Sept. 27, 2004
Game No. 3: California Golden Bears (2-0, 0-0 Pac-10) at
Oregon State Beavers (1-3, 0-1 Pac-10)
Date: Saturday, Oct. 2, Reser Stadium
(35,362 - AstroTurf), Corvallis, OR
Kickoff: 1:00 p.m.
Radio: KGO Radio (810 AM) with Joe Starkey, Mike Pawlawski,
Roxy Bernstein and Lee Grosscup
Television: Fox Sports Net with Barry Tompkins and Petros Papadakis
This Week's Game
California (#10 Associated Press/#10 ESPN/USA Today) - owner of its highest ranking since the end of the 1991 season - returns to action for the first time in three weeks when the Golden Bears visit Oregon State Saturday, Oct. 2.
Cal began the year in dominating fashion with a 56-14 win at Air Force and a 41-14 rout of New Mexico State. But with the Sept. 16 game at Southern Miss postponed until Dec. 4 due to Hurricane Ivan - the Bears are facing their longest in-season break between games since 1942. They lost to Stanford (26-7) on Nov. 21 then defeated Navy Pre-Flight (12-6) on Dec. 12 in 1942.
Despite the layoff, Cal hopes to quickly regain its early form at Oregon State. The Bears seemed to be clicking on all cylinders in their first two outings, averaging 592.0 yards per game in total offense - a figure that leads the country heading into this weekend's action. The rushing game, paced by senior J.J. Arrington's 179.0 ypg, rates third in the nation at 339.0 yards per contest, with Arrington No. 5 in NCAA Division I-A individual rushing and tied for first in scoring (18.0 ppg). Cal's passing attack, though, is compiling its own set of gaudy numbers. Junior QB Aaron Rodgers has completed 73.8 percent (31-42) of his passes to date and has three touchdown tosses against no interceptions. Senior TE Garrett Cross - Rodgers' former JC teammate at Butte College - has been his favorite target with eight catches for 118 yards and one score. Although the Golden Bear defense has not received as much notoriety as its offensive counterpart, Cal now leads the conference and ranks seventh nationally in total defense, allowing just 241.5 yards per game. The Bears limited New Mexico State to only 37 yards on 36 carries, while Air Force, after accumulating 157 yards on the ground in the first half, gained only 25 yards with its triple-option scheme after intermission.
Cal-Oregon State Series
The Bears lead the all-time series, 31-25, but the Beavers have won the past five meetings, including a 35-21 decision last Oct. 4 in Berkeley. In that game, Cal spotted OSU 21 first-quarter points and never recovered. The last time Cal prevailed against the Beavers was Oct. 31, 1998, a 20-19 victory in Corvallis. Historically, the Cal-OSU matchup has been a series of streaks. Cal won six consecutive meetings from 1977-83, with the Bears taking five in a row from 1984-89. The Bears then claimed six straight from 1991-98, followed by OSU's current five-game run.
A Quick Look at Oregon State
Oregon State enters the Cal game after facing one of the most challenging September slates in school history, with the Beavers playing road games against three clubs that own a spot in this week's Associated Press poll - at No. 13 LSU Sept. 4, at No. 23 Boise State Sept. 11 and at No. 21 ASU Sept. 25. OSU nearly knocked off the defending BCS champion Tigers in its opener, falling 22-21 in overtime after holding a 15-7 lead with just 1:05 left in regulation. Despite returning just four starters on offense, the Beavers feature a veteran signal-caller in senior Derek Anderson, who passed for 4,058 yards last fall and has 8,934 career passing yards - third best in school history behind Jonathan Smith (9,680, 1998-01) and Erik Wilhelm (9,393, 1985-88). Mike Haas paces the squad with 36 receptions for 575 yards this season (143.8 ypg), while Dwight Wright is averaging 64.2 ypg on the ground.
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 a 17-11 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.
Mike Riley, Oregon State (Alabama `75) is in his second season of his second stint as head coach of the Beavers, having amassed a 17-21 record. Riley previously held the OSU head coaching position during the 1997 and 1998 seasons before taking the head job with the NFL's San Diego Chargers from 1999-01. During the 2002 season, he served as secondary coach for the New Orleans Saints. Riley began his coaching career as a graduate defensive assistant at Cal, where he helped the Bears claim a share of the 1975 Pac-8 title. After a one-year graduate assistantship at Whitworth College, he began a six-year tenure as defensive coordinator and secondary coach at Linfield College in 1977. Riley later assisted with Winnipeg of the CFL (1983-85), at Northern Colorado (1986) and at USC (1993-96). He was also head coach at Winnipeg from 1987-90 and with San Antonio of the World League from 1991-92. Riley is 1-2 vs. California as a head coach.
