Cal Visits Utah for Thursday Night Match-up
This Week's Game
California travels to Salt Lake City to face its second Mountain West Conference foe in as many weeks when the Golden Bears battle the Utah Utes. The Thursday night match-up, which will be televised nationally on ESPN, marks Cal's first weeknight game since recording a 27-23 victory at Kansas on Sept. 24, 1992.
The Bears and Utes are both looking to redeem themselves after narrow, last-minute losses this past Saturday. Cal rallied from a 13-point deficit to take a 21-20 lead over Colorado State with 6:34 to go, only to watch the Rams boot the winning field goal with 1:57 left. Utah, meanwhile, scored with six seconds remaining at Texas A&M, but missed on a two-point conversion that would have tied the game and fell, 28-26.
As the replacement for the graduated Kyle Boller, junior Reggie Robertson played his third strong game as the Bears' starting quarterback against Colorado State, completing 23-of-35 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns. Robertson, who has connected on 61.5 percent of his attempts this year, ranks first in the Pac-10 in touchdown passes (8) and third in passing effenciency (157.37)-a figure that, if it holds up, would rank second in school history. Cal also has not had a passer post a 60-percent completion rate for a full year since Dave Barr was 94-for-144 (66.0%) during an injury-shortened senior season in 1994.
Robertson's main target has been junior wideout Geoff McArthur, the NCAA Division I-A leader with 340 total receivering yards. McArthur has hauled in three touchdowns and is averaging 20.0 yards per catch on 17 receptions. Junior Burl Toler (9 catches, 91 yards) and senior Vincent Strang (9 catches, 130 yards, 2 TDs) have also shown the ability to get open down field.
Defensively, sophomore rover Donnie McCleskey-one of only two returning starters from Cal's 2002 unit-has already racked up 4.5 sacks, a school season record for a Bear defensive back. One of his hits separated Southern Miss QB Brad Bower from his helmet two weeks ago, while he forced a fumble with his second sack of CSU's Bradlee Van Pelt last Saturday to set up a Cal touchdown.
Redshirt-freshman cornerback Tim Mixon broke up three passes against Colorado State and tied for team honors with nine tackles. His five breakups this year are four more than any other Cal player.
Cal holds a 4-1 edge over Utah in a series that dates back to 1920. The teams played three times between 1958-64, then didn't meet again until Cal posted a 24-21 victory in the 2000 season opener. The Bears' only previous visit to Salt Lake City resulted in a 35-22 Cal win in 1963.
A Quick Look at Utah
Utah enters Thursday's game vs. Cal after just falling short at Texas A&M last Saturday. Trailing 21-0 at the half, the Utes scored on a 45-yard pass from Brett Elliott to John Madsen with six seconds left to get within 28-26. However, the two-point conversion failed, sending Utah home with its first loss of the year. The Utes displayed a balanced attack against the Aggies, rushing for 205 yards, including 181 yards (36 carries, 3 touchdowns) from Brandon Warfield, and passing for 210 while holding onto the ball for 37:23. Warfield, who was named the Mountain West Conference Co-Offensive Player of the Week after rambling for 173 yards in an opening 40-20 victory over Utah State, earned second team all-league honors last year when he averaged 102.1 ypg. The Utes finished 5-6 in '02, just missing a chance at a bowl game after competing in the Las Vegas Bowl in both 1999 and 2001.
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 8-7 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.
Urban Meyer, Utah (Cincinnati '86) is in his first season as head coach of the Utes and has an 18-7 career mark. After two successful years at Bowling Green -- where he went 17-6 -- Meyer made the move west on Dec. 12, 2002. He began his coaching career in 1986 as a graduate assistant at Ohio State. Meyer then accepted his first full-time position as outside linebackers coach at Illinois State in 1988. He coached the Redbirds' quarterbacks and wide receivers the next season, before becoming wide receivers coach at Colorado State, a position he held until 1995. Meyer spent 1996-2000 coaching wide receivers at Notre Dame, then took over the Bowling Green program in 2001.
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 Colorado State, LB Wendell Hunter intercepted a pass that first bounced off the hands and foot of Ram WR Chris Pittman. Hunter's 19-yard return set up Cal's third touchdown of the day.
