Oct. 16, 2001
BERKELEY - Junior quarterback Kyle Boller, the No. 10 all-time passer in California football history, will not play Saturday night against nationally fourth-ranked UCLA in Pasadena due to a back disc injury aggravated in last week's 48-7 loss to Oregon, head coach Tom Holmoe announced today.
Eric Holtfreter, the Golden Bears' senior backup who has completed 52.1 percent (25-of-48) of his passes for 313 yards in limited duty behind Boller, will make his first career start at quarterback against the Bruins. He passed for 4,376 yards and 34 touchdowns in two seasons at Los Angeles Valley College before transferring to Cal last year.
"Kyle is not playing in the game," said Holmoe. "He's injured and he's had a bad back for most of the season. He was sore after the (Oregon) game, had a lot adrenaline going, but he woke up the next day and was really sore. He went to the doctor yesterday and he won't even practice this week."
Boller underwent back X-rays this morning and results were negative. He is scheduled to undergo an MRI examination this evening for further evaluation.
"He's had some symptoms today that are way worse than what he's had," Holmoe added. "He has a little numbness in his legs. We need to get him healthy. I made the decision right away. He's out of this game even if the MRI comes back clean. I want those symptoms gone."
Thus far this season, Boller has completed 52.8 percent (84-for-159) of his passes for 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns with four interceptions. With 4,406 career passing yards over 24 starts, he was on the verge of surpassing two legendary quarterbacks-No. 8 Craig Morton (4,501) and No. 9 Steve Bartkowski (4,434)-on Cal's all-time passing list.
Summoned as his replacement, Holtfreter suddenly becomes the field general for a Cal team still seeking its first victory of the 2001 season. Like many of his teammates, he was surprised to learn that Boller had been sidelined.
"I didn't know he was hurt," said Holtfreter. "Actually, yesterday, we went out and threw the ball around a little bit and he didn't mention anything to me. I got a call this afternoon and coach (Al) Borges told me he was injured. I've known about his back problems, but I didn't know he was under that much pain."
Holtfreter, a Southern California native from Lancaster, saw his most extensive playing time at Washington State Sept. 22 when he threw for 161 yards and one TD on 10-for-27 passing. As he takes over the reins this week, he said the team's mental state was his biggest concern.
"I think us being 0-5 and the team not having confidence right now, that's the biggest thing because deep down, we know we can play football," he said. "But it's just us executing and not breaking down when we get in the game."