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 New Mexico State, senior TB J.J. Arrington had a 69-yard burst for a score in the third quarter to give Cal a 34-7 lead.
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 New Mexico State, senior TE Garrett Cross caught six passes for 65 yards, including a 27-yard TD pass from Aaron Rodgers that gave the Bears the lead for good midway through the second quarter.
Golden Bear Game Notes
Churning Out 48.5 Points & 592.0 Yards Per Outing, Torrid Bears Open Pacific-10 Conference Slate at Oregon State
Living up to their preseason billing as one of the nation's most explosive offensive teams, the California Golden Bears arrive in Corvallis, Ore., Saturday afternoon with some fearsome numbers. Nationally, head coach Jeff Tedford's offense ranks first in total offense (592.0), third in passing efficiency (185.62), third in rushing (339.0) and fourth in scoring (48.5). Polishing off Air Force (56-14) and New Mexico State (41-14) in its opening two games, Cal is averaging 48.5 points and 592.0 yards as it enters Game 3 of the campaign. In their last game, the Bears, fueled by offensive stars Aaron Rodgers (20-of-26, 266 yds., 2 TDs), J.J. Arrington (177 yds., 16 carries, 3 TDs) and Chase Lyman (4 rec., 111 yds., 1 TD) and a swarming defense that held New Mexico State to 14 points and 212 yards, zoomed to a 27-7 halftime lead vs. the Aggies and never looked back.
Bears Looking to Halt 5-Game Losing Streak to Oregon State
Oregon State has been a Cal nemesis in recent years. Dating back to 1999, the Beavers have dealt five straight losses to the Bears. Three of the losses have occurred in Corvallis, where Oregon State's defense has limited Cal to a scoring average of 10.0 ppg in those road games--24-13 in 2002, 19-10 in 2001 and 17-7 in 1999. The all-time California-Oregon State series, led by the Bears, 31-25, has been a streaky one of late. The Beavers won five games in a row from 1977-83, then the Bears claimed six straight from 1991-98, followed by the current five-game OSU skein. Perhaps one of the more memorable games between the two schools occurred in 1996 at Berkeley, when Bear QB Pat Barnes scored the winning touchdown on a three-yard run up the middle in a third overtime to give Cal a 48-42 decision over the visiting Beavers.
Arrington Gaining 11.2 Yards Per Carry as Pac-10's Early Rushing Leader with 358 Yards and 6 TDs in 1st 2 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 two opponents for 358 yards and six touchdowns on only 32 carries, including breath-taking runs of 89 (at Air Force) and 69 (vs. NMSU) yards. After two weeks, he's tied for the nation's lead in scoring (18.0 ppg), and ranks fifth in both rushing (179.0 ypg) and all-purpose yardage (199.0 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 averaged 20.7 yards per attempt in the second half of the Sept. 11 game, ripping off 124 yards on only six carries against the Aggies.
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 Lindsey Chapman Turned The Trick in 1993
Although he's only played in 16 games and made four starts in his brief Cal career, Arrington certainly has made his mark. He's already rushed for 100 yards or more four 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 both of his 2004 contests, J.J. also becomes the first Bear to accomplish that feat in back-to-back games since Lindsey Chapman turned the trick during the 1993 season. With six to date, Arrington is almost halfway to the school's record for rushing TDs in a season (14), held by both White (1991) and Chapman. Interestingly, in his last three starts at tailback, Arrington is averaging 11.8 yards per carry in gaining a robust 543 yards and seven touchdowns on 46 carries. Those starts occurred against Washington (54-7) last year and Air Force (56-14) and NMSU this season, games in which Cal has outscored its opponents by a whopping 151-35 count.
