No. 7 California Visits No. 1 USC
Oct. 3, 2004
Game No. 4: California Golden Bears (3-0, 1-0 Pac-10) at Southern California Trojans (4-0, 1-0 Pac-10)
Date: Saturday, Oct. 9, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (92,000 - Grass), Los Angeles, CA
Kickoff: 12:30 p.m.
Radio: KGO Radio (810 AM) with Joe Starkey, Mike Pawlawski, Roxy Bernstein and Lee Grosscup
Television: ABC with Keith Jackson, Dan Fouts and Todd Harris
This Week's Game
California (#7 Associated Press/#7 ESPN/USA Today) - rising to its highest national ranking since 1991 - faces its stiffest test of the year when the Golden Bears venture to Los Angeles to battle top-ranked USC Saturday.
Cal has won five of the past eight games vs. the Trojans, including three of the last four on the road. However, the Bears are 0-6 all-time against No. 1-ranked opponents, with two of the setbacks coming against USC (1972 and 1967).
All 92,000 tickets to this weekend's game have been sold, marking the first time since 1930 that a Cal-USC game in L.A. has sold out. The attendance figure also represents USC's highest for a non-UCLA/Notre Dame home game since 1952, while it will be the largest crowd a Bear team has played before since Cal's last Rose Bowl appearance on Jan. 1, 1959 when 98,297 saw Iowa post a 38-12 victory.
While USC enters the contest with 24 wins in its last 25 games, Cal is riding its own six-game winning streak - the Bears' longest since 1990-91 when Cal defeated Wyoming in the `90 Copper Bowl then opened the `91 season at 5-0 en route to a 10-2 record and the program's last Top 10 finish (#8 AP/#7 USA Today).The Bears' 2004 squad has excelled on both sides of the ball, leading the Pac-10 in 16 of 30 team categories, including total offense (539.0 ypg) and total defense (261.7 ypg). In the national rankings, the Bears top all of Division I-A in both scoring (48.67 ppg) and passing efficiency (211.17).
In fact, Cal's offense has been running on all cylinders since the middle of last year. Over their past nine games, the Bears have scored at least 40 points seven times, including outbursts of more than 50 points against Washington (54-7), Virginia Tech (52-49) and Air Force (56-14).
USC owns an all-time record of 56-30-5 against Cal in a series that dates back to 1912. However, the Bears have won five of the last eight meetings, including a 34-31 triple overtime victory last Sept. 27 in Berkeley on Tyler Fredrickson's 38-yard field goal - handing the eventual co-national champs their only loss of the year. Cal has also found success recently in the L.A. Coliseum, posting consecutive triumphs in 1996 (22-15), 1998 (32-31) and 2000 (28-16). The Bears nearly ran the streak to four in a row in 2002 when they built a 21-3 second-quarter lead. But the Trojans battled back for a 30-28 win.
A Quick Look at USC
After a week layoff, USC returns to action Saturday to host the only team to defeat the Trojans in their last 25 games. Winner of the Pac-10 title and a co-national championship last fall, USC has been at the top of the polls all of 2004. Junior QB Matt Leinart directs an offense that has outscored its opponents by a 146-51 margin through four games. Leinart is 85-for-125 passing (68.5%) for 1,047 yards and eight ouchdowns with only one interception. The tandem of LenDale White (83.8 ypg) and Reggie Bush (82.5 ypg) lead a rushing attack that averages an even 200 yards per game. The multi-dimensional Bush also has 14 receptions for 196 yards and four scores, in addition to averaging 10.8 yards on punt returns and 22.9 yards returning kickoffs. On defense, USC, paced by LB Matt Grootegoed's three picks, already has nine interceptions and recovered four fumbles on the year to fuel the Trojans +9 turnover margin - fourth-best in the country at +2.25 per game.
Jeff Tedford, California (Fresno State '83), who has orchestrated one of the greatest recent turnarounds in college football during his brief tenure in Berkeley, has led Cal to an 18-11 mark. 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 in `02 and claimed Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors. Last fall, Tedford directed the Bears to an 8-6 mark and the school's first bowl win - 52-49 over Virginia Tech in the Insight Bowl - in 10 years. He 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. Tedford then served four seasons as offensive coordinator at Oregon, helping the Ducks to a combined 38-10 record and a Pac-10 title in 2001. 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.
Pete Carroll, USC (Pacific '73) is in his fourth season with the Trojans and owns a 33-9 record at the school. After leading USC to an 11-2 record, including an Orange Bowl victory over Iowa, in 2002, he guided the Trojans to a 12-1 mark and the co-national championship last year. Carroll began his coaching career at Pacific in 1974, before moving to Arkansas, Iowa State, Ohio State, North Carolina State and back to Pacific. Carroll then made the jump to the NFL as defensive backs coach at Buffalo (1984) and Minnesota (1985-89). After spending the next four seasons as defensive coordinator with the New York Jets, he took over as the Jets' head coach in 1994 (6-10). Carroll was defensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers from 1995-96, and served as head coach at New England from 1997-99 (27-21) before going to USC in 2001.
IKON Office Solutions Play of the Week
Each week throughout the 2004 football season, IKON Office Solutions salutes the Golden Bear Play of the Week. Against Oregon State, TB Terrell Williams hit WR Chase Lyman for a 79-yard touchdown strike midway through the first quarter to give the Bears the lead for good at 14-7.
The Times Player of the Game
Each week throughout the 2004 football season, the Contra Costa Times will recognize the Cal Player of the Game. Against Oregon State, senior WR Chase Lyman hauled in five catches for a career-Phigh 176 yards and tied the school record with three touchdown receptions.
