Cal Visits Illinois
Sept. 15, 2003
California Golden Bears (1-3, 0-0 Pac-10) at Illinois Fighting Illini (1-2, 0-0 Big Ten; at UCLA Sept. 13)
Saturday, Sept. 20, 2003, Memorial Stadium (69,249 - artificial turf), Champaign-Urbana, IL
9:10 a.m. PT / 11:10 p.m. CT
Radio: KGO Radio (810 AM) with Joe Starkey, Lee Grosscup and Mike Pawlawski
TV: ESPN Plus with Wayne Larrivee and Randy Wright
California plays its fifth and final non-conference game of the year when the Golden Bears travel to Illinois for a Sept. 20 battle in Champaign. Cal will be meeting the Illini for the third time in the last five years and is seeking its first victory in the series since 1974.
This season, the Bears (1-3) are coming off two difficult losses to Colorado State at home and to Utah on the road. In both contests, Cal fell behind early, rebounded to lead in the fourth quarter, but couldn't hold off a late scoring drive.
Now with the benefit of nine days between games, Cal looks to return to the win column on the road, where the Bears proved to be a dangerous squad in 2002. Last year, Cal won at then-No. 15 Michigan State, ended a 19-game losing streak to Washington and defeated then-No. 25 Arizona State--all on opponent turfs.
This season, the Bears have demonstrated an ability to move the ball on offense behind quarterbacks Reggie Robertson and Aaron Rodgers. Robertson has started all four games to date and has completed 61.2 percent of his passes (52-for-85) for 669 yards, eight touchdowns and a 151.29 rating. Rodgers, meanwhile, has been just as impressive in his relief role, with a 61.9 percent completion rate (26-of-42), 360 yards and three scores.
In the Utah contest, Rodgers played the final three quarters and led Cal to all of its 24 points, throwing a pair of 21-yard TD strikes to WR Geoff McArthur. A junior, McArthur is far and away the Bears' leading receiver with 25 catches for 470 yards and five touchdowns. He hauled in eight catches for 169 yards in the Kansas State opener and added eight more receptions for 130 yards at Utah.
In the backfield, the tailback tandem of Adimchinobe Echemandu and J.J. Arrington has combined for 441 yards and an average of 5.3 yards per rush. Both players topped the 100-yard mark against Southern Miss, with Echemandu galloping for 127 yards and Arrington adding 114.
Defensively, sophomore ROV Donnie McCleskey has twice registered more than 10 tackles, with 14 in the Southern Miss contest and 13 more at Utah. His 4.5 sacks are a school record for a defensive back, while he also paces the team with 8.0 tackles for loss.
Illinois leads the series, 7-1 over Cal, including a 44-17 Illini victory at Memorial Stadium in the 2001 season opener. The Bears' only victory over the Illini came in 1974 in Champaign, when Mike White's Cal squad posted a 31-14 win.
A Quick Look at Illinois
Illinois, which is coming off a 6-3 loss at UCLA last Saturday, finished 5-7 in 2002 after winning the Big Ten title a year earlier. However, the Illini closed with a strong 4-4 record in the conference last fall after a 1-3 start to the season and are hoping to build upon that success in 2003. Through three games this year, quarterback Jon Beutjer has already completed passes to 11 different receivers, and with 207 yards in a 49-22 win over Illinois State Sept. 6, he topped the 3,000-yard plateau, moving him into ninth place on the Illini's career chart. He has completed 67.0 percent of his attempts this fall (73-of-109), tossing five touchdowns. Beutjer is also averaging 235.7 ypg, up from a Big Ten-leading 228.3 ypg in 2002. On the ground, Illinois is outgaining its opponents by a 149.3 to 119.0 margin, with its tailbacks averaging better than 4.5 yards per carry. True freshman E.B. Halsey, who had 222 all-purpose yards in the opener against Missouri, paces the running attack with 288 yards. Seven starters are back from last year on the defensive side of the ball, led by 2001 All-Big Ten cornerback Christian Morton, while the line, with three returning starters, is one of the most experienced units in the conference.