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 Colorado State contest, senior WR Vincent Strang caught five passes for 63 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
For 4th Straight Week, Cal Faces Program Steeped in Defense
It has been no cakewalk for Cal's offense thus far this season, as the Bears have faced three rock-solid defenses in Kansas State, Southern Mississippi and Colorado State. Next on the horizon is Utah, another school that has earned a reputation for defense in recent years. Last season, the Utes led the Mountain West Conference in total defense (332.1 ypg) and scoring defense (20.5 ppg), and ranked 12th nationally in rushing defense (104.82). Utah, which yielded more than 18 points only five times last fall, has been ranked in the nation's Top 30 in scoring defense in each of the past four seasons.
Utah's Urban Meyer the 1st of 4 New Head Coaches on California's 2003 Slate
Urban Meyer, who replaced Ron McBride as the Utes' head coach this year, is the first of four new head coaches that Cal will face this season. It will be a pairing of 2002 conference coaches of the year this Thursday, as Pac-10 Coach of the Year Jeff Tedford matches wits with Meyer, who was named Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year after directing Bowling Green to a 9-3 record. In the past four years under McBride, Utah had made two appearances in the Las Vegas Bowl, scoring victories over USC (10-6) in 2001 and Fresno State (17-16) in 1999. The Utes dipped to 5-6 last year, despite winning their last three games over UNLV (28-17), Wyoming (23-18) and BYU (13-6).
Utes Feature West Coast Talent as 31 Players Have California Roots, 13 From Pacific Islands
Besides dipping into its home state for football talent, Utah clearly looks west in its recruiting strategy. No less than 31 student-athletes on its 2003 team roster are products of the state of California, while the Utes boast 12 players from Hawaii and one from American Samoa. Of the 31 Californians, five hail from Northern Calilfornia: running back Marty Johnson (Sacramento/ Butte JC), offensive tackle David Dirkmaat (San Jose/Fresno CC), wide receivers Paris Warren (Sacramento/Oregon transfer) and Travis LaTendresse (El Dorado Hills/Linfield College transfer), and defensive lineman Lewis Powell (East Palo Alto/Menlo Atherton HS). Johnson, a 2001 teammate of Cal tight end Garrett Cross at Butte College, was the NCAA's leading rusher through two games last year before a knee injury ended his season prematurely. In the mold of former Utah and NFL running back greats Jamal Anderson and Mike Anderson, he rushed for 405 yards and three TDs on 58 carries with monster games against Utah State (176 yds.) and Indiana (229) to open the '02 campaign.
Cal's Delgado, a Ute Coach in 1993, Considered One of the Nation's Premier Defensive Line Coaches
Ken Delgado, long regarded as one of the finest teachers of defensive line play in college football, has coached for both Cal and Utah during his career. Currently the Golden Bears' defensive line coach, he showed instant production in his first year in Berkeley last year. The 2002 Cal team ranked third in the Pac-10 in sacks (44), as well as fifth in the conference and 19th nationally in rush defense (114.0 ypg). Under his direction, senior defensive ends Tully Banta-Cain (13) and Tom Canada (12) provided the Bears with the top sack tandem in the Pac-10, as they ranked second and fifth, respectively. Banta-Cain earned first team All-Pac-10 honors and went on to win the Defensive MVP award at the 2003 East-West Shrine Game in San Francisco. Delgado coached at Utah for one season in 1993, a year that saw defensive lineman Luther Ellis earn first team All-Western Athletic Conference accolades and later earn first-round status in the 1994 NFL Draft. During his career, Delgado has also developed such players as Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, one of the NFL's sack leaders at Green Bay, plus All-Pro La'Roi Glover and NFL draft choice Jamal Duff.