Golden Bear Game Notes
Monumental Matchup: Winning Streaks on the Line as No. 7 California Bears Face No. 1 USC Trojans in Battle for Early Pacific-10 Conference Supremacy
The long-awaited rematch of last year's triple-overtime game has arrived. It's California's nationally No. 7 ranked Golden Bears against USC's defending national champion and No. 1 rated Trojans before a sellout crowd of 92,000 fans--and an ABC Network TV audience--at the historic Los Angeles Coliseum this Saturday. The game will feature two of the nation's elite head coaches in USC's Pete Carroll and Cal's Jeff Tedford, two of college football's premier quarterbacks in the Trojans' Matt Leinart and the Bears' Aaron Rodgers, and two of the country's most explosive players in USC's Reggie Bush and Cal's J.J. Arrington. USC owns the Pac-10's longest current winning streak with 13 straight victories (second longest in the nation) and has won 24 of its last 25 games, while California, more modestly, has had its hand raised in triumph six straight times and has won eight of its last nine contests dating back to last year. Cal's six-game string is the Golden Bears' longest victory streak in 13 years, equaling the six-game skein posted over the 1990 and 1991 seasons. A seventh straight Cal win on Saturday would give the Bears their longest streak since Pappy Waldorf's club opened the 1950 campaign with nine victories in succession. The only blemish on USC's ledger over the past two years? A 34-31 triple-overtime loss to the Golden Bears in Berkeley last season, an epic battle that finally ended on a Tyler Fredrickson 38-yard field goal. Two sobering statistics for the 2004 Bears to chew on as they enter this week's game: USC has won 16 straight games in the friendly confines of the L.A. Coliseum, and if the Trojans were to beat the underdog Bears on Saturday, it would extend USC's current overall winning skein to 14 games--their longest victory streak since the John Robinson teams of 1976 and 1977 reeled off 15 in a row.
Churning Out 48.7 Points & 539.0 Yards Per Outing, Bears Rank 1st in Scoring & 2nd in Total Offense in NCAA Division I-A
Living up to their preseason billing as one of the nation's most explosive offensive teams, the California Golden Bears lug some weighty numbers to the Los Angeles Coliseum this Saturday. Nationally, head coach Jeff Tedford's offense ranks first in both scoring (48.7) and passing efficiency (211.17), second in total offense (539.0) and sixth in rushing (278.0).
Balancing Act: Cal & USC Feature Potent Pass-Rush Options
Two of the nation's most balanced offense will be on display in Los Angeles this Saturday. Cal's multi-pronged offense, the brainchild of head coach Jeff Tedford and coordinator George Cortez, spews out a Pac-10 best 278.0 yards per game and 6.73 yards-per-attempt on the ground, while also averaging 261.0 yards through the air. With the conference's No. 2 rusher J.J. Arrington (155.3 ypg) and true freshman Marshawn Lynch (53.3 ypg, 12th Pac-10) paving the way with ungodly averages of 8.63 and 10.0 per carry, respectively, the Bears have early visions of repeating as Pac-10 rushing leaders in 2004. And California's passing game is also in good hands with junior Aaron Rodgers, who ranks second to Purdue's Kyle Orton (194.1) in national passing efficiency (190.3) in completing 74.1 percent of his passes (43-of-58) for 614 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. Under veteran coordinator Norm Chow, Southern California's offense also has been deadly efficient. The Trojans' ground attack, fueled by two of the conference's top six backs in LenDale White (83.8 ypg, 5th) and Reggie Bush (82.5 ypg, 6th), churns out 200.0 yards per outing to rank third in the Pac-10. And quarterback Matt Leinart, last season's Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year and Rose Bowl MVP, continues to riddle opponents through the air with his precision passing. Leinart, who carved up Stanford for 308 yards with 24-of-30 marksmanship in his last game, ranks 10th in NCAA passing efficiency (159.2)--second to Rodgers in the Pac-10--in engineering a Trojan pass offense that averages 261.8 yards per game.
Cal's 2003 Upset of USC was Golden Bears' 1st Winover No. 3 Team Since 1951
Last year's 34-31 triple overtime win over nationally No. 3 ranked USC was a victory for the ages. Not since 1975--when Joe Roth and Chuck Muncie led the eventual Co-Pacific-8 champion Bears to a 28-14 triumph over then No. 4 ranked Southern Cal--had Cal posted a win over a Top 5 opponent. And it had been 52 years since California had beaten a No. 3 ranked foe (Stanford in the 1951 Big Game, 20-7). In its history, Cal has only beaten a Top 10 team seven times and a Top 5 school on only three occasions. The Bears have not faced a top-ranked team since losing, 35-16, to No. 1 Washington in Seattle Oct. 10, 1992 and California has never claimed victory over a No. 1 ranked school in its 122-year football history.
Arrington Gaining 8.63 Yards Per Carry in 2004 as Pac-10'sNo. 2 Rusher with 466 Yards and 7 TDs in 1st 3 Games
Adimchinobe who? Last year, first team All-Pac-10 tailback Adimchinobe Echemandu finished second in the conference rushing race with 1,195 yards and 13 touchdowns. One would think his departure to the NFL this year would leave a large void in the Bears' ground game. Not so. In fact, J.J. Arrington seems intent on making his senior year even more eventful that Echemandu's was. Thus far, the 5-11, 210-pound back has flattened Cal's first three opponents for 466 yards and seven touchdowns on only 54 carries, including breath-taking runs of 89 (at Air Force) and 69 (vs. NMSU) yards. Clearing the century mark in all three Cal games, he ranks fourth in the nation in scoring (14.0 ppg), and stands fifth in rushing (155.3.0 ypg) and eighth in all-purpose yardage (166.7 ypg). He bolted for 181 yards and three TDs on 16 carries at Air Force Sept. 4--the second most rushing yards in a season opener in Cal history--and for an encore performance, he pierced New Mexico State for 177 yards and three TDs in another 16-carry game. The mercurial back netted 108 yards and one TD on 22 carries at Oregon State Saturday with some punishing inside running against the Beavers.