Breakfast in Champaign: If It's Cal at Illinois, It Must Be 9:10 AM
Body clock? What body clock? For Cal's football team, Saturday's football game starts at 9:10 a.m. PDT. While not exactly ideal conditions for the West Coast team, it's actually just a matter of history repeating itself. The last time a Golden Bear team played a football game at such an ungodly hour, it was another Cal-Illinois matchup in Champaign, Ill. The last time the two schools hooked up in Champaign was during the 2000 season. Kickoff was also at 11:10 a.m. CDT/9:10 a.m. PDT. The then No. 19-ranked Illini hung on for a thrilling 17-15 victory over the Tom Holmoe-coach Bears. Cal played one early game last season, beating No. 15 ranked Michigan State, 46-22, at East Lansing in a contest that started at 9:30 a.m. PDT (12:30 EDT).
Spirited Comebacks Count for Naught, as Bears Claim 2nd Half Leads vs. Colo. St. & Utah Only to Endure Narrow Losses
It's becoming maddening for Coach Tedford and his 2003 Golden Bears, as for a second straight week, Cal roared back from two-touchdown deficits in the third quarter to claim short-lived leads over both Colorado State Sept. 6 and Utah Thursday, only to finally lose both games by slim margins. 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. Then in Salt Lake City on Thursday night, the Bears wiped out a 21-7 Utah cushion by scoring 17 unanswered points in the third period. But the Utes--who had lost 28-26 at Texas A&M the previous week--regrouped to ring up 10 straight points in the fourth quarter, including a 14-yard winning TD run by Brandon Warfield with only 1:06 left on the clock. For California head coach Jeff Tedford, who now owns an 8-8 overall record since arriving in Berkeley last season, it marked the fourth loss by seven points or less in his brief Cal career (the Bears had previously dropped three games by two-point margins--a 30-28 tear-jerker at USC last year and a pair of 23-21 decisions to visiting Air Force (2002) and Colorado State (2003).
With Only 2 Starters Back from 2002, Still-Improving Cal Defense Yielding a Pac-10 High 181.5 Rushing Yards Per Game
Still a work in progress, California's defense continues to show signs of both growth and inexperience 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, then held an explosive Colorado State club to 23 points and 448 yards Sept. 6 (12 points and 137 yards under the Rams' statistical output in their Aug. 30 season debut vs. Colorado). And while the Bears yielded 31 points and 336 yards to an explosive Utah unit on Thursday, they have grudingly allowed six points (vs. Colorado St.) and 10 points (at Utah) in the second half the past two games. Unfortunately, it was a Colorado State field goal with 1:57 left in the game that sealed Cal's losing fate, while the aforementioned Warfield 14-yard TD jaunt with 1:06 remaining clinched the Utes' victory Thursday night.
Finishing with a Flourish: Bears Have Outscored Foes 35-20 in 4th Quarters
One promising early sign of the 2003 Golden Bears is their performances in fourth quarters this year. After four games, the Bears have outscored their opponents by a 35-20 margin in the final period. Cal has outscored its opponent in the fourth quarter in three of its first four games of 2003. Unfortunately, the only time Tedford's club failed to out-point their foe was Thursday night in Utah, where the Utes blanked the Bears, 10-0, in the final 15 minutes to rally from a 24-21 deficit to hand California an ulcerating 31-24 setback. Perhaps the most telling statistic in fourth quarters this year has been Cal's third-down conversion rate, as the Bears have been successful on seven of 10 third-down tries in the final period.