Two Members of Cal Athletic Family Lost in Sept. 11 Tragedy
When the Cal football team squares off against the Utah Utes this Thursday night, it will mark the second anniversary of the Sept. 11 tragedy that rocked the free world. Sadly, it also will mark the deaths of two members of the Cal athletic family-former football tight end Brent Woodall and ex-national rugby champion Mark Bingham. Both 1993 graduates of the University of California, Woodall was a New York stockbroker who perished on the 89th floor of the World Trade Center's South Tower, while Bingham was credited with helping overtake Flight 93 from terriorists before the plane crashed in rural Pennsylvania. The 2001 Cal football team had been scheduled to travel to New Jersey later that week for a Saturday, Sept. 15 game at Rutgers-a game that was rescheduled Nov. 23 after the terrorist attacks occurred. A Brent Woodall Memorial Scholarship Fund has been established to honor Woodall, with the scholarship providing funding for future student-athletes to play Cal football. As a player, Woodall lettered from 1988-91 and was a key member of the nationally No. 7 ranked '91 squad that finished 10-2 with a Citrus Bowl victory over Clemson. He completed his Cal career with 55 receptions for 646 yards and four touchdowns. Contributions to the Woodall Scholarship should be made out to the U.C. Regents/Brent Woodall Memorial Scholarship Fund and mailed to Bears Backers, University of California Athletic Department, 2223 Fulton St., 3rd Floor, Berkeley, CA 94720. Bingham, CEO of The Bingham Group public relations firm based in New York and San Francisco, was a vital cog for Cal's national rugby championship teams in 1991 and '93.
Utah Features 2 Coaches Who Once Coached in the Bay Area
Two members of the Utah coaching staff have previously coached in the Bay Area. Offensive coordinator Mike Sanford, a native of Los Altos, Calif., served as Stanford's offensive coordinator last season, while defensive tackles coach Mike Tuiasosopo got his career start by coaching at three Bay Area high schools. Tuiasosopo, cousin of two-time UCLA All-American and 1985 San Francisco 49er Super Bowl defensive linemen Manu Tuiasosopo--the father of former Washington and current Oakland Raider quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo, jump started his career by coaching the defensive line at Montclair Prep in 1990. He later served as linebacker coach at Berkeley's St. Mary's High in 1992 and head coach of Berkeley High from 1993-95.
A Pair of Comebacks Fall 2 Points Short, as Cal & Utah Look to Return to Win Column in Primetime ESPN Thursday Matchup
Close but no cigar for both Cal and Utah last Saturday. The Golden Bears, trailing 20-7 in the fourth quarter against visiting Colorado State, stormed back with two Reggie Robertson-to-Geoff McArthur touchdown strikes of six and 17 yards in the span of five-and-a-half minutes to give Cal a 21-20 lead with 6:34 left in the game. But the Rams, fueled by the brilliant passing and running of 2002 MWC Offensive Player of the Year Bradlee Van Pelt (317 yards passing/60 rushing), rallied in the final two minutes to set up a game-winning 32-yard field goal by placekicker Jeff Babcock. For California head coach Jeff Tedford, who now owns an 8-7 overall record since arriving in Berkeley last season, it marked the third two-point loss of his brief Cal career (the Bears dropped an indentical 23-21 decision last year to visiting Air Force, another Mountain West Conference foe, and was close-shaved by USC at the Los Angeles Coliseum last season, 30-28). For Utah, a gallant second-half rally ended in dramatic fashion in College Station, Texas, where the heavily-favored Texas A&M Aggies escaped with a 28-26 win despite the Utes rebounding from a 21-0 halftime deficit to score 26 points in the final half. Before a partisan A&M crowd, Utah QB Brett Elliott stunned the Aggies with a 45-yard scoring pass to wide receiver John Madsen with only six seconds left, pulling the Utes with 28-26. However, Elliott's rush attempt failed for a two-point conversion, which would have knoted the score. And worse news followed when it was learned that Elliott suffered a fractured wrist on that final play.
