October 18, 1998
Cal at Home for First Time in a Month,
but No. 2 UCLA Presents Big Challenge
California returns to Memorial Stadium for the first time in a month (since a Sept. 26 date vs. Washington State), but that won't make it any easier with No. 2 ranked UCLA coming to Berkeley for this Saturday's match-up.
The Bears and Bruins renew a rivalry that has seen a pattern of dominant streaks by the respective teams since the first game was played to a 0-0 tie in 1933. During the initial years of the series, Cal posted a 14-6-1 record in the young rivalry through the 1950 season. The Bruins then turned the tables by going 34-5 over the next 4 decades, which included an 18-game winning streak from 1972 to '89. Cal responded by winning 5 in a row, becoming the first conference team in 6 decades to post 5 straight wins over the Bruins.
UCLA now has 3 straight and will be the strong favorite to post a fourth consecutive win. A year ago, UCLA used three big plays to score a trio of touchdowns and escape with a 35-17 victory in the Rose Bowl. DuVal Hicks ran 18 yards with a blocked punt in the first quarter and when Cal twice pulled to within 11 points in the third quarter, Cade McNown found Jim McElroy on 56- and 58-yard touchdown passes to give the Bruins breathing room.
After Facing Some of Nation's Top Rushing Teams,
Now a Passing Challenge
Early in the season, Cal faced some of the nation's most effective option attacks with match-ups against Nebraska and Oklahoma. The Cornhuskers (currently ranked No. 4 nationally in rushing, averaging 270.4 yards per game) and the Sooners (No. 33, averaging 186.8 ypg) both make their living on the ground.
However this week, Cal faces a UCLA attack that likes to pass the football and make big plays. The Bruins are averaging 296.6 yards a game through the air to rank No. 12 in the nation in passing offense. However, that doesn't mean UCLA can't run, because its balanced attack also shows them averaging over 200 yards a game on the ground (201.0 ypg, which ranks No. 27 nationally). Most importantly, the Bruins are ranked No. 3 in the nation in averaging 46.6 points a game. Clearly, this will be the biggest challenge a vastly improved Cal defense will face all season. Below is a comparison of the match-ups between the powerful UCLA offense against a talented and experienced Cal defense.
UCLA Offense vs. Cal Defense
UCLA Total Offense - 2nd in Pac-10 (497.6 ypg)
vs. Cal Total Defense - 1st in Pac (321.8 ypg)
UCLA Pass Offense - 2nd in Pac-10 (153.3 rating)
vs. Cal Pass Defense - 2nd in Pac (95.9 rating)
UCLA Scoring Offense - 2nd in Pac-10 (46.6 ppg)
vs. Cal Scoring Defense - 1st in Pac (18.7 ppg)
UCLA Rush Offense - 2nd in Pac-10 (201.0 ypg)
vs. Cal Rush Defense - 8th in Pac-10 (159.2 ypg)
Turnovers - 1st in Pac-10 (lost 2 fumbles, 5 interceptions)
vs. Turnovers - 2nd Pac (8 fumbles recovered, 9 interceptions)
Cal Used to Playing Before Big Crowds,
But Hope for Home Field Advantage
Cal has played under almost every conceivable adverse circumstance this season. From playing all three of their road games before hostile crowds of over 65,000 to even having a large home crowd of 67,000 being almost half fans from Nebraska, the Bears haven't had much of a homefield advantage thus far.
The Bears hope that all will change this week when Cal hosts UCLA. The Bruins have sold less than 5,000 tickets entering this week, so the bulk of an expected crowd of 55,000 could be cheering for Cal. At Oklahoma Sept. 19, the Bears couldn't have asked for a tougher venue when they had to play before a raucous sellout crowd of 74,235 in Norman when Sooners were undefeated early in the season and had strong vocal support. Then on Oct. 10, Cal visited USC at the Los Angeles Coliseum, which isn't exactly a "pit" but when you're down 31-10 and Traveler the horse is prancing up and down before 65,678, but it can be a tough place to play. Last week in the rain at Husky Stadium, Cal was up against Washington and its usual sellout crowd of over 71,000 and had to battle back from a 21-0 deficit.