Dating Back to 2003, California Has Averaged 42.6 Points & 531.6 Yards in Winning 5 Straight, 7 of its Last 8 Games
Picking up where it left off last season, California's rout of both Air Force and New Mexico 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 five games and has now cashed in seven victories in its last eight contests. During that stretch--a period in which they mowed down the likes of Virginia Tech (52-49), Washington (54-7), Arizona State (51-22) and now Air Force (56-14)--the Good News Bears have averaged 42.6 points and 531.6 yards.
Much-Improved Cal Defense Returns 9 Starters from '03 Unit; Limiting `04 Foes to 14.0 Points, 241.5 Yards Per Game
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 two TDs in both games, the Bear hitmen have parcelled out only 241.5 yards and 14.0 points per game in 2004, which ranks seventh and 24th, 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 eighth-best mark against the pass, allowing only 132.0 aerial yards per game. Listed below is the night-and-day tale of Cal's defense, a unit that has yielded 128.1 less yards and 10.4 less points per game in their last eight regular-season games dating back to last year, compared to their previous seven regular-season contests (their 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.
All-American Geoff McArthur Claims No. 2 Spot on California's Career Receiving Yards List vs. New Mexico State
While other more high-profile wide receivers earned the lion's share of the national spotlight last year, Cal's Geoff McArthur just kept putting up the numbers. Or as Lindy's Sports wrote in its preseason edition: "McArthur was the most overlooked top-shelf wide receiver in the nation last season." 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 3 of the 2004 season, McArthur (148 for 2,364 yards) needs only 48 catches and 368 yards to become Cal's career leader in both categories. Although a stomach muscle injury has limited him to three catches for 38 yards in his first two games this fall, 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. McArthur has leap-frogged both Dameane Douglas and Brian Treggs (both at 2,335) into sole possession of second place on the Cal career receiving yardage chart with 2,364 yards.
McArthur Heads One of Deepest Receiving Corps in Cal History
Their 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, four of which are bona fide starting material in McArthur, Jonathan Makonnen, Burl Toler and Chase Lyman. Add to that group redshirt-freshmen Sam DeSa, Sean Young and Noah Smith, and there's a veritable logjam at wideout.
The Chase is On: A Healthy Lyman Averaging 120 Receiving Yards Per Game & 30 Yards Per Catch in Last 3 Games
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 someone 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 in that emergency start, and Lyman has thrived as a starter along side McArthur this season. With his four-catch, 111-yard receiving day vs. New Mexico State--all four grabs coming in Cal's 27-7 first half--the veteran receiver has now caught 12 passes for 359 yards and three TDs in his last three games dating back to the bowl game. Interestingly, Lyman had managed only 526 yards on 63 receptions during his Cal career prior to the Insight Bowl. He leads all Bear receivers in yardage this year with 210 yards and two TDs on seven catches--an average of 30.0 yards per grab. And his 105.0 receiving yards average ranks 14th among all Division I-A receivers.
QBs Rodgers & Anderson Showcased in Saturday's Pac-10 Clash
Two of the Pac-10's most prolific quarterbacks will square off in Corvallis in this weekend's Pac-10 opener. Oregon State senior Derek Anderson became only the second QB in conference history to pass for 4,000 yards in a season in 2003 when he completed 261 of 510 attempts for 4,058 yards and 24 touchdowns for an 8-5 Beaver club that paced the Pac-10 in total offense (463.0). He threaded 18 of 27 attempts for 224 yards and two TDs in OSU's 35-21 win at Berkeley last fall. This year, the Beaver QB returns without the luxury of two of the nation's premier players in tailback Steven Jackson and All-Pac-10 wideout James Newson (81 rec., 1306 yds. in '03) and will face an improved Cal defense that returns nine starters. Anderson enters this weekend riding a streak of 22 consecutive games in which he's thrown at least one touchdown pass and currently ranks eighth in career passing yards (8,934) and tied for 10th in career TD passes (60) on the Pac-10 all-time lists. He's averaging 325.0 passing yards per contest this fall--top figure in the conference--but ranks last among Pac-10 QBs in passing efficiency (119.4). Anderson, who also was guilty of throwing a Pac-10 high 24 interceptions last year, will be opposed by junior Aaron Rodgers, the 2003 Insight Bowl Offensive MVP who has established himself as one of the nation's elite passers in short order. Rodgers never knew what hit him in last year's Oregon State loss. Rarely spotting opening receivers and feeling constant pressure, the Butte JC transfer endured his toughest day as a Bear in a 35-21 thumping. Rodgers and his teammates had no answers for the Beavers' stifling pass defense, which held the Bear QB to 52 yards and a paltry .265 completion percentage (9-of-34). It was the lowest passing yardage achieved by a Cal team in 17 years, not since Brian Bedford completed only 4-of-16 passes for 32 yards in a 21-15 non-conference loss to Boston College in 1986. Rodgers, who rebounded to lead Cal to a 5-2 mark the rest of the 2003 season, will once again face one of the nation's finest secondaries. The Beaver defensive backfield, rated No. 4 in the country by Athlon Sports in its preseason magazine, features safeties Mitch Meeuwson--whose 14 career interceptions are one shy of the Oregon State record--and Sabby Piscitelli (tied for Pac-10 lead with 3 INTs), and cornerbacks Brandon Browner (2003 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, 6 INTs in `03) and Aric Williams (4 INTs in '03). The one consolation for Rodgers, perhaps, is that two-time All-Pac-10 first team linebacker Richard Siegler has departed to the pros. He enters the Bears' Pac-10 opener with a nation-leading 192.8 passing efficiency rating, having completed 31 of 42 passes for 474 yards, three TDs and no interceptions through two games.