The Cupper Returns:Cal's Colorman Retraces His All-America Steps at Utah
It is sure to be a trip down memory lane for Lee Grosscup this week. Grosscup, the 1957 consensus All-American quarterback at Utah, will return to his old college when he and Joe Starkey broadcast the Utes-Golden Bears game on KMKY Radio (1310 AM, Oakland/San Francisco). Now in his 13th season as color analyst on Cal broadcasts, 'The Cupper' must be considered one of the greatest football players in Utah history. The New York Giants' first round choice (10th overall) in the 1958 NFL Draft, Grosscup still holds Utah records for passing efficiency in a season (175.50 in 1957) and career (146.32 in 1957-58), as well as yards per completion for a season (10.20 in '57) and career (8.53). He also ranks first in completion percentage for a season (68.6%, 94-for-137 in 1957) and second all-time in career percentage (62.1%, 162-261 in 1957-58) in school annals. Following his college days, the Cupper returned to what was then Rice Stadium to play in NFL exhibitions with the Giants in 1959, the San Francisco 49ers in 1964 and the Oakland Raiders in 1965. (Some quality trivia: in that Raider-Broncos' exhibition in '65, Grosscup connected with future Hall-of-Famer Fred Bilitnekoff on his first reception as a pro-an 80-yard TD pass in the final two minutes of the game). Grosscup later enjoyed 18 years as an ABC network color commentator on college football telecasts, working with such luminaries as Keith Jackson and Al Michaels. The Cupper's last visit to the university was in 1997, when he was a keynote speaker on campus, and also was inducted into the Utah Athletic Hall of Fame in 1990. In addition, Grosscup addressed the Ute football teams in pre-game talks upon the wishes of head coaches Jim Fassell in 1986 and Ken McBride in '90. There is one last ironic twist to the Grosscup story in Utah. Lee's daughter, Stephanee Grosscup, is a long-time professional figure skater who was chosen to perform in the Opening Ceremonies at last year's Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. A resident of the city, she skated on ice that laid atop the same football field (Rice-Eccles Stadium) that her father had once played on as a Utah Ute and NFL quarterback.
Cal Defense, Inexperienced But Showing Signs of Improvement, Squares off Against NCAA's No. 4 Rusher in Utah's Warfield
Still a work in progress, California's defense continues to show signs of real growth in the early season. Featuring nine new starters from last year's unit, the Golden Bears have steadily improved since their baptism by fire against nationally No. 5 ranked Kansas State in the season opener. In that first game, the Bears were punctured for 42 points and 535 yards by K-State's veteran offense. But since then, Cal has spun a defensive shutout (34-2) against Southern Miss in its Aug. 30 home opener, and then held an explosive Colorado State club to 23 points and 448 yards last Saturday (12 points and 137 yards under the Rams' statistical output in their Aug. 30 season debut vs. Colorado). In fact, Cal applied the clamps to Colorado State in the second half, allowing only two field goals. However, the glaring stat entering this Thursday's tilt in Salt Lake City is rushing defense, where the Bears are allowing 175.3 yards per game. What makes that number particularly sobering is the fact that Utah is cranking out 203.5 rushing yards per game and features the No.4 ranked rusher in NCAA Division I-A football in senior Brandon Warfield. Warfield, who blazed to a team-best 919 yards and nine TDs on 201 carries last year, has averaged 177.0 yards per game in Utah's first two contests. He's ripped off a colossal 354 yards and four touchdowns on 69 carries as the Utes' workhorse, including 181 yards and three scores on 36 attempts at Texas A&M last Saturday night.
Sophomore McCleskey Makes Early Statement as Leader of Cal Defense, Already Has Set Season Mark for DB with 4.5 Sacks
Donnie McCleskey's resume is growing-fast. 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 at rover as a true freshman last year. 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 three games this year, McCleskey has clearly established himself as one of the premier sophomores in college football. Flying around with reckless abandon, he has already posted 29 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for losses of 35 yards-all team-leading figures-while emerging as one of the Pac-10's finest players. The 5-10, 180-pound defender has been a one-man wrecking crew the past two weeks. Against Southern Miss, he swarmed for a game-high 14 tackles, including two sacks and four tackles for losses of 19 yards. And last weekend vs. Colorado State, he nailed a team-high nine tackles, two sacks and three tackles for losses of 14 yards, while forcing a key fourth-quarter fumble that led to Cal's go-ahead TD. Remarkably, after only three games, McCleskey has already set the school record for most sacks by a DB in a season. The previous mark was held by CB Nnamdi Asomugha, the Oakland Raiders' first-round pick this year, who had three sacks in 2000.
Could Freshman CB Tim Mixon be the New Donnie McCleskey?