Sanyika Making Strong Bid for
All-America Honors With Monster Stats
Sekou Sanyika entered the season almost as an after-thought, considering the huge role inside linebacker Matt Beck plays on the Cal defense. However after six games, it is virtually impossible to ignore Sanyika's performance. He is clearly the biggest impact player in the Pac-10 thus far as he leads the league in tackles for loss by a huge margin. With 17 tackles behind the line of scrimmage for minus 95 yards, he has six more than the nearest candidate (Jabari Issa of Washington has 11 for 47). Sanyika is on pace to obliterate the existing Cal season record of 26.5 set by Ron Rivera in 1983, who earned first team All-America honors that year.
Sanyika's stats are even more impressive when considering his role in playing outside over the tight end on the defense is largely to take on blockers, re-direct plays and let others do the mopping up. However, Sanyika started making big plays right away and hasn't stopped all season. Last week, he came up huge again as he recorded four tackles behind the line of scrimmage, including a pair of sacks. On one fourth quarter sack, he knocked the ball loose from Washington QB Marques Tuiasosopo and the Bears recovered. The week before, he sacked USC quarterback Carson Palmer for a safety, which began Cal's comeback victory march. At Oklahoma earlier this year, Sanyika caused a fumble by quarterback Brandon Daniels, which the Bears recovered at the Sooner 4-yard-line to set up a TD. He also had two interceptions in the season-opener against Houston. Below is a list of the huge games Sanyika has put together in his career.
Impact Games for Sekou Sanyika (1996-98)
San Diego State 9/14/96 Had 5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, including three sacks for -29 yards Oklahoma 9/20/97 Had 4 tackles behind the line of scrimmage for -23 yards Arizona 11/15/97 Had 8 tackles, including 6 unassisted, and caused a fumble on sack that was returned for TD Houston 9/5/98 Had 2 interceptions, which gave Cal the ball at the Houston 40- and 30-yard lines Oklahoma 9/19/98 Had 3 tackles for loss for -20 yards, and caused a fumble recovered at OU 4-yard-line USC 10/10/98 Had 3 tackles for loss for -20 yards, including a sack of QB for safety that started Cal comeback Washington 10/17/98 Had 4 tackles for loss for -20 yards, including a pair of sacks, one of which caused a fumbleCal Defense Ranked No. 1 in the
Pacific-10 Signaling a Huge Milestone
For the first time in more than 25 years, the Cal defense is ranked No. 1 in the Pac-10 in total defense after the halfway point of the season. The Bears are allowing only 321.8 yards a game (which rates Cal No. 35 in the national rankings). Cal is also first in scoring defense (tied for 26th in the NCAA), second in pass efficiency defense (No. 8 in the NCAA), eighth in rushing defense (No. 72 in NCAA) and second in turnover margin (tied for No. 6 in NCAA). Those are impressive numbers for a team that has ranked near the bottom of the Pac-10 in those same categories the last two seasons. Even more encouraging is the fact that the depth chart shows only two seniors (safety Marquis Smith and linebacker Albert Dorsey) as starters, meaning the Bears could be even more dominant a year from now.
While Cal doesn't look particularly effective against the run, allowing just under 160 yards a game to rank eighth in the Pac-10, that could be misleading as the Bears have stuffed opponent rushing attempts to two yards or less on over 52 percent of their runs. The last time Cal finished the season as the league's total defense champion was exactly 30 years ago when the "Bear Minimum" defense allowed only 252.2 yards a game (which ranked 11th in the NCAA).