J.J. Now Owns 3 of Top 22 Rushing Efforts in California History; 1st Bear to Run for 3 TDs in Back-to-Back Games Since 1993
Although he's only played in 17 games and made five starts in his brief Cal career, Arrington certainly has made his mark. He's already rushed for 100 yards or more five times in his career, and owns three of the Top 22 all-time single game rushing efforts in Golden Bear history (only Russell White owns more spots among the Top 22 with four). Arrington, who transferred to Berkeley from College of the Canyons in Southern California last year, has been the author of rushing outbursts of 185 (15th, vs. Washington, 2003), 181 (20th, at Air Force, 2004) and 177 (22nd, vs. New Mexico State, 2004) yards. By rushing for three touchdowns in each of his first two 2004 contests, J.J. also became the first Bear to accomplish that feat in back-to-back games since Lindsey Chapman turned the trick during the 1993 season. With seven scores to date, Arrington is already halfway to the school's record for rushing TDs in a season (14), held by both White (1991) and Chapman. Interestingly, in his last four starts at tailback, Arrington is averaging 9.57 yards per carry in gaining a robust 651 yards and eight touchdowns on 68 carries. Those starts occurred against Washington (54-7) last year, and Air Force (56-14), New Mexico State (41-14) and Oregon State (49-7) this season, games in which Cal has outscored its opponents by a whopping 200-42 count.
Dating Back to 2003, California Has Averaged 43.3 Points & 520.6 Yards in Winning 6 Straight, 8 of its Last 9 Games
Picking up where it left off last season, California's dismantling of Air Force, New Mexico State and Oregon State only adds more juice to the rising reputation of Jeff Tedford and his Bears. One of the hottest teams in college football dating back to last year, Cal extended its winning streak to six games (tied for sixth-longest current skein in the nation) and has now cashed in eight victories in its last nine contests. During that stretch--a period in which they have mowed down the likes of Virginia Tech (52-49), Washington (54-7), Arizona State (51-22) and Air Force (56-14)--the Good News Bears have averaged 43.3 points and 520.6 yards.
League-Leading Cal Defense Returns 9 Starters from '03 Unit; Ranks 7th in Scoring Defense, 11th in Total Defense Nationally
Under coordinator Bob Gregory, the Cal defense emerged last year as one of the Pac-10's finest units by season's end. Featuring nine new starters, that 2003 defense endured early-season growing pains and gained valuable experience that should serve this year's unit well. After being gouged for 423.0 yards and 26.9 points per game in their first seven contests last year, the Bears rose up and held opponents to a mere 312.7 yards and 17.3 points per outing in the final six games of the regular season. Now, nine starters--linemen Lorenzo Alexander and Tosh Lupoi (albeit injured), linebackers Wendell Hunter, Joe Maningo and Francis Blay-Miezah, and defensive backs Donnie McCleskey, Ryan Gutierrez, Harrison Smith and Daymeion Hughes--return from that 2003 defense. Since a wobbling first half at Air Force in the opener, Gregory's defensive unit has shined this year. Allowing only five TDs in three games, the Bear hitmen have parcelled out only 11.7 points and 261.7 yards per game in 2004 (both Pac-10 lows), which ranks seventh and 11th, respectively, among NCAA Division I-A schools. Against New Mexico State Sept. 11, Cal muzzled the Aggies' running game to a measly 37 yards on 36 carries and yielded only 212 total yards. While admittedly the option-oriented offenses of its first two opponents may have influenced its defensive numbers, California also owns the NCAA's 15th-best mark against the pass, allowing only 158.3 aerial yards per game. Listed below is the night-and-day tale of Cal's defense, a unit that has yielded 127.3 less yards and 11.5 less points per game in their last nine regular-season games dating back to last year, compared to their previous seven regular-season contests (the opening seven games of 2003).
Cal Aims for 3rd Straight Winning Season for 1st Time Since '52
After wallowing in the Pac-10's lower division for more than a decade, Cal football was in dire need of dynamic leadership following an ulcerating 1-10 season in 2001. The not-so-Golden Bears endured the worst record at the school in 104 years that season and were outscored by their opponents by an average margin of three touchdowns. In December of 2001, Jeff Tedford was introduced as Cal's new head coach. Inheriting one of the nation's biggest challenges, the former Oregon offensive coordinator addressed that December press conference by calmly saying, 'We plan on having a winning record next season.' That 2002 club, comprised of mostly players from the 2001 squad that had gone 0-8 in the Pac-10, proceeded to post a 7-5 record - the school's first winning mark in nine years. Then last fall, the 2002 Pac-10 Coach of the Year took a Cal team with the fewest returning starters (nine) in the nation and molded it into an 8-6 club that tied for third in the conference (5-3), hung the season's only defeat on co-national champion USC (34-31 in triple OT). The Bears went on to claim back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in 12 years and a bowl game victory for the first time in 10 years. Now, if Tedford's 2004 club were to post a third straight winning campaign, it would mark the first time that has been accomplished at Cal in 52 years (Pappy Waldorf's juggernaut teams reeled off six straight winning marks from 1947-52).
