing in a game was 72 yards, which he achieved in back-to-back games as a sophomore in 2000 at Fresno State (14 carries) and vs. Washington State (18 carries)....The 32-point victory over the Golden Eagles on Saturday was the second largest margin of victory by a Tedford team at Cal, topped only by last year's opening 70-22 rout of Baylor at Memorial Stadium. And the 34 consecutive points scored by Cal last weekend were also the second longest string of the Tedford era, again only exceeded by the 35 straight tallied in last year's opener when the Bears hung a 35-0 score on Baylor in the one quarter....Cal QBs Reggie Robertson and Aaron Rodgers combined for only 18 pass attempts on Saturday, the fewest by a Bear offense since Kyle Boller threw 24 passes in a 34-27 win at Washington last fall...Cal, which also plays Utah (at Salt Lake City Sept. 11) from the Mountain West Conference this season, has fared well against MWC schools in its history. The Bears boast a 9-5 mark vs. the MWC, although Cal has lost its last two games vs. the conference (23-21 vs. Air Force last year and 44-16 vs. BYU in 2001....Colorado State, which meets Cal for the first time in school history, has been saddled with a 6-39-1 mark (.141 pct.) against Pac-10 teams, including a combined 4-33-1 record against the Arizona schools (1-20 vs. Arizona State and 3-13-1 vs. Arizona)....Cal will host Colorado State again on Sept. 8, 2007 and then visit Ft. Collins the following season on Sept. 27, 2008....The MWC is affiliated with the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl, as a member school is pitted against a Big East Conference representative in a Dec. 31 game played at Pacific Bell Park....This marks the third straight game that Cal plays a school for the first time in history....Colorado State features one of the nation's premier placekickers in junior Jeff Babcock. As a sophomore, Babcock boomed a school-record 24 field goals in 32 attempts, scored the second most points (118) in Rams' history. His 24 FGs led the Mountain West Conference and ranked sixth nationally....Matt Lubick, son of CSU's head coach, spent two years in the Bay Area as an assistant coach at San Jose State in 1997-98 and also was on the same Oregon State coaching staff as Cal offensive line coach Jim Michalczik from 1999-2000....Much like Cal's Tedford, Lubick is a strong proponent of receiving tight ends. Last year, the Ram tight ends combined for 39 catches, including eight passes that went for touchdowns. H-back Joel Dreesen snared 29 balls, including two for scores, while TE Matt Bartz caught eight passes, including four TDs, and TE James Sondrup's two catches both went for touchdowns....Tedford has been associated with teams that have carved out a 28-9 record since the start of the 2000 season, as Oregon reeled off 11-1 and 10-2 marks in 2000 and '01 with Tedford serving as offensive coordinator, while Cal posted a 7-5 record in '02....This season marks the 10-year anniversary of Keith Gilbertson's 9-4 Cal team that shellacked Iowa, 37-3, in the 1994 Alamo Bowl on New Year's Eve and finished ranked No. 25 nationally in the final Associated Press poll...It's also the 80th anniversary of Andy Smith's 9-0-1 Bear club that capped its season with a 9-0 win over Stanford in the first-ever game played at California Memorial Stadium in 1923...While Cal finished ninth in the 2002-03 Director's Cup, Colorado State also enjoyed a banner athletic season last year. The Rams won four MWC championships (football, men's basketball, softball and women's volleyball) and were one of only 10 programs nationally to have their football, men's and women's basketball, and women's volleyball teams compete in postseason competition in 2002-03....Notable Colorado State alumni include Greg Jamison, the San Jose Sharks' president and CEO, and Kent Rominger, veteran NASA astronaut.
Bears Play One of Nation's Toughest Schedules in 2003
The California Golden Bears have traditionally played one of the nation's most challenging schedules, and 2003 is no exception. Of their 13 opponents, nine were bowl teams in 2002-USC (Orange), Washington (Sun), UCLA (Las Vegas), Arizona State (Holiday Bowl), Oregon State (Insight), Oregon (Seattle), Kansas State (Holiday), Southern Mississippi (Houston) and Colorado State (Liberty). What's more, three other 2003 foes were bowl bound two years ago-Illinois (Sugar), Stanford (Seattle) and Utah (Las Vegas).