Cal's Dramatic Turnaround over the Last Three Years
1996 (11 games)* 1997 (11 games) 1998 (6 games) Scoring Defense 33.2 ppg (9th in Pac-10) 30.8 ppg (10th in Pac-10) 18.7 ppg (1st Pac-10) Total Defense 460.3 ypg (10th in Pac-10) 381.4 ypg (8th in Pac-10) 321.8 ypg (1st Pac-10) Pass Eff. Defense 137.8 rating (10th in Pac) 139.9 (10th in Pac-10) 95.9 rating (2nd Pac-10) Rushing Defense 189.5 (9th in Pac-10) 44.4 ypg (7th in Pac-10) 159.2 ypg (8th in Pac-10) Turnover Margin -0.6 topg (9th in Pac-10) +0.0 topg (7th in Pac-10) +1.67 topg (2nd in Pac-10)Cal Against the Run through Six Games in 1998
* does not include bowl game
No. of Carries APC vs. Cal* Runs 2 yds or less Pct. Runs 10 yds or more Pct. Houston 32 2.97 13 .406 4 .125 Nebraska 60 4.23 30 .500 8 .133 Oklahoma 56 4.55 30 .536 12 .214 Washington St. 26 4.50 12 .462 3 .115 USC 34 4.50 21 .618 3 .088 Washington 42 1.93 25 .595 2 .048 Season 250 3.82 131 .524 32 .128 * Average per carryCal Rx - Run the Football Successfully and Win Football Games
One of the clearest indicators of whether Cal is going to win is its ability to run the football. Since the beginning of the 1990 season, Cal is 38-7-1 in games that the Bears have rushed for 150 or more yards. This season, that's been a difficult task due to continuing injuries and changes on the offensive line, but the Bears have won both games they have managed to hit that 150-yard mark. Cal had 178 yards in a win at Oklahoma (including 56 yards on the ground in a 60-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter that resulted in the game-winning field goal) and had 157 yards on the ground in the win against USC (running six straight plays in gaining two first downs to run out the final 2:53 of the game). Last week, the Bears managed just 5 net yards (after adding in the minus 71 yards on 13 sacks) and found themselves on the losing end in Seattle.
Bear Defenders Get Stronger
in the Second Half as Opponents Disappear
A mark of a good defense is one that gets stronger as the game goes on, and dominating play in the second half has been a hallmark of the Golden Bear defense this season. The Bears have allowed only three touchdowns all season in the second half and only one in the fourth quarter. In the last two games, both on the road in front of big crowds, Cal has completely shut down opponent offenses. At USC, Cal allowed the Trojans only 69 yards of total offense on six drives, forcing three punts and two turnovers and recording a safety.
At Washington last week, Cal allowed only 81 yards of total offense on 10 drives, forcing seven punts and two turnovers and taking over on downs once. That is a testament to the shrewd adjustments by the defensive coaching staff and the intelligence of the Cal defensive players who recognize what an opponent is doing and take measures to shut down those plays. Below is a comparison of what opponents have gained in the first half vs. the second half and a list of Cal's opponent drives in the second half this season.
Cal Defensive Performance First Half vs. Second Half and Opponent 2nd Half Drives
Opponent 1st Half Yards 2nd Half Yards 2nd Half Drives (yards and result) Houston 145 yards 76 yards -10 (punt), 35 (punt), 26 (fg) / 5 (punt), 13 (punt), 8 (punt), -1 (punt), 0 (downs) Nebraska 284 yards 150 yards -16 (punt), 0 (punt), 31 (punt) / 64 (missed FG), -1 (punt), 64 (TD), 9 (downs), -1 (fg) Oklahoma 162 yards 170 yards 47* (fg), 1 (punt), 31 (interception) / 83 (fg), 2 (punt), 16 (game over) *roughing punter penalty WSU 64 yards 269 yards 75 (td), 50 (interception), 4 (punt), 60 (td) / 5 (punt), 37 (punt), 9 (punt), 17 (downs), -4 (interception), 16 (game over) USC 296 yards 69 yards 7 (punt), -8 (safety), 50 (fumble) / 7 (punt), 13 (fumble), 0 (punt) Washington 176 yards 70 yards 9 (punt), -1 (punt), 27 (punt), 20 (punt) / 14 (punt), 1 (fumble), 0 (interception), 3 (punt), 7 (punt), -10 (downs).
Cal Defense Having Banner
Season But Still Suffering First Drive Blues
It's difficult to find a lot of fault with a Cal defensive team that has emerged as one of the top units in college football. However, the one Achilles heel for the Golden Bear defenders has been the opponents' opening drive of the game. The Bears have allowed drives of more than 65 yards in five of the first six games, including four touchdowns in the last five weeks.
When you consider that the Cal defense has allowed only 12 touchdowns (2 were the result of punt returns) and one of those was a 7-yard-drive after a blocked punt, that's a pretty hefty percentage of scores coming at the beginning of the game. If you take away the opening drives that have seen opponents average 65.0 yards a drive, Cal has allowed an average of just 16.6 yards per drive on the other 87 drives on the season.