Returning 16 Starters from 2003 Insight Bowl Champions,California Eyes 1st Rose Bowl Berth in 45 Years
It has been 45 long years since the California Golden Bears have made an appearance in the coveted Rose Bowl, but Old Blues are holding out hope that this may be the season Cal returns to Pasadena. With memories of Joe Kapp's 1959 Rose Bowl team beginning to fade, the Bears surprised college football last year by coming oh-so-close to a return visit. Had it not been for a 23-20 overtime loss at UCLA and an ulcerating 21-17 setback at Oregon--the Bears blew a 17-7 fourth-quarter lead--Cal's 5-3 conference record would have improved to 7-1, sealing the Bears' first trip to the Rose Bowl in more than four decades. While those bitter defeats still serve as a reminder of how close they came to Pasadena, Tedford's club is brimming with optimism as it enters 2004. Returning 16 starters from last year's 8-6 team that earned the school's first bowl appearance in seven years, California has high hopes in 2004. A primary goal for this year's Bears is to become Cal's first team to make bowl appearances in back-to-back years since the 1990 (Copper) and 1991 (Citrus) teams.
McArthur Heads One of Deepest Receiving Corps in Cal History
Position coach, Eric Kiesau, calls them a 'special group,' a collection of players he might not see again if he 'coaches for another 30 years.' A close knit unit that hangs together in off hours--they even took a yoga class en masse this summer--this year's Cal wide receiver corps is much more than All-American Geoff McArthur. The unit lost only 17 of 165 receptions (10%) from last year's unit through graduation, and is ranked No. 1 in the Pac-10 and No. 4 nationally by Athlon Sports in its preseason magazine. A blend of veterans and youth, the group includes five seniors, as well as three redshirt-freshmen, creating a veritable logjam at wideout.
All-American Geoff McArthur Claims No. 2 Spot on California's Career Receiving Yards List, Needs 322 Yards for All-Time Mark
Although an abdominal strain in the early season has impacted his 2004 numbers (7 rec., 84 yds., 0 TDs), All-American wide receiver Geoff McArthur enters the USC game with a clean bill of health. McArthur, who led the nation in receiving yards (1,779 yards on 91 catches) while at Palisades High School, posted the finest all-around receiving statistics in the Pac-10 last year with 85 grabs for 1,504 yards and 10 TDs. His 1,504 yards were a school record, while his 85 catches were the second most in Cal annals. With Pitt's Larry Fitzgerald departing for the NFL, McArthur is the country's leading returning receiver in terms of yards-per-game average at 115.7 ypg. Named a second team All-American last season--and 2004 preseason first team All-American by Sports Illustrated--he ended his remarkable run by breaking the Cal single-season record for most receptions with 16 for 245 yards and two TDs in the Bears' 28-16 romp over Stanford in the 2003 Big Game. Had it not been for a freak injury (fractured arm) in practice Dec. 21, McArthur would have shattered the Pac-10 season receiving yardage record during the Insight Bowl. He fell 16 yards shy of Johnnie Morton's 10-year-old mark of 1,520 yards. Entering Week 4 of the 2004 season, McArthur (152 for 2,410 yards) needs only 44 catches and 322 yards to become Cal's career leader in both categories. McArthur has leap-frogged both Dameane Douglas and Brian Treggs (both at 2,335) this season to claim sole possession of second place on the Cal career receiving yardage chart.
The Chase is On: A Healthy Lyman Averaging 128.7 Receiving Yards Per Game & Nation-Leading 32.2 YPC This Season
Saddled with injuries throughout his career, senior wide receiver Chase Lyman is finally (relatively) healthy. And that's not good news for opposing defenses. Since being inserted into the starting lineup for an injured Geoff McArthur in last year's Insight Bowl, Lyman has played like a man possessed. He set a Cal bowl game receiving record with five catches for 149 yards and one TD in the Bears' 52-49 win over Virginia Tech, and he has thrived as a starter along side McArthur this season. With his five-catch, 176-yard day at Oregon State--the 176 yards were the 11th most by a Cal player in school history--the receiver has now caught 17 passes for 535 yards and six TDs in his last four games dating back to the bowl game. Interestingly, Lyman had managed only 526 yards and three TDs on 63 receptions during his Cal career prior to the Insight Bowl. He leads all Bear receivers in yardage this year with 386 yards and five TDs on 12 catches--an average of 32.2 yards per grab and 128.7 yards per game, ranking first and fourth, respectively, among Division I-A receivers.
The Golden Bear with the Golden Arm: Junior Aaron Rodgers Looking to Fulfill Promise Shown Last Year
Ever since he first stepped on campus, Aaron Rodgers has had the look of someone special. Displaying an air of confidence, a remarkable aptitude for football and a golden arm compared favorably to the greatest quarterbacks in Cal history, Rodgers made a remarkable debut in Berkeley last year. Despite not starting until Week 5 of the season, the precocious sophomore riddled 2003 defenses for 2,903 yards and 19 touchdowns, completing 61.6 percent (215 of 349) of his passes and throwing a conference-low five interceptions. His 2,903 yards rank No. 2 on Cal's single season passing list. And despite starting only 10 games last year, Rodgers also zoomed into second place among Cal single-season leaders in total offense with 3,113 yards.