Tedford Already Tied for 5th in Pac-10 for Seniority
Just how unstable is it to be a Pac-10 head football coach? Well, consider this: Cal head coach Jeff Tedford, who enters only his second year at the helm, is already tied for fifth in seniority among conference head coaches. Tedford, named the Pac-10 Coach of the Year after transforming Cal from a 1-10 team in 2001 to 7-5 in 2002 in his first season, trails only Oregon's Mike Bellotti, Arizona's John Mackovic, Arizona State's Dirk Koetter and USC's Pete Carroll in consecutive years of service.
Cal Defense to Face 4 of Nation's Top 10 QBs, Says The Sporting News
California's defense, which returns only two starters (tackle Lorenzo Alexander and rover Donnie McCleskey) from last year's unit, will square off against four of the NCAA's Top 10 quarterbacks, according to The Sporting News' pre-season magazine. They are Washington's Cody Pickett (4,458 yards, 28 TDs), Kansas State's Eli Roberson (1,032 yards and 16 TDs rushing, 1,580 yards and 7 TDs passing), Arizona State's Andrew Walter (3,877 yards and 28 TDs) and Colorado State's Bradlee Van Pelt (2,073 yards and 10 TDs passing, 819 yards and 11 TDs rushing).
Cal Has Produced 20 1st Round Draft Picks
With QB Kyle Boller (19th, Baltimore) and CB Nnamdi Asomugha (31st, Oakland) both selected in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft, the University of California has now produced 20 first-round picks in its history. The Bears also can claim eight NFL first-rounders in the past eight years-Regan Upshaw (12th, Tampa Bay) and Duane Clemons (16th, Minnesota) in 1996, Tony Gonzalez (13th, Kansas City) and Tarik Glenn (19th, Indianapolis) in 1997, Deltha O'Neal (15th, Denver) in 2000, Andre Carter (7th, San Francisco) in 2001, and Boller and Asomugha in 2003.
Cal Posted First Winning Season in Nine Years in '02
Not only did Cal rebound dramatically from its 1-10 debacle the previous year, the 7-5 Bears established themselves as a nationally respected program almost overnight. The 30-7 Big Game victory over Stanford Nov. 23 clinched Cal's first winning season since 1993, when Keith Gilbertson's club etched a 9-4 mark. By shredding No. 25 Arizona State, 55-38, in Tempe Nov. 9, the 2002 Bears became the first Cal team in history to score three road wins against nationally ranked opponents in the same season. The Bears also defeated No. 15 Michigan State (46-22) and No. 12 Washington (34-27). In fact, it had been 52 years since a Cal team had simply beaten three nationally ranked teams in the same campaign period. And national media began to take notice of last year's upstart team. In the Associated Press poll, the Bears were ranked 23rd on Sept. 15, and received 80 votes-29th most in the nation-Oct. 6. To add further credibility, the New York Times' Computer Rankings rated Cal 12th in the country as the Pac-10's highest-rated school on Oct. 6.
Cal Adds Serious Speed to 2003 Team Roster
One of Cal's recruiting priorities was speed, and the incoming 2003 Bear class may be one of the swiftest in recent school history. No less than nine recruits have been clocked in 4.5 seconds or faster in the 40-yard dash. Headed by mercurial wide receiver Noah Smith of Taft High School (Woodland Hills, Calif.), who has blazed to a 4.29 time, the group includes six players with 4.4 times on their resumes. The Torrid Nine also includes wide receivers Devin Stearns (Serra HS), Sam DeSa (Monte Vista HS) and Sean Young (Berkeley HS), running back J.J. Arrington (College of the Canyons), linebacker Francis Blay-Miezah (Mt. San Antonio College), defensive backs Brandon Sanders (Oakland Skyline HS), Kenny Frank (Cerritos HS) and Daymeion Hughes (Crenshaw HS).
Bears Ranked Among 2002 NCAA Leaders in TO Margin
The Bears were one of the nation's best in the all-important turnover department in 2002. During the year, Cal forced 36 turnovers and committed only 18 for a conference-leading TO margin of +18-the nation's third-best figure (+1.50 per game). In fact, that +18 figure was the school's best turnover margin since 1951, when Pappy Waldorf's 8-2 Bears finished with a +21 differential. The Bears lived on the other side of the turnover ledger in 2001, finishing 114th out of 115 Division I-A schools with a woeful -17 margin. The club's 36 takeaways (tied for 7th in the NCAA) last fall were 18 more than Cal managed in an 11-game slate the previous season. Included in that total were 21 fumble recoveries, second most in the nation. What's more, Cal scored no less than 121 points off turnovers last season. After two games in 2003, Cal is dead even in the turnover margin department, having both committed caused three turnovers (2 fumbles lost and one INT both ways).
