Nov. 27, 2006
BERKELEY - The California Golden Bears under head coach Jeff Tedford continue to register "firsts" in program history. On Monday afternoon, junior running back Marshawn Lynch and senior cornerback Daymeion Hughes were named the Pac-10 Conference Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, respectively. It is the first time Cal has won both awards in the same year; in fact, prior to this year, the Bears had been honored with just four Pac-10 Player of the Year awards in total.
Lynch and Hughes are joined on the all-conference first team by senior linebacker Desmond Bishop, senior defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, sophomore wide receiver DeSean Jackson and sophomore center Alex Mack. In addition, Jackson was named a first-team all-conference performer as a punt returner, the first Cal player to be first team at two positions since Deltha O'Neal (1999, CB/RET).
Senior defensive end Nu'u Tafisi, senior special teams standout Byron Storer, junior offensive lineman Mike Gibson, junior punter Andrew Larson and junior tight end Craig Stevens were all selected to the all-league second team. Earning honorable mention recognition were senior offensive lineman Andrew Cameron, senior linebacker Mickey Pimentel, senior offensive lineman Erik Robertson, junior wide receivers Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan, sophomore linebacker Zack Follett and sophomore quarterback Nate Longshore.
Lynch and Hughes join a select group of Golden Bear stars who have won Pac-10 Player of the Year honors. Chuck Muncie was the league