Week by week, redshirt-freshman Tim Mixon is beginning to resemble last year's Cal freshman of the year, Donnie McCleskey. Mixon, whose versatility as a senior at Dominguez High School in Compton, Calif., resulted in 13 touchdowns scored at four different positions (six rushing, four receiving, two on kickoffs and one via interception), seemed to claim a starting cornerback position from Day One of spring camp. In the team's first three games of 2003, Mixon has bagged 14 tackles (No. 5 on the squad) and one sack, and has broken up a team-high five passes. The 5-8, 170-pound whippet tied McCleskey for team-high tackle honors with nine on Saturday, and played a key role in the Bears' fourth-quarter fireworks. With Colorado State in a third-and-four situation and nursing a 20-14 lead with 10:14 left at the Rams' 26-yard line, Mixon smothered wide receiver Eric Hill on a one-yard catch. Colorado State punted on the next play, with Mixon flashing some nifty moves for a 13-yard return to the Cal 49. While the Bears failed to score on that possession, the momentum had turned, thanks to Mixon's heroics.
Both Averaging More Than 5 Yards Per Carry, Echemandu & Arrington Provide Potent 1-2 Ground Punch for Cal's Offense
Despite inexperience at key positions like quarterback and running back, the Cal offense is averaging 27.7 points and 385.3 yards per game in registering a 1-2 record after three games. Besides the consistent quarterback play of junior starter Reggie Robertson, it has been the tailback tandem of senior Adimchinobe Echemandu and junior J.J. Arrington that has been an early-season revelation. In Week Two, Cal's rushing game steamrolled Southern Mississippi's nationally acclaimed defense for 260 yards on 48 carries, as Echemandu (formerly Joe Echema) and JC transfer Arrington 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 against the Golden Eagles, 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 against Southern Miss. While neither back pierced the 100-yard mark in Saturday's heart-throbbing loss to Colorado State, they still lug impressive numbers into this week's road game at Utah. Echemandu is averaging 5.7 yards per carry this season, netting 195 yards and one touchdown on 34 attempts. And Arrington-who also has snared four passes for 29 yards and two TDs-is gaining 5.3 yards per carry with 149 yards on 28 attempts.
All-Pacific-10 Conference Candidate Mark Wilson Anchors California's Veteran Offensive Line at Left Tackle
With 37 starts to his credit entering this Thursday's game at Utah, senior offensive tackle Mark Wilson ranks first among all Pac-10 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 373 rushing yards and have protected quarterbacks Reggie Robertson and Aaron Rodgers for 783 passing yards. While admittingly facing some of the nation's best defensive clubs thus far, the Cal O-Line has yielded 10 sacks in three games.
Despite Loss of NFL 1st Rounder Boller, Cal's Passing Game Continues to Hum at 261-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 two weeks ago in the 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. It was Robertson who went the distance last week against Colorado State, setting personal career highs in completions (23) and attempts (35) in passing for 248 yards and three touchdowns. Ranked 25th among NCAA Division I-A quarterbacks with a 157.37 passing efficiency rating, Robertson has threaded 48 of 78 attempts (61.5%) for 647 yards, eight TDs and three interceptions through three games. Together, Robertson and Rodgers have completed 62.1 percent of their attempts (59-for-95), averaged 261.0 passing yards per game, and totaled nine touchdown passes and only three interceptions. Robertson had started only two games in his college career as Boller's backup before this season, while Rodgers was a third team JC All-American who threw for 28 TDS and only four interceptions at Butte College last year. Rodgers has completed 64.7 percent of his attempts (11-of-17) for 136 yards, with one TD and no picks in limited duty.
While Scoring is Down Significantly from Last Year, Cal's Offensive Numbers Almost Identical to 2002 Club Through 1st 3 Games
While many new faces have been introduced to the starting lineup in 2003, Tedford's offense has produced almost identical yardage figures after three games this year vs. last season. The big difference in the two clubs is total points scored. The 2002 Bears, fueled by a 70-point onslaught in the Baylor opener, rang up 150 points in their first three games for an average of 50.0 ppg. The 2003 Bears have tallied only 83 points-a respectable 27.7 ppg average-through Week Three. But to make scoring comparisons between the two offenses would be very misleading. In 2002, 20 points were scored by the defense (two interception returns and one safety) and special teams (one punt return) in the first three games. By comparison, the 2003 club has only benefitted with one non-offensive TD through three games-a 20-yard TD punt return by James Bethea against Southern Miss.