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 four 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 42 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 8.5 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 three weeks. Against Southern Miss, he swarmed for a game-high 14 tackles, including two sacks and four tackles for losses of 19 yards. Versus 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. And Thursday in Utah, he swarmed the Utes for a game-high 13 stops, including one tackle for loss. Remarkably, after only four 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. As of Friday, Sept. 12, McCleskey had more sacks (4.5) than any other defensive back in NCAA Division 1-A football this year, while his tackles-for-loss figure ranked second nationally for a defensive back. Overall, his 10.5 tackles-per-game average is the third-best mark for all Pac-10 players.
California Junior Wideout Geoff McArthur Leads NCAA Division I-A in Receiving Yards & TDs Through 4 Games
Off to a blazing start, junior wide receiver Geoff McArthur has hunted down 25 passes for 470 yards and five touchdowns--all team highs--in the Bears' first four games. Those numbers translate into some gaudy early-season averages of 6.25 receptions, 117.5 yards per game (sixth tie in NCAA) and 18.8 yards per catch. His 470 total receiving yards and five TD catches (tie) both 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 untracked 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), almost matched that K-State output by snagging eight passes for 130 yards and two TDs Thursday night at Utah. Interestingly, he 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. But, 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.
Toler & Strang Pick Up Slack for Injured WR Makonnen
Senior Vince Strang and junior Burl Toler III, both of whom entered Cal as walk-on wide receivers, have performed surprisingly well to pick up the slack left by the injured senior Jonathan Makonnen, last year's team reception leader (54 rec., 682 yds., 7 TDs). With Makonnen sidelined with thigh and foot problems since the Kansas State opener, Toler (12-166, 0 TDs) and Strang (9-130, 2 TDs) have combined for 21 receptions,196 yards and two TDs this fall. Both posted career-high five catches in the Colorado State game, and Toler hauled in three passes for a career-high 75 yards Thursday at Utah, including a game-high 32-yard gain in the second quarter. Strang 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.--managed only one reception for 12 yards last year after corralling 12 for 128 yards as a true freshman in 2001.
While Scoring is Down Significantly from Last Year, Cal's Offensive Numbers Actually Better than 2002 Club Through 1st 4 Games
While many new faces have been introduced to the starting lineup in 2003, Tedford's offense has produced actually better yardage figures after four 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 171 points in their first four games for an average of 42.8 ppg. The 2003 Bears have tallied only 107 points--a respectable 26. ppg average--through Week 4. 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 four 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. Here's the offensive breakdown of both teams through four games:
Year Games Rushing Passing Total Offense Points
2002 4 479 997 1,476 171
2003 4 492 1,029 1,521 107
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 26.8 points and 380.3 yards per game in registering a 1-3 record after four games. Besides the consistent quarterback play of sophomore JC transfer Aaron Rodgers and returning junior 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 has pierced the 100-yard mark in their last two games vs. Colorado State and Utah, they still lug impressive numbers into this week's road game at Utah. Echemandu is averaging 5.5 yards per carry this season, netting 275 yards and two touchdowns on 50 attempts. The 6-0, 225-pound back currently ranks fourth among Pac-10 rushers with a 68.8 yards-per-game average. And Arrington--who also has snared eights passes for 47 yards and two TDs--is gaining 5.0 yards per carry with 166 yards on 33 attempts.
California, Illinois Have Had Strong Super Bowl Presence Through the Years
Besides being two of the nation's top public universities, California and Illinois have both been well represented in the sport's biggest event, the Super Bowl. Cal is one of only three colleges to boast three quarterbacks who have started in a Super Bowl game. Those three Golden Bears were Joe Kapp (Minnesota Vikings, 1970), Craig Morton (Dallas Cowboys, 1971; Denver Broncos, 1977) and Vince Ferragamo (Los Angeles Rams, 1980). The other two schools who can make the same claim are Notre Dame (Darryle Lamonica, Joe Theisman and Joe Montana) and Alabama (Bart Starr, Joe Namath and Ken Stabler). Besides quarterbacks, Cal has sent many other former players to the Super Bowl. Most recently, last year's AFC champion Oakland Raiders featured two ex-Golden Bears in offensive tackle Langston Walker and defensive end Regan Upshaw. Illinois has sent many recent players to the NFL's Big Dance, too. Last season's Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Bucanneers featured three former Illini in defensive end Simeon Rice, tight end Ken Dilger and fullback Jameel Cook. In 2000, Illinois was represented on both Super Bowl participants, with offensive tackle Brad Hopkins suiting up for the Tennessee Titans and running back Robert Holcombe playing for the Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams. Also, fullback Howard Griffith collected Super Bowl championship rings with the Denver Broncos in both 1998 and 1999.