Ranking No. 2 Nationally in Pass Efficiency, Rodgers Netting 276.3 Yards Per Game Last 8 Contests Dating Back to '03
Complementing a dominant ground game thus far in 2004, Aaron Rodgers has served as a highly-efficient field general in Cal's opening three victories. The junior signal-caller has completed 74.1 percent (43-of-58) of his passes for 614 yards, while throwing six touchdowns and two interceptions. Those numbers compute to a 190.30 passing efficiency rating, No. 2 in the nation. Dating back to last year, he owns a scintillating 10-3 career record as the Bears' starting quarterback and has connected on 69.8 percent (148-of-212) of his attempts in averaging 276.3 passing yards with 18 TDs and only four interceptions in his last eight games. His numbers are even better over the last six games: 71.2 percent (116-of-163), 285.9 ypg, 14 TDs, 3 INTs. Despite starting only 13 games and playing in 16 contests in his brief Cal tenure, Rodgers is already perched in 11th place on the school's career total offense chart with 3,731 yards. He has eclipsed such legends as Chuck Muncie (3,205 yards), Russell White (3,381) and Joe Roth (3,447) in the process. This Saturday at USC, Rodgers could bypass another Bear great. He needs only 205 yards to unseat No. 10 Steve Bartkowski.
Rodgers' Interception-Free Streak Halted at 102 Pass Attempts; Cal QB Still Threatens Pac-10 Career INT Percentage Mark
Aaron Rodgers, benefiting under the tutelage of Jeff Tedford and his QB legacy of developing five previous NFL first-round draft picks, tied a school record with five 300-yard passing games and set a Cal record for lowest interception percentage (1.43%) last fall. But most importantly, he inherited a 1-3 team and led it to a 7-3 record as the Bears' starting quarterback. Four of his 300-yard efforts came in the final five games of the season, capped by a classic performance that won him the Offensive MVP Award in the Insight Bowl. In arguably the finest passing display in Cal bowl history, Rodgers set school bowl records for yards and completion percentage in slicing up favored Virginia Tech for 394 yards and two TDs on 27-of-35 passing with no interceptions, while also rushing for 30 yards and two more scores. And he did all that on an injured left knee that would require surgery after the season. Rodgers, who entered his junior year having been named the preseason 2004 Pac-10 Player of the Year by Athlon Sports, has already developed a reputation for mistake-free football. Dating back to his only season at Butte College (28 TDs, 4 INTs in 2002), Rodgers has thrown 53 touchdown passes and only 11 interceptions combined over the past two-plus years (including 2004). Despite throwing two picks at Oregon State that snapped a 102-attempt streak without an interception, his current career interception percentage is a microscopic 1.72 (7 INT, 407 attempts). That's a figure that is well below the Pac-10 career mark of 2.59 (13 INT, 501 att.) set by USC's Paul McDonald in 1976-79 and the Cal record of 2.74 (26 INTs, 950 att.) by Pat Barnes in 1993-96.
First Halves Continue to Be Mister Rodgers' Neighborhood
Aaron Rodgers particularly shined in first halves last year. Eight games where he especially excelled in the opening 30 minutes were wins over Illinois, USC, Arizona State, Washington, Stanford and Virginia Tech, and the narrow defeats at UCLA and Oregon. His mastery of first halves has continued in 2004, as the Berkeley bazooka completed nine of 12 attempts for 122 yards before intermission at Air Force, and then followed up that performance with an uncanny 16-of-19 for 254 yards and two TDs vs. New Mexico State in the second most prolific first half of his young Cal career.And it was much of the same last Saturday in Corvallis, where he threaded eight of 11 attempts for 102 yards and two TDs.
Averaging 278.0 Yards Per Game & 6.73 Yards Per Carry, Bear Running Game Aims to Defend Pac-10 Rushing Title This Year
While Jeff Tedford has gained a gilded reputation as a quarterback guru--he's recruited and developed five QBs into eventual NFL first-round selections--there is much more to the Cal head coach than a passing fancy. A closer examination reveals that Tedford offenses have featured a balanced attack for many years. In fact, Tedford has been the architect behind offenses that have produced 1,000-yard rushers six times in the past six years at Cal and Oregon. He has featured 1,000-yard backs (Joe Igber in 2002 and Adimchinobe Echemandu in 2003) in his two seasons in Berkeley, and the next possible back to reach a grand very well may be senior J.J. Arrington. As Echemandu's backup in 2003, Arrington zipped off a Pac-10-leading 5.7 yards per carry average in gaining 607 yards on 107 carries as the conference's No. 10 rusher. When he replaced Echemandu in the lineup, he sizzled last year (i.e., 185 yards on 14 attempts vs. Washington, 114 yards vs. Southern Miss and 92 yards vs. Arizona). While his presence went virtually unchronicled in this summer's preseason magazines, it would seem as though the Nashville, N.C., native may be a prime candidate for all-conference honors this fall. While the Bears lose Echemandu (7th round pick, Cleveland Browns) from last year's backfield--which averaged 168.3 yards-per-game to become Cal's first team to lead the conference in rushing since Joe Kapp's 1958 club churned out 238.0 ypg en route to the school's last Rose Bowl--the cupboard is far from bare. Besides the shifty Arrington, the Bears feature at least five other quality tailbacks in their 2004 stable. That fact has been underscored in Cal's first three 2004 games, as the running game has averaged 6.73 yards per carry and an eye-bulging 278.0 yards per game to lead the Pac-10. With seven rushing touchdowns in the Air Force opener and another four TDs via the ground vs. New Mexico State, the Bears' 12 rushing TDs to date have already surpassed the total rushing TDs scored by Cal in three out of the last six seasons (1001: eight, 1999: six, 1998: seven). Rushing for more than 300 yards in each of their first two games this season, the Bears have now gained 2,196 ground yards over the past nine games, an average of 244.0 per game over that stretch.