California Junior Wideout Geoff McArthur Leads NCAA Division I-A in Receiving Yards With 340 Through 3 Games
Off to a blazing start, junior wide receiver Geoff McArthur has hunted down 17 passes for 340 yards and three touchdowns-all team highs-in the Bears' first three games. Those numbers translate into some gaudy early-season averages of 5.7 receptions, 113.3 yards per game (18th in NCAA) and 20.0 yards per catch. His 340 total receiving yards currently rank first among all NCAA Division I-A receivers. 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 in Week Two to again lead the team with five grabs for 92 yards. Inexplicably, McArthur was held catchless until 3:24 remaining in the third quarter of the Colorado State game, but the Bear receiver got on track thereafter to catch four passes for a team-high 79 yards, including TD grabs of six and 17 yards in the fourth quarter. 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 also 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.
Senior Tyler Fredrickson 1st Starting Punter-Kicker at California Since Ryan Longwell in 1996
When senior Tyler Fredrickson replaced JC transfer Lucas Everett at punter in the second quarter of the Southern Miss game Aug. 30, 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.
Strang & Toler Post Career-Highs With 5 Receptions Each
Senior Vincent Strang and junior Burl Toler III, both of whom entered Cal as walk-on wide receivers, sprung loose for a career-high five receptions each in the Colorado State game. Strang chased down five passes for 63 yards, including a 30-yard scoring pass from Robertson that gave the Bears an early 7-3 lead over Colorado State. The 5-8, 150-pound speedster has hauled in nine passes for 130 yards and two TDs this season, well beyond his 2002 season totals of five receptions for 100 yards and one score. He has caught 14 passes for 230 yards for an average of 16.4 yards per catch during his two-year Cal career. Meanwhile, Toler-the son of ex-Cal linebacker great Burl Toler Jr. and grandson of former USF football legend and long-time NFL game official Burl Toler Sr.-snagged five balls for 48 yards on Saturday. Toler managed only one reception for 12 yards last year after corralling 12 for 128 yards as a true freshman in 2001. He has nine catches for 91 yards and no TDs in three games this fall.
Goal Line Rushing Game Plagues 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 faced the situation on three occasions in its first two games, and came up empty handed in all three cases. 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 in Week Two vs. Southern Miss, 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. Cal did not face any goal-line situations last weekend against Colorado State.
Cal Defense Victimized by 11 Plays of 30 Yards or More in 2003
While California's defense continues to make strides, they have been short-circuited by numerous big plays this year. Through three games, the Bears have already allowed opponents to uncork 11 plays of 30 yards or longer-seven vs. Kansas State, one vs. Southern Miss and three vs. Colorado State. What's more, Cal's defense has been hit by plays of 50 yards or more on four occasions this fall. The longest such play unfolded last Saturday when Colorado State's Bradlee Van Pelt hooked up with H-back Joel Dreessen on an 85-yard TD pass in the first quarter.
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.
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).
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).