Opponent Opening Drive Result No. of Other Drives Yds on Other Drives/Avg. Houston 16 plays / 86 yards Missed FG 15 135 / 9.0 yds per drive Nebraska 7 plays / 67 yards Touchdown 13 367 / 28.2 yds per drive Oklahoma 4 plays / 73 yards Touchdown 12 259 / 21.6 yds per drive Washington St. 2 plays / 7 yards Lost Fumble 18 226 / 12.6 yds per drive USC 3 plays / 78 yards Touchdown 12 287 / 23.9 yds per drive Washington 8 plays / 79 yards Touchdown 17 167 / 9.8 yds per drive Season Avg. 6.7 plays / 65.0 yards 4 TDs 14.5 240.2 / 16.6 yds per drive
Cal Special Teams Have Been
Both Very Good and Very Bad Thus Far
One of the marks of a good football team is strong special teams play and Cal has enjoyed some pretty impressive work in the kickoff and punt return areas in 1998. However, the Bears also have endured the other end of the spectrum giving up some crucial plays on punt and kickoff coverage.
Last week's loss at Washington rested largely on the shoulders of the special teams. The punt cover team allowed a long touchdown for the second consecutive week, this one a 91-yarder by Joe Jarzynka. Cal also allowed a successful "pooch" on-sides kick in the first quarter that the Huskies recovered at the Cal 49-yard-line to set up a TD drive. The placekicking game has been abysmal. The Bears have gone back and forth between Ignacio Brache and Tim Wolleck with no better results. Two weeks in a row, the Cal offense has moved down field into scoring position on its opening drive, but Wolleck missed a 38-yard field goal attempt at USC and a 37-yarder at Washington.
After the miss in the Washington game, the coaching staff went back to Brache, only to see him miss an extra point with 1:41 left in the game that could have moved the Bears to within 7 points. Overall, Cal has missed field goals from 33, 36, 37, 38 and 39 yards away, while going 5-for-12 in all field goals with the longest attempt all season being from 45 yards out. Also, Cal has missed two extra points this season, both by Brache.
Deltha O'Neal Continues Assault on Cal Record Book
After two consecutive huge impact games, Deltha O'Neal had an off-game at Washington as the Huskies kicked so short on both the kickoffs and punts, he had very few opportunities to make big plays last week. However, he did deliver a season-best 31-yard punt return. His 31.0 average on 11 kickoff returns ranks No. 8 nationally and second in the Pac-10 is impressive enough on its own. But thehe fact that he has done so without breaking a long one for a touchdown means that he is consistently having long returns to build his average. As a comparison, six of the top seven NCAA returners above him have long touchdown returns which have boosted their averages. O'Neal now has 3,209 career all-purpose yards and ranks sixth on Cal's all-time list. He needs just 99 yards to move past Dwight Garner (3,307 from 1982 to '85) but will have to wait a few games to move past Paul Jones (3,726 from 1975-79). Below is a breakdown of O'Neal's kickoff and punt returns this season.
Hous / Nebraska / Oklahoma / Wash. State / USC / Wash KO Ret none / 49, 16 / 22, 22 / 49 / 31,36,27,57,20,12 / none Punt Ret. 13,1,5,21 / 18,10,5,15 / -- / 22,24,19,8,13,1 / 9,14 / 3, 3, 8, 31, 1, -10
Miscellaneous Notes, Et Cetera, Three-dot Data
Cal quarterback Justin Vedder has thrown only five interceptions all season, a very good mark considering he's thrown the ball 206 times thus far this season; last year he lead the Pac-10 with 14 interceptionsVedder now has thrown for 3,994 yards in his brief two-year career which puts him No. 9 on Cal's career list (Steve Bartkowski is No. 8 with 4,434 yards from 1972-74)Vedder is 40th in the nation in total offense, averaging 199.2 yards per gameDameane Douglas ranks tied for No. 7 in the nation (and tied for first in the Pac-10) with 7.87 catches per game; he is 21st nationally in receiving yardage with 99.0 yards per gamewith 141 catches for 1,779 yards in his career, Douglas has moved into the No. 4 spot on Cal's all-time career list; however, he'll need to wait to catch up with No. 3 Na'il Benjamin (165 from 1993-96)Saturday's game features two of the nation's best team in turnover margin as UCLA is third nationally with a +1.80 ratio while Cal is tied for sixth with a +1.67 ratioUCLA offensive coordinator Al Borges began his major college coaching career at Cal as a volunteer assistant in 1982 and '83.