Philip Screwdriver (or is that Piledriver?) Anchors Bears' O-Line
One of the anchors of Cal's offensive line is junior Marvin Philip, who appears on the Rimington Award watch list as one of college football's premier centers. Philip, who returned from a two-year Mormon mission last year to reclaim his starting job by midseason, led all Cal linemen in pancake blocks and knockdowns for the 8-6 Bears. Starting the final five games of the 2003 season--a period in which the team etched a 4-1 record and averaged 206 yards rushing per contest--the 6-2, 280-pound veteran bridges the gap between pre-Tedford era and this fall's promising club. After ending his freshman season as the starting center on Cal's 2000 football team that finished 3-8, Philip departed Berkeley for a mission in North Dakota. Two years later, he returned to find a new head coach, a new team attitude that produced a winning season in 2002, and an offensive line that blossomed into one of the Pac-10's best. Arriving back on campus about 25 pounds under his normal playing weight, Philip underwent a demanding strength and conditioning program during the spring of 2002 and returned to his original 280 pounds. His maturity and experience has played a vital role in an offensive line that lost both its starting tackles in All-Pac-10 first teamer Mark Wilson (Washington Redskins, 5th round) and All-Pac-10 honorable mention choice Chris Murphy. Other key returning blockers include fellow starter Ryan O'Callaghan, who has been switched from right guard to right tackle this year, and part-time starting guards Jonathan Giesel and Aaron Merz.
All-Pac-10 DB McCleskey Misses OSU Tilt With Shoulder Injury, Hopes to Return for Saturday's Showdown in Los Angeles
If anyone truly epitomizes the resurgence of Cal football, it is defensive sparkplug Donnie McCleskey. Only a sophomore last year, the diminutive (5-10, 180) rover back established himself as one of the finest DBs in the nation, earning first team All-Pac-10 honors and breaking the school record for tackles (102) by a defensive back. McCleskey has added 15 pounds of muscle to his 5-10 frame during the offseason--now weighing in at 195 pounds--and has set his sights on becoming only the second defensive back in Cal history to win first team All-Pac-10 notice twice in a career (Ray Youngblood, 1970-71). A disruptive force in the secondary, he led all Pac-10 DBs in total tackles, sacks (5.5) and tackles for loss (12 for 49 yards) last season and registered the most tackles by a Cal player in 10 years (LB Jerrott Willard, 147 in 1993). His teammates paid perhaps the greatest tribute when they voted him the team's Defensive MVP award--an honor rarely given to a true sophomore. Named third team All-American in Athlon Sports' preseason magazine this summer, McCleskey has a chance to become the first defensive back to be a three-time All-Pac-10 first team choice since UCLA's Ricky Manning turned the trick from 2000-02. After registering nine tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss and one sack in Cal's first two games this year, McCleskey was forced to sit out Saturday's win at Oregon State due to a shoulder injury. He hopes to return to the lineup this weekend. If healthy, he's a strong candiate to receive serious consideration for two of the highest honors a player at his position can receive, as he appears on the 'watch list' of both the Bronko Nagurski Award (Nation's Best Defensive Player) and Jim Thorpe Award (Nation's Best Defensive Back).
Alexander the Great: California's King-Sized Defensive Tackle
If there was any doubt that Lorenzo Alexander would some day be a football lineman, an early childhood story would have dispelled any doubt. At age eight, the precocious Alexander weighed in at 140 pounds--that's right, 140 pounds! His mother took him to sign up for Pop Warner football, and the program officials said her young son would have to play with the 12-year-olds. His mom, Stephanie Moore, would have none of it, as she felt Lorenzo would get hurt. Her son cried all the way home. But some 13 years later, it's Lorenzo who's puttin' the hurt on people. Ever since he joined the Bears out of Berkeley's St. Mary's High School, Alexander has flirted with greatness. As a rookie, he earned Pac-10 All-Freshman Team notice. As a sophomore, he stuffed the run with 25 tackles, one fumble recovery and one sack in gaining All-Pac-10 honorable mention. As a junior last year, Alexander again earned All-Pac-10 honorable mention. While his position is not conducive for big stats--he's mustered eight tackles and one tackle for loss this year--those football people in the know are well aware that Cal's king-sized nose tackle (6-3, 300 pounds) represents the immovable object that, game in and game out, creates havoc for opposing teams.
Toler Brothers Continue Family Football Tradition at California
One of the more uplifting family tradition stories to hit Cal in a long time involves senior wide receiver Burl Toler III and freshman cornerback Cameron Toler, who offer football bloodlines that would rival any family in America. The two brothers' grandfather, Burl Toler, was considered an equal to teammate Ollie Matson on the great University of San Francisco football teams of the early 1950s. A 1951 All-American, the elder (and still living) Toler suffered a serious injury in the College Football All-Star Game at Soldier Field that year that shortened his pro career. He went on, however, to become the first African American game official in NFL history. Burl III's football career at Cal mirrors his father's, as Burl Toler Jr.--like his eldest son--was a walk-on when he came to the university and finished as a starter and scholarship player. Toler Jr. was a two-year starting linebacker for the Bears in the mid-1970s and now is a successful East Bay architect. Burl III has caught 65 passes for 837 yards and three TDs during his collegiate career (through the New Mexico State game). Toler started 10 games last year and snared 48 balls for 609 yards, including clutch performances against such teams as UCLA (7 for 104 yards, 1 TD), USC (4 for 81, 1 TD) and Virginia Tech (6 for 84 in the Insight Bowl). And while younger brother, Cameron, a walk-on DB from nearby O'Dowd High School in Oakland, hasn't yet played in a college game, he certainly opened some eyes in training camp with a few flashy interceptions. Could he be the next Toler walk-on to pass the grade?