As a senior at Utah in 1958, Grosscup and the Utes lost a 36-21 game to Cal in Berkeley....The Cal-Utah game will be played at an elevation of 4,500 feet. The Bears will not play at a higher elevation again until next year's season opener on Sept. 4, 2004, when Cal travels to Colorado Springs to face the Air Force Academy....Utah's Rice-Eccles Stadium, the site of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the XIX Olympic Winter Games Feb. 8-24, 2002, features a FieldTurf playing surface, which is quite similar to the Sportexe Momentum Turf installed at California Memorial Stadium this season. Besides the 45,017-seat Rice-Eccles Stadium-which was renovated and renamed in 1998-the University of Utah's new residence center was converted into the Olympic Village to house all the athletes at the 2002 Games....While the backdrop for Cal home football games is scenic Strawberry Canyon, the Utes' home tilts are enhanced by the nearby Wasatch Mountain Range....Primarily due to Morman missions, Utah features 38 players who are 22 years or older. That number includes eight 24-year-olds and one 25-year-old....Utah, which also hosts Oregon Oct. 3, has been saddled with a .344 winning percentage (45-87-3) against Pac-10 schools in its history. In contrast, the Golden Bears have won at a .600 clip against Mountain West Conference schools. Despite the winning overall record against the conference, Cal has lost its last three meetings vs. MWC foes-23-21 to Air Force last year and 44-16 to BYU in 2001, and 23-21 to Colorado State last weekend, games all played at Berkeley....Cal and Utah went 36 years (1964-2000) between games, with the Bears staving off a furious Ute rally to claim the last meeting in 2000 by a 24-21 score in Berkeley....The Bears and Utes could meet again this year if both become bowl eligible, as the Pac-10's fifth-place finisher and the MWC's runner-up team will square off in the Las Vegas Bowl on Christmas Eve....Cal head man Jeff Tedford has been associated with teams that have carved out a 29-10 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...Injury update from the Cal training room: promising JC transfer Joe Maningo suffered a right knee sprain in the first half of the Southern Miss game and may be out of the lineup for at least two more weeks. Senior Jonathan Makonnen, suffering from a bruised thigh and injured foot, has missed the club's last two games after catching three passes for 37 yards in limited action in the season opener. He is still listed week-to-week....The Bears have not scored first in each of their last four games dating back to the 2002 season final vs. Stanford. Cal is 2-2 in those four tilts....Cal only gained 51 yards rushing against Colorado State Saturday, the lowest total by a Bear team since they netted 40 yards on 34 carries in last year's 17-12 triumph over UCLA at Berkeley....When Cal scored 21 points on Saturday, it marked only the fourth time in 15 games under Jeff Tedford that the Bears have not scored at least 28 points; 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 has been particularly stifling in third-down situations the past two weeks, as Southern Mississippi and Colorado State were collectively successful on only seven of 30 third-down conversions (23.3%)....The 32-point victory over the Golden Eagles Aug. 30 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 vs. USM 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...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...Last year, Urban Meyer's Bowling Green offense led the nation in red zone production, scoring on 61 of 63 (96.8%) trips inside the 20, including 53 touchdowns. Tedford's first Cal team was nearly as efficient, coming away with points on 41 of 48 red zone opportunities. The Bears actually led the Pac-10 in red zone efficiency through eight games last year, when they were successful on 32 of 33 chances, but they connected on only nine of 15 the rest of the way (including one of four in the season finale vs. Stanford)....Two of Utah's top players, running back Marty Johnson and defensive end Jason Kaufusi, have been sidelined thus far this season. Johnson, who led the NCAA in rushing (405 yards) through two games last year before suffering a season-ending knee injury, has been hampered by a lingering foot problem. Kaufusi, a two-time All-MWC first team selection, has not practiced since undergoing arthroscopic shoulder surgery in July. Now add starting QB Brett Elliott to the injury list.
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
Cal's defense, which returns only two starters (tackle Lorenzo Alexander and rover Donnie McCleskey) from2002, 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 yds., 28 TDs), Kansas State's Eli Roberson (1,032 yds. and 16 TDs rushing, 1,580 yds. and 7 TDs passing), Arizona State's Andrew Walter (3,877 yds. and 28 TDs) and Colorado State's Bradlee Van Pelt (2,073 yds. and 10 TDs passing, 819 yds. 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, Cal 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 three games in 2003, Cal is dead even in the turnover margin department, having both committed and caused five turnovers through three games.
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
The Bears' first two home games have outdrawn each of Cal's first four home contests of last year. Cal drew 32,553 in its Aug. 30 opener, surpassing last year's home debut by more than 6,000. And last week against Colorado State, the Bears attracted 34,096 to Memorial Stadium. California has sold more than 20,000 football season tickets this year, 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-this year reduced to 67,537 capacity due to Gold and Blue Zone signage-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 early stages of the 2003 season has not followed the same pattern, however. The Bears have been outscored 46-41 in first halves this year and outpointed 22-14 in first quarters. What's more, the 2003 Bears have trailed at halftime in two of their first three games (27-14 vs. K-State and 17-7 vs. Colorado State). In contrast, Tedford's first Cal club only trailed at intermission two times all season in 2002 (at Oregon State, 21-10, and vs. Arizona, 24-17). 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.
Tedford Continues QB Tradition at Cal
Since the days of All-American John Meek, who led 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.
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.