Three Negative Streaks Came Crashing Down in 2002
Coach Tedford put an axe to more than the 2002 Big Game vs. Stanford. He led his Golden Bears to three victories last year that mercifully ended long losing streaks. The first win came in Seattle Oct. 5, as the Bears beat the Huskies, 34-27, to halt a 19-game losing streak to Washington that had spanned 26 years. Then on Nov. 9, Cal exorcised another demon when it snapped a 12-year victory drought in Tempe, Ariz. by thumping the Arizona State Sun Devils, 55-38. The Bears had previously dropped five straight at Sun Devil Stadium, all by blowout scores. And then in the 2002 season finale, Tedford's troops capped their remarkable turnaround season by scoring their first Big Game win (30-7) over Stanford in eight years.
Cal's Ticket Sales Up 30% for 2003 Home Games
Saturday's attendance of 32,553 surpassed last year's home opener by more than 6,000, as the '02 debut against Baylor drew 27,185. In fact, the Southern Miss game attracted more fans than each of Cal's first four home games of the 2002 campaign. California has sold more than 20,000 football season tickets, a 30 percent increase over last season's total.
Momentum Turf Installed in California Memorial Stadium
California Memorial Stadium celebrates its 81st season as Cal's home venue this fall. And the venerable old stadium will be featuring new playing surface, as Sportexe's Momentum Turf was installed this summer to replace natural grass. This marks the second time that Memorial Stadium has featured synthetic turf. The field was outfitted with Astroturf from 1981-94 before natural grass was installed prior to the 1995 season. The total project cost approximately $975,000 and was completely funded by private donations. Designed to maximize player speed and performance, Momentum Turf is Sportexe's premier sand and rubber infill surface. The turf's special mix of sand and granular rubber provides stability, traction and speed, simulating a perfect natural grass surface. The 73,347-seat stadium first opened with the 1923 Big Game between Cal and Stanford on Nov. 24, 1923 - a 9-0 Bear victory. In the ensuing years, Cal has compiled a 278-200-16 record in the stadium for a .578 winning percentage. With Strawberry Canyon to the east and a sweeping view of San Francisco Bay to the west, Sports Illustrated named Memorial Stadium the best place to watch college football in the country in 1997.
'02 Bears Outscored Foes, 244-127, in 1st Halves
Roaring out of the gates like few others, Cal feasted on 2002 opponents in the first half last year. The Bears, who trailed at halftime only twice in 2002, outscored their foes by a whopping 244-127 margin. That was a complete reversal from the previous season, when California was outscored by a 231-105 count in first halves. Cal was particularly lethal in first quarters last year, outscoring its opponents, 116-43, in the opening period. The script changed in the 2003 opener, however, as K-State's juggernaut marched to a 27-14 advantage at intermission. It marked only the third time in 13 games under Tedford that Cal has trailed at halftime (the Bears also stared at deficits against both Oregon State and Arizona last year). The 27 points tallied by Kansas State in the first half were the most by a Cal opponent in the opening 30 minutes during the brief Tedford Era. Cal returned to last year's form on Saturday, however, as the Bears seized a 20-2 hafltime lead over the Golden Eagles, thus holding a 34-29 edge in first halves in 2003.
Pac-10 is Truly the 'Conference of Champions'
Entering the 2003-04 season, the Pacific-10 Conference continues to uphold its tradition as the 'Conference of Champions.' Pac-10 members have claimed 73 NCAA titles over the past nine seasons, for an average of more than eight championships per academic year. Even more impressive is the breadth of the Pac-10's success, as those 73 crowns have come in 21 different men's and women's sports. The Pac-10 has led the nation in NCAA championships 38 of the last 43 years and finished second the other five times. Spanning nearly a century of outstanding achievement, the Pac-10 has captured 323 NCAA titles (243 men's, 82 women's) overall, far outdistancing the runner-up Big Ten Conference's 193 titles.
Bears Tied for Pac-10 Lead in Most Current NFL Players
California has been perennially ranked among the nation's Top 20 in former players currently in the NFL. As of August 30, Cal had 29 alumni on NFL rosters, tied for first in the Pac-10 and tied for the 14th in the country.