Bears & USC are Pac-10's Early Road Warriors
The schedule makers didn't do either California's Jeff Tedford or USC's Pete Carroll any favors in the early season. Both clubs opened their 2004 slate by playing three of their first four games on foreign soil--in fact, it would have been four of the first five for Cal had the Southerm Miss trip not been postponed. Tedford's club ventured into traditionally difficult road venues at Air Force (56-14 win Sept. 4) and Oregon State (last week) and now pay a visit to USC. The Trojans, meanwhile, christened their schedule by playing a 'neutral' opener vs. Virginia Tech (24-13) in Landover, Md., and road games against BYU (42-10) and Stanford (31-28).
California Has Held its Own vs. SoCal Schools in Recent Years
While USC (56-30-5) and UCLA (47-24-1) own sizeable edges over Cal in the two schools' all-time series records, the Golden Bears have fared fairly well in recent years against their cross-state rivals. California, which traditionally features many players from the Southland, has won seven of its last 12 meetings with its intrastate foes. With last year's stirring triple-overtime win, the Bears now boast a 5-3 record in their last eight outings vs. USC, including winning four of the last six meetings. However, Cal has not won a game in the Southland since Tom Holmoe's club beat the Trojans at the Coliseum, 28-16, in 2000. Interestingly, however, the Bears have beaten the Trojans in Los Angeles in three of the last four matchups.
Cal Absorbed Last-Minute USC Win in Last Coliseum Visit in '02
In their last meeting in the Los Angeles Coliseum in 2002, a 30-28 loss to USC was truly a bitter pill for an upstart Cal football team to swallow. The Bears, who had just improved their record to 4-2 under first-year head coach Jeff Tedford with a 34-27 upset victory over nationally No. 12 ranked Washington in Seattle the previous week, stormed out to a 21-3 second-quarter lead over USC in Los Angeles Oct. 12, 2002. Kyle Boller was carving up the Trojans' vaunted defense at will, as the Bears--one of the nation's Cinderella stories after a catastrophic 1-10 season in 2001--appeared on the verge of their second straight upset. However, eventual Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer and the Trojans righted their ship, responding with two touchdowns before intermission to pull within 21-17. When the second half began, USC blew by the Bears to claim a 27-21 lead midway through the fourth quarter. Then, with 3:23 left in the game, Cal forced a USC fumble on the Bears' 19-yard line. Tedford's troops had a chance to regain the lead, but a Boller interception pass squelched any comeback notions. After the Trojans widened their lead to 30-21 with another field goal, Boller did connect with tight end Tom Swoboda with a five-yard TD strike with 35 seconds left. A Mark Jensen extra point shaved the lead to 30-28. Jensen then tried an on-side kick, but USC recovered to clinch the hard-fought contest. It marked the Bears' second two-point loss in four weeks, causing the Cal faithful to wonder what might have been, as a 7-5 final record could very well have been better.
Cal D-Line Has Corralled USC QBs for 27 Sacks Last Six Games
From future NFL first-round end Andre Carter (school-record 31 career sacks) from 1997-2000 to the Pac-10's best pass-rushing tandem of ends Tully Banta-Cain (13 sacks) and Tom Canada (12) in 2002, the California defensive line has been a constant source of irritation for USC's quarterbacks. Over the past six meetings, Cal has averaged 4.5 sacks per game. Yet, despite that impressive figure, the Bears were shut out in the sack department in last year's 34-31 win in Berkeley. Over the past six seasons, California has reeled off six sacks in the 1998 meeting with USC, followed by sack totals of nine in 1999, seven in 2000, two in '01, three in '02 and none last year.
California Features 44 Players, 4 Coaches from the Southland
As has been the norm for many years, the Cal football program is bloated with Southern California refugees. No less than 44 Golden Bear football student-athletes have called or do call the Southland their home. The most accomplished include WR Geoff McArthur, who was named the Los Angeles Times' Westside High School Player of the Year at Pacific Palisades High after catching 91 passes for 1,779 yards (a state mark) and 28 TDs in 1999; DB Donnie McCleskey, the Los Angeles Times San Gabriel Valley Region Player of the Year who, as a running back, rushed for 2,236 yards and 29 TDs as a senior at Bishop Amat High; RB Marcus O'Keith, another prep All-American who led Narbonne High to the CIF 3-A division title; LB Wendell Hunter, the Los Angeles Times City Player of the Year for Carson High; and DB Tim Mixon, a member of the Long Beach Press-Telegram's 2001 Dream Team at Dominguez High; the Crenshaw High duo of DT Brandon Mebane, prep All-American and the L.A. Central City Player of the Year, and CB Daymeion Hughes, a Los Angeles Times' All-Region player; and DE Ryan Riddle, El Camino College's MVP and former third team JC All-American. On the sidelines, Cal coaches who hail from SoCal include head coach Jeff Tedford, who played QB at Warren High in Downey and later at Cerritos College; WR coach Eric Kiesau, born in Pasadena and later coached at Moorpark High and Glendale CC; defensive line coach Ken Delgado, the former defensive coordinator and defensive line coach at San Diego State; and special teams/tight ends coach Pete Alamar, who grew up in Thousand Oaks and graduated from Cal Lutheran College.