Cal QB Passing for 295.8 YPG Over Last 7 Games, Could Vault Bartkowski into 10th on Career Total Offense List Saturday
Complementing a dominant ground game thus far in 2004, Aaron Rodgers has served as a highly-efficient field general in Cal's opening two victories. The junior signal-caller has completed 73.8 percent (31-of-42) of his passes for 474 yards, while throwing three touchdowns and no interceptions. Those numbers compute to a 192.18 passing efficiency rating, good for second nationally. Dating back to last year, he owns a scintillating 9-3 career record as the Bears' starting quarterback and has connected on 69.4 percent (136-of-196) of his attempts in averaging 295.8 passing yards with 15 TDs and only two interceptions in his last seven games. His numbers are even better over the last five games: 70.7 percent (104-of-147), 315.0 ypg, 11 TDs, 1 INT. Despite starting 12 games and playing in 15 contests in his brief Cal tenure, Rodgers is already perched in 11th place on the school's career total offense chart with 3,601 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 Oregon State, Rodgers could bypass another Bear great. He needs only 338 yards to unseat No. 10 Steve Bartkowski.
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.
Averaging 339.0 Yards Per Game & 8.0 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 two 2004 games, as the running game has averaged 8.0 yards per carry and an eye-bulging 339.0 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' 11 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 both of their games this season, the Bears have now gained 2,040 ground yards over the past eight games, an average of 255.0 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 could play 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.
Cal Offense Thriving in the Red Zone (37 of 38 in Last 9 Games)
Another trademark of a Tedford-conceived offense is success in the red zone. Dating back to last year's UCLA game on Oct. 18, the Bears have scored on 37 of their last 38 trips inside their opponent's 20-yard line. Through two games this year, Cal is perfect at 8-for-8, which leads the Pac-10 Conference.
Only a Junior, All-Pac-10 Rover McCleskey Considered Top DB
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. Making a remarkable transformation from high school running back to the college secondary, McCleskey also was named to The Sporting News' Pac-10 All-Freshman Team when he finished the 2002 season with 45 tackles, five pass break-ups and one interception. Now, he's receiving strong 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, 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 has opened some eyes in training camp with a few flashy interceptions. Could he be the next Toler walk-on to pass the grade?
Bears & Beavers are Pac-10's Early Road Warriors
The schedule makers didn't do either California's Jeff Tedford or Oregon State's Mike Riley any favors in the early season. Both clubs open their 2004 slate by playing three of their first four games on foreign soil--it would have been four of the first five for Cal had the Southerm Miss trip not been postponed. Tedford's club ventures into traditionally difficult road venues such as Air Force (56-14 win Sept. 4), Oregon State (this week) and USC (Oct. 9). The Beavers, meanwhile, christened their schedule by playing road games against the likes of defending national co-champion LSU (23-22 loss Sept. 4), Boise State (55-34 loss Sept. 11) and Arizona State (27-14 loss Sept. 25. In fact, Oregon State faced the toughest non-conference schedule in the country this year, based on 2003 winning percentage. Last year's records for those Beavers' foes were a combined 34-7 (.829)--LSU (13-1), Boise State (13-1) and New Mexico (8-5). Add Cal to their early slate, and the Beavs have faced four teams ranked in the nation's Top 25 among their first five opponents.
