Sept. 10, 1999
LINCOLN, Neb. - With a sophomore starting quarterback and a true freshman backing him up, California coach Tom Holmoe doesn't expect to win too many offensive shootouts.
Especially on Saturday, when Cal visits Nebraska. The Bears' best shot at upsetting the No. 5 Cornhuskers would be a low-scoring game, Holmoe said.
"Our defense has to carry the weight right now. It did all last year," Holmoe said. "And until our offense matures to the point where I hope they will, the defense has to carry a little bit of an extra load,"
Holmoe plans to start sophomore Samuel Clemens and bring in freshman Kyle Boller as the backup against a Nebraska defense that roughed up Iowa's young quarterback in a 42-7 win last week. The Cornhuskers defense didn't allow a touchdown and held the Hawkeyes to just 169 yards of offense.
"We only have really two quarterbacks. One of them's a true freshman and the other one's a redshirt sophomore that has about 15 throws under his belt and not too much playing time," Holmoe said. "It's not the greatest of situations to get into, but really that's what we have to deal with."
Clemons was 2-for-2 for 14 yards and Boller 8-for-15 for 89 as the Bears beat Rutgers 21-7 last week despite allowing five sacks and losing two fumbles. Holmoe said they can expect a tougher day from the Cornhuskers, who are still upset that a blocked punt cost them a shutout against Iowa.
So the Bears are counting on defense, which has seven returning starters, including senior linebackers Sekou Sanyika and Matt Beck. The squad held opponents to 134 rushing yards a game last season.
"They are excellent at the linebacker spot," Nebraska coach Frank Solich said. "As you look at their linebackers in general, you see guys who are extremely talented and run very, very well."
Solich expects the Bears to stack the defensive front in an effort to shut down the Huskers' option, led by starting quarterback Bobby Newcombe and backup Eric Crouch.
"It's a pressure-style defense. That makes it difficult in terms of having consistency," Solich said. "I think this is as big a challenge as we'll face from a defensive standpoint as we get into our season."
Saturday's meeting is the second in a home-and-home series between the teams. Nebraska won 24-3 last year in Berkeley, Calif., behind two touchdowns by Crouch as Newcombe sat out with a knee injury. Holmoe expects the combination of a healthy Newcombe and Crouch to give the Cornhuskers a more powerful option attack than last year.
"They're both going to run the same plays regardless who's in there. So it's not a matter of having to prepare for two different philosophies on offense or styles, it's just two different really good quarterbacks," Holmoe said.
Newcombe started Saturday's game against Iowa. He fumbled twice and threw an interception, but made up for it with two rushing touchdowns and one passing score. Crouch came off the bench for three rushing touchdowns and was second for the Cornhuskers with 92 rushing yards.
Solich plans to stick with last week's starting lineup. Newcombe will take the first few series with DeAngelo Evans at I-back, but Crouch and backup I-back Dan Alexander also are expected to play in the first half.
Holmoe also doesn't plan any changes in his lineup. Marcus Fields, who rushed for a 49-yard touchdown on Cal's first play of the game and added a 47-yard run later, will start at tailback and Clemens at quarterback.
Fields led Cal with 123 yards rushing last week and Boller threw the first touchdown pass of his college career, but that was about it as far as offensive highlights for the Bears. California also squandered a third-and-goal from Rutgers' 1-yard line.
"If we make the same mistakes that we did against Rutgers, it's a touchdown in a matter of three seconds," Holmoe said. "We understand that this will be much more of a daunting challenge."
By DOUG ALDEN
Associated Press Writer