Turner and Tedford Both Developers of Quarterbacks
Two of the best evaluators and developers of young quarterbacks will be coaching on opposite sidelines this Saturday in Champaign. Cal head coach Jeff Tedford may be the only coach on the planet to create five quarterbacks who would later be chosen in the first round of an NFL Draft--four of which also earned conference Player of the Year honors. As offensive coordinator at Fresno State, he transformed Trent Dilfer (No. 6 in 1994, Tampa Bay) and David Carr (No. 1 in 2002, Houston) into high NFL first-rounders. Then in a similar position at Oregon, he developed Akili Smith (No. 3 in 1999, Cincinnati) and Joey Harrington (No. 3 in 2002, Detroit) into first-round selections. And last year at Cal, he reinvented Kyle Boller, who passed for 2,815 yards and 28 TDs for the Golden Bears, to demand first-round status (No. 19 in 2003, Baltimore). Meanwhile, Turner has also stamped his mark with college QBs over the years. While coaching at San Jose State, he tutored a young unheralded passer named Jeff Garcia, who went on to become a Pro Bowl quarterback for the local San Francisco 49ers. Then as offensive coordinator at USC, Turner nurtured the careers of Rodney Peete (Heisman Trophy runner-up) and Sean Salisbury, both of whom enjoyed NFL tenures. And as head coach at Illinois, he polished the talents of Kurt Kittner, who became the winningest quarterback (24-15) in school history in setting Illinois season (27 in 2001) and career (70) records for touchdown passes.
A Similar Tale of Two Historic Football Programs and Stadiums
Cal and Illinois share many similarities in their football histories. They both play in major conferences and have registered almost identical all-time records. The Golden Bears, who began play in 1882, have posted a 566-445-51 overall mark for a winning percentage of .557. Illinois, meanwhile, sports a 541-464-51 record for a .536 mark. Interestingly, both schools have home venues--each called Memorial Stadium--which opened in 1923 and were dedicated to the U.S. veterans of World War I. While both stadiums opened in 1923, Illinois' official dedication occurred the following season on Oct. 18, 1924. On that day, the Illini beat Michigan, 39-14, as the legendary Harold 'Red' Grange accounted for six touchdowns in what remains as the single greatest performance in the stadium's history.
Illinois' Ron Turner Faces One of His Childhood Teams This Weekend
Illinois head coach Ron Turner experienced his football beginnings in Cal's backyard. Turner, the 2001 Big Ten Conference Coach of the Year, was born in Martinez, California--an East Bay community that was also the birthplace of baseball Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio. He played football at Pleasant Hill's Diablo Valley College in 1973-74 and then earned his bachelor's degree in physical education from the University of the Pacific in 1977. Turner, whose brother, Norv Turner, is the Miami Dolphins' offensive coordinator and former Washington Redskins' head coach, began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at UOP in 1977. He later served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Stanford from 1989-91 before taking the head coaching reins at San Jose State in 1992. That SJS Spartan club scrolled a 7-4 record, vaulting Turner into the head coaching job at Illinois the following season.