Trojans Feature 10 Players, 5 Coaches with NorCal Roots
On the other sideline, USC features 13 players and six coaches with some Northern California roots. The student-athletes include defensive backs Kevin Arbet (Stockton, St. Mary's HS), Ronald Nunn (San Mateo, CC of San Francisco), Brandon and Ryan Ting (both Woodside, James Logan HS) and Eric Wright (San Francisco, Riordan HS), defensive end Alex Morrow (Rohnert Park, Rancho Cotate HS), linebackers Thomas Williams (Vacaville, Vacaville HS) and Dallas Sartz (Granite Bay, Granite Bay HS), offensive lineman Ross Burruel (Castro Valley, Chabot JC) and tailback John Griffin (Saratoga, Saratoga HS). The USC coaching staff's Bay Area connection starts with head coach Pete Carroll, a San Francisco native who became a three-sport star at Redwood High School in Larkspur. Carroll later attended the University of the Pacific, twice earning All-Pacific Coast Conference honors at free safety, and also served as defensive coordinator for the NFL's San Francisco 49ers in 1995-96. Other SC coaches from Norcal: Greg Burns (attended San Jose State), Tim Davis (Castro Valley HS) and Brennan Carroll (Saratoga HS). And a new addition to the staff is former All-Pro and Pro Bowl San Francisco 49er linebacker Ken Norton Jr., the only player in NFL history to play on three consecutive Super Bowl champions (Dallas 1992-93, SF 1994), who switched sides from his UCLA past to join Carroll's USC staff as a graduate assistant coaching linebackers.
Football is All in the Family for 4 Trojan Players
Four Trojan players have rich football bloodlines. Cornerback Kevin Arbet is the stepson of former USC wide receiver Jeff Simmons, who caught a then school-record 106 passes during his Trojan career. Another cornerback, Willie Buchanon, is the son of ex-San Diego State All-American and three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Willie Buchanon (Green Bay Packers and San Diego Chargers). Offensive guard Sam Baker is the son of David Baker, the current commissioner of the Arena Football League. And middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu is the son of ex-USC and NFL tailback Mosi Tatupu, who played 14 pro seasons with New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams.
In the early going, Cal has dominated the Pac-10 team rankings. The Bears rank No. 1 in 16 of the listed 30 team statisitcal categories in this week's Pac-10 release: total offense, total defense, scoring offense, scoring defense, rushing offense, pass efficiency, pass defense, pass efficiency defense, punt returns, net punting, fewest opponents first downs, third down conversions, fourth down conversions, opponents' fourth down conversions, red zone offense and red zone defense...This weekend marks the first time Cal has been involved in a game featuring two nationally ranked Top 10 teams in 13 years. The No. 7 ranked Bears lost to No. 3 Washington in Berkeley, 24-17, on Oct. 19, 1991....With Saturday's 49-7 romp over Oregon State, the Golden Bears posted numerous superlatives. The win snapped a five-game losing streak to the Beavers, while the 49 points and 42-point winning margin were both all-time road highs for Cal in the all-time series vs. Oregon State...Chase Lyman has torched Cal's last two opponents in the first half, corralling a combined eight passes for 276 and four touchdowns before intermission vs. New Mexico State (4-111, 1 TD) and at Oregon State (4-165, 3 TDs). With his 79-yard TD catch off a halfback option pass by Terrell Wiliams with 11:33 left in the first quarter Saturday, Lyman became the first player in Cal history to post two receptions of 78 yards or more in a career. He also connected with Rodgers on a 78-yard strike in the season opener at Air Force. Lyman's three TD catches at Oregon State were the most by a Cal player in eight years (Bobby Shaw had three scoring grabs in 1996 vs. Oregon State) and tie the school record...The Bears' special teams performed extremely well last week in Oregon, with punter David Lonie averaging 43.2 yards on five punts, Marshawn Lynch uncorking a 69-yard kickoff return on the game's first play, and Tim Mixon averaging 11.0 yards on three punt returns...Cal's 21-point first quarter at Corvallis equalled the team's biggest one-quarter outburst of the season, matching the 21-point second period vs. New Mexico State Sept. 11...Twelve of Cal's 19 TDs have been registered via the rush....The Bears have tallied 28 points or more in 21 of the 29 games of the Tedford Era; prior to Tedford taking over the program in 2002, the Bears had reached the 28-point plateau only 10 times in their previous 48 contests...Cal's near point-a-minute offense has scored 197 points in its last four games (49 at Oregon State, 41 vs. New Mexico State, 56 at Air Force, 51 vs. Virginia Tech in the Insight Bowl)--an average of 49.3 ppg.--and 177 points in its last 14 quarters...USC's junior fullback David Kirtman has ties to Berkeley, as his father, Louis Kirtman, once ran track at Cal....On the flip side, Bear starting defensive end Ryan Riddle has a distant Trojan connection, as his grandfather, John Riddle, played fullback at USC from 1922-24...Last year's Golden Bear win severed USC's 11-game winning streak--a streak which first began with the Trojans' 30-28 victory over Cal at the L.A. Coliseum in 2002. The 11-game streak was USC's longest victory skein since 1979-80 and, at the time, the second-longest current streak in the country behind Ohio State (18)....In last year's game, Cal's defense held USC to only seven points and 122 yards in the first half. In the contest, the Bear defenders forced four turnovers, including interceptions by 2004 returnees Matt Giordano, Sid Slater and Donnie McCleskey... Southern California has won 75 men's NCAA team championships, the most in the nation. Nine of those titles have been in football, with last year's grid crown snapping a 24-year drought between titles (1978) ... Based in the nation's No. 2 media market, USC has a great history of notable graduates. Among the more famous: actors John Wayne and Tom Selleck, movie directors Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Ron Howard, satirist Art Buchwald, musician Lionel Hampton and the military leader of Desert Storm, U.S. General Norman Schwarzkopf.