Cal's Jim Michalczik Once Served on OSU's Staff
Jim Michalczik, the Golden Bears' assistant head coach and offensive line coach, played a prominent role in the resurgence of Oregon State football during the early part of the Dennis Erickson Era. He spent three seasons coaching special teams, tight ends and the offensive line on Erickson's staff at Oregon State form 1999-2001. In 1999, he contributed to OSU's first winning season and bowl berth in 29 years. In 2000, he played a key role in the Beavers' earning a share of the Pac-10 title and logging an 11-1 record en route to a No. 4 national ranking. As Cal's offensive line coach, he did a brilliant job of restructuring the interior line that tied for first in the Pac-10 for fewest sacks (25) in 2002, and then improved that line in 2003, when the Bears' offense earned their first conference rushing title in 45 years and ranked third in both scoring and total offense among Pac-10 teams.
Fifteen Beaver Players Have Northern California Roots
Oregon State features 15 football players who hail from Northern California. That group is led by starting defensive tackle linemen Sir Henry Anderson (McClymonds HS, Oakland). Others include defensive end and Joe Rudulph (Natomas HS, Sacramento), defensive backs Justin Williams (Los Banos HS, Los Banos), Steve Simonton (Fresno City College, Pittsburg) and Lamar Herron (Natomes HS, Sacramento), wide receivers Marcel Love (City College of San Francisco, San Francisco), Sammie Stroughter (Granite Bay HS, Roseville) and Kevin Swanigan (City College of San Francisco, Sacramento), offensive linemen Kyle DeVan (Vacaville HS, Vacaville), Chris Miller (Butte JC, Oroville) and Andy Levitre (San Lorenzo Valley HS, Felton), linebackers Danny Kalavi (Luther Burbank HS, Sacramento) and Alan Darlin (Laguna Creek HS, Elk Grove), tight end Jeff Kruskamp (Milpitas HS, Milpitas), running back Keith Johnson (Laguna Creek HS, Elk Grove). In addition, the Beavers feature one assistant coach who returns to familiar territory--special teams coach LeCharls McDaniel, a Seaside High School product (near Monterey, Calif.) who played on the Washington Redskins' Super Bowl XVII team, served as Cal's special teams coach on Tom Holmoe's 2001 staff.
Penalty Disparity Tilts Toward Cal's Favor in Saturday's Matchup
As was the case in 2003, California and Oregon State are polar opposites when it comes to penalty yardage this year. The Golden Bears, who have been assessed the third-fewest penalty yards per game (37.0) in the conference thus far this fall, were whistled for a Pac-10 low 46.5 yards per game last season with 81 infractions for 651 yards over 14 games. In comparison, the Beavers--who led the Pac-10 with 100.2 yards in penalties per contest last season--own nearly the same dubious distinction in 2004. They have been flagged a conference high 37 times and assessed 335 yards (their 83.8 ypg second most in the Pac-10) thus far this year.