Walking on to Greatness: Cal and Illinois Benefit from Quality Non-Scholarship Players Through the Years
As state universities, both California and Illinois have benefited greatly from quality walk-on players throughout their football histories. Among the Cal players who have advanced to the NFL are linebackers Scott Fujita (Kansas City Chiefs) and Gary Plummer (San Diego Chargers and San Francisco 49ers), wide receivers Matt Bouza (49ers, Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts) and Iheanyi Uwaezuoke (49ers, Miami Dolphins, Carolina Panthers and Detroit Lions), center David Binn (Chargers), and placekickers Doug Brien (New York Jets, 49ers, New Orleans Saints and others) and Mick Luckhurst (Atlanta Falcons). For Illinois, the walk-on alumni have included such NFL players as linebacker Ron Ferrari (49ers), fullback Howard Griffith (back-to-back Super Bowl titles with the Denver Broncos), wide receiver Aaron Moorehead (Colts), offensive linemen Brad Hopkins (Tennessee Titans), Dave Harbour (Washington Redkins) and Nathan Hodel (Arizona Cardinals), and placekicker Neil Rackers (Cincinnati Bengals).
The California-Ilinois Coaching Connection
Pete Elliott and Mike White served as head coach at both Cal and Illinois. Elliott was just 10-21 in three seasons with the Bears form 1957-59, but led his 1958 team to a 7-4 record, No. 16 Associated Press ranking and Cal's last Rose Bowl berth. He later went 31-34-1 from 1960-66 at Illinois, including an 8-1-1 record in 1963 when the Illini were ranked third in the final AP poll and defeated Washington in the '64 Rose Bowl. White took Cal to its last conference championship, tying for Pac-8 honors in 1975. He was 34-31-1 with the Bears from 1972-77. White compiled a 47-41-3 mark with Illinois from 1980-87, with a Big Ten title in 1983.
All-Pacific-10 Conference Candidate Mark Wilson Anchors California's Veteran Offensive Line at Left Tackle
With 38 starts to his credit entering Saturday morning's game at Illinois, 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 492 rushing yards and have protected quarterbacks Robertson and Rodgers for 1,029 passing yards. While admittingly facing some of the nation's best defensive clubs thus far, the Cal O-Line has yielded 11 sacks in the first four games. However, they harnessed Utah's pass rush, allowing only one sack Thursday night.
Despite Loss of NFL 1st Rounder Boller, Cal's Passing Game Continues to Hum at 257.2-Yard Clip With Rodgers & Robertson
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 was 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 in Week 3 against Colorado State, setting personal career highs in completions (23) and attempts (35) in passing for 248 yards and three touchdowns. Rodgers, who relieved Robertson with 4:05 left in the first quarter of the Utah game, enjoyed a breakthrough performance against the Utes. A third team JC All-American at Butte college last year, Rodgers rallied the Bears from an early 14-0 deficit and completed 15-of-25 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns in his longest stint of the season. While Tedford has not announced a starter for the Illinois game, the Cal passing game has been productive no matter who `s at the controls. Robertson, limited to 22 yards on four-of-seven passing at Utah, has threaded 52 of 85 attempts (61.2%) for 669 yards, eight TDs and three interceptions through four games. And Rodgers has clicked on 61.9 percent of his attempts (26-of-42) for 360 yards, three TDs and no picks thus far. Together, Robertson and Rodgers have completed 61.4 percent of their attempts (78-for-127), averaged 257.2 passing yards per game, and totaled 11 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. The Bears currently rank third in passing efficiency (153.34) and fifth in passing yardage (257.2) among Pac-10 offenses.
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. Thus far in 2003, Fredrickson has had mixed results in both roles, averaging 39.4 yards per punt (8th in Pac-10) while connecting on only three of seven field goal attempts. He missed two of three FG tries in Utah, hitting on a 21-yarder in the third quarter, but bouncing one off the left upright from 32 yards out in the first period and then narrowly missing a 54-yarder with 6:01 left in the game that would have given Cal a 27-24 lead.
Victimized by 11 Plays of 30 Yards or More in 1st 3 Games, Cal's Defense Avoids Big-Chunk Plays Thursday at Utah
While California's defense continues to make strides, they have been short-circuited by numerous big plays this year. Through their first three games, the Bears had 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, four of those explosive plays measured 50 yards or more. Although the improvement would have to be termed as 'modest,' the Bears' young defense did not allow a single 30-yard-or-more play against the Utes on Thursday. However, Cal did cough up four plays of 19-or-more yards against Utah.
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. A listing of NCAA schools with the fewest returning starters from 2002, according to Sports Illustrated:
Incoming JC Talent Beginning to Make Impact on '03 BearsAs the need dictates, Cal's incoming junior college transfers are beginning to make a strong impact on the 2003 Golden Bears. No less than eight new JC players have claimed starting jobs or significant playing time. On defense, safety Matt Giordano and linebacker Francis Blay-Miezah have started every game, while backup end Ryan Riddle leads all linemen with three sacks. Another linebacker, Joe Maningo, had impressed with his hyperactive play with five tackles and one tackle for loss in Cal's first two games. But a knee injury has sidelined him during the past two games and he probably won't return any earlier than the USC game. And a fifth JC defender who figures to get more and more playing time is end Ray Tago, who joined the team late but has seen action in the Bears' last two contests. Giordano (30) and Blay-Miezah (19) currently rank second and tied for fourth, respectively, on Cal's tackle list. On offense, three JC transfers are already key contributors--QB Aaron Rodgers and TE Garrett Cross (a lethal pass-catch tandem at Butte College last year) and TB J.J. Arrington.
One area where Cal's inexperience has not been a factor is penalties. The Bears have been flagged for only 19 infractions and 151 yards in four games. In fact, Cal has only lost 65 yards in penalties total over the past three games, including an unbelievable two penalties for 10 yards in Thursday's loss to Utah....The Bears' 17-point scoring spree in the third quarter at Utah was the second biggest one-quarter output of the year. Cal enjoyed a 20-point bonanza in the second period vs. Southern Mississippi Aug. 30....While Cal's defense has allowed game-winning scores in the final two minutes of the team's last two games vs. Colorado State and Utah, the Bears' 'D' has only yielded 16 total points in those second halves--six vs. Colorado State (two FGs) and 10 vs. Utah....Echemandu's one-yard scoring run in the third quarter Thursday may have seemed routine to the average viewer, but it broke a goal-line drought for the Bears. Cal's inability to convert on short-and-goal running plays had been an early-season bugaboo for th Bears. Cal faced three fourth-and-goal at the one-yard lne situations in its first two games and came up empty handed in all three cases....While the Bears' kickoff coverage ranks ninth in the Pac-10, allowing 23.1 yards per return, and the team's punting ranks ninth in the conference at 34.8, James Bethea is the Pac-10's third-leading kickoff returner at 21.2...Despite a winning overall record against the conference, Cal has lost its last four meetings vs. Mountain West Conference foes--31-24 at Utah and 23-21 vs. Colorado State this year, 23-21 to Air Force last year and 44-16 to BYU in 2001. Three of the four losses have been played at Berkeley....Cal head man Jeff Tedford has been associated with teams that have carved out a 29-11 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 and are 1-3 this year...The Bears have not scored first in each of their last five games dating back to the 2002 season final vs. Stanford. Cal is 2-3 in those five tilts....Cal has scored 21 and 24 points, respectively, against Colorado State and Utah the past two weeks, marking only the fourth and fifth times in 16 games under 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 three weeks, as Southern Mississippi, Colorado State and Utah were collectively successful on only 14 of 46 third-down conversions (30.4%). While Utah opened by converting three of its first four third-down chances in the first quarter, Cal's defense allowed the Utes to succeed on only four of 12 the rest of the game....Speaking of Red