In NCAA Division I-A career leaders of current players, Rodgers ranks fourth in passing efficiency (151.48), fifth in completion percentage (62.92%, 246-391) and ninth in passing yards per game (225.1), while McArthur ranks fifth in receiving yards per catch (16.1 ypc)...The Bears' nationally No. 6 pass defense will be severely challenged by Oregon State wide receiver Mike Hass, who averages 9.0 receptions and 143.75 yards per game, figures that rank first in the Pac-10 and second nationally....In the early going, Cal has dominated the Pac-10 team rankings. The Bears rank No. 1 in 12 of the listed 30 team statisitcal categories in this week's Pac-10 release: total offense, total defense, scoring offense, rushing offense, pass efficiency, pass defense, punt returns, punting, fewest opponents first downs, third down conversions, fourth down conversions and red zone offense...Ten of Oregon State's 12 touchdowns this year have been scored via the pass, while 11 of Cal's 14 TDs have been registered via the rush....OSU's defense has allowed only seven points in the first quarter this fall--a touchdown at Arizona State last week--while the Bears' offense has scored a combined 20 first-period points in their first two games...The Bears are one of seven Division I-A teams which has yet to throw an interception this year...The Bears have tallied 28 points or more in 20 of the 28 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 148 points in its last three games (41 vs. New Mexico State, 56 at Air Force, 51 vs. Virginia Tech in the Insight Bowl)--an average of 49.3 ppg.--and 128 points in its last 10 quarters...Oregon State owns the best home record (16-4) in the Pac-10 since the start of the 1999 season....Cal's reserve tight end John Rust is the lone Bear with Oregon roots. Rust, an all-region performer at Lake Oswego (Ore.) High School, is the son of former Oregon football player Jack Rust (1966-68), who served as the Ducks' team captain for the first football game ever played at Autzen Stadium on Sept. 23, 1967...Oregon State backup offensive tackle Chris Miller once protected Cal QB Aaron Rodgers. Both were teammates for Butte College's 2002 club that posted a 10-1 record and No. 2 national JC ranking ... Jackson's Superman day in Berkeley last year overshadowed Adimchinobe Echemandu's radiant rushing performance for Cal, as the Bear back punctured Oregon State's vaunted defense for 146 yards and two touchdowns on only 19 carries in the loss...Last year's Oregon State offense became the first unit in Pac-10 history to feature a 4,000-yard passer (Anderson), 1,500-yard rusher (Jackson) and two 1,000-yard receivers (Newson and Mike Haas)...This year's Beavers are the only team that will play both 2003 national co-champions (lost at LSU Sept. 4 and hosts USC Nov. 6)...Oregon State blocked 15 kicks in 1997-98 under special teams coach Bruce Read, who returns in 2004 after spending five years in the NFL. The Beavers have blocked only 14 kicks over the previous five years combined without Read ...Oregon State has launched a $93 million private funding campaign called "Raising Reser" which will expand the Beavers' home stadium by 8,000 seats to a new capacity of 43,000 by 2005...Before accepting the head coaching job with the San Diego Chargers, Mike Riley recruited many of the players who eventually starred on Dennis Erickson's 2000 Pac-10 Co-Champions. Riley, who led Corvallis High to the 1970 state prep football title, led his last Beaver team (1998) to a 5-6 record--the school's best mark in 27 years...Four OSU assistant coaches were also on Riley's staff with the Chargers: Paul Chryst (offensive coordinator/tight ends), Mark Banker (defensive coordinator), Delvaughn Alexander (wide receivers) and Lee Hull (running backs)...Riley has been named head coach of the West squad for the 80th annual East-West Shrine Game, which will be played Jan. 15, 2005 at SBC Park in San Francisco...Oregon State has made postseason bowl appearances in four of the last five years (1999 O'ahu, 2001 Fiesta, 2002 Insight and 2003 Las Vegas)...Cal and Oregon State have both retired only one uniform number in their long football histories. The Bears honor their late quarterback Joe Roth (1975-76), having retired his No. 12 jersey, while the Beavers have taken No. 11 out of circulation to pay tribute to former 1962 Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Terry Baker...Baker was the first of eight Pac-10/Pac-8 players to win the Heisman. The other Pac-10 Heisman winners are RB Mike Garrett of USC (1965), QB Gary Beban of UCLA (1967), RB O.J. Simpson of USC (1968), QB Jim Plunkett of Stanford (1970), RB Charles White of USC (1979), RB Marcus Allen of USC (1981) and QB Carson Palmer of USC (last year). While Cal has never had a Heisman winner, the Bears have placed five players among the Top 5 in the Heisman voting since the award was started in 1935, with RB Chuck Muncie coming the closest to winning when he was the 1975 runner-up to Ohio State's Archie Griffin. The other Bears to finish among the Top 5 were RB Vic Bottari (5th in 1938), RB Jackie Jensen (4th in 1948), QB Paul Larson (5th in 1954) and QB Joe Kapp (5th in 1958)....Among Oregon State's most notable alumni: Linus Pauling, the only winner of two unshared Nobel Prizes (Chemistry, 1954, and Peace, 1962) in the history of the award; Milton Harris, founder of Harris Research Labs; George Bruns, former musical director of Walt Disney Productions and producer for "101 Dalmatians" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer;" Cecil Andrus, Secretary of Interior for the Jimmy Carter Administration; Dick Fosbury, inventor of the "Fosbury Flop" in the high jump and gold medal winner in the '68 Olympics; and E.H. Wiegand, inventor of the Maraschino cherry!