Grange (1923-25), the legendary Illinois back still holds the school's all-time record for career kickoff return average at 30.2 yards per return, and continues to rank in the Illini's Top 10 in rushing (10th, 388-2071, 23 TDs) and interceptions (6th, 11 for 247 yards)--and considered that Grange hasn't wore the blue-and-orange uniform for 78 years!....Cal chancellor Robert M. Berdahl received his M.A. degree from Illinois and also served as vice chancellor for academic affairs at Illinois from 1986-93.... Illinois is only one season removed from a 10-2 showing in 2001, when Ron Turner's club was ranked No. 7 nationally, won the Big Ten Conference crown and played in the Sugar Bowl (losing 47-34 to LSU)....The Illini lost four receivers--Brandon Lloyd (65-1010), Walter Young (56-822), Greg Lewis (38-538) and Aaron Moorehead (32-399)--this year who combined for 191 receptions in 2002. In fact, only one catch returned this year, and that one reception was made by Kendrick Jones two years ago....Last year's Illinois defense allowed 30 points or more in five of its first seven games, then yielded only 19.8 ppg in its final five contests (with a high of 24 points in the season finale, a 31-24 win at Northwestern)....The last time the Bears and Illini met was in Game 1 of that 2001 season. Cal ran into an Illinois buzzsaw, falling behind 24-0 in the early second quarter and eventually suffering the third-worst season opening loss in school history, 44-17. Only home debuts against Notre Dame (48-6) in 1965 and Michigan (41-0) in 1940 resulted in wider margins of defeat. The 44 points tallied by the Illini were also the most against a Cal defense in a season opener in 28 years (66-0 at Alabama)....The last time the two teams met in Champaign was 2000. In that contest, Cal scored on a 32-yard pass to Charon Arnold with 1:26 left in the game, but Kyle Boller's pass on a two-point conversion was batted down, giving the 19th-ranked Illini a 17-15 victory....After this weekend, Cal and Illinois will square off again on Sept. 17, 2005 in Berkeley....This Saturday's game is one of 10 contests on Cal's 2003 schedule which will be played on synthetic turf ....Like head coach Turner, Illinois' quarterback coach, Dan O'Dell, is also a native of Martinez, Calif....Illinois starting quarterback Jon Beutjer, who led the Big Ten in passing yards (2,283) last year, went to Wheaton's Warren South High School--the same school that produced Red Grange....Illinois is saddled with a sub-.500 record against Pac-10 schools in its history. The Illini stands 28-37-0 vs. the Pac-10 (prior to Saturday's tilt vs. UCLA), with its only winning marks coming against Cal (7-1) and UCLA (5-4)....Cal , meanwhile, also sports a losing record against the Big Ten Conference. The Bears are 17-31 all-time vs. the Big Ten, with their only winning ledgers against Wisconsin (5-1) and Indiana (2-0). Cal, however, did score a 46-22 upset win over then-No. 15 ranked Michigan State at East Lansing last fall in its most recent game against a Big Ten foe....Both schools are Rose Bowl starved programs, as Illinois has not played in Pasadena's showcase event in 17 years (lost to UCLA, 45-9, in 1984) and Cal has endured a 44-year absence (lost to Iowa, 38-12, in 1959 under Elliott)....You would be hard pressed to name a school with a better linebacker tandem that Illinois' former stars Dick Butkus (1962-64) and Ray Nitschke (1955-57). Butkus, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and namesake of the Butkus Award that annually honors the nation's top college linebacker, played nine years as an All-Pro with the Chicago Bears. Nitschke starred for the legendary Green Bay Packers for 15 seasons, which included five NFL titles over a seven-year period from 1961-67.... Illinois boasts one of the most impressive lists of alumni among U.S. universities. A sampling includes: Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, Black Entertainment Television CEO and NBA's Charlottee Bobcats owner Robert Johnson, NBA's Phoenix Suns and MLB's Arizona Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo, films critics Gene Shalit and Robert Ebert, former President Reagan/White House press secretary James Brady, Chicago Bears founder George Halas, Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner, politician and civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, composer/singer Dan Fogelberg, and comedian and former NBC Laugh-In Show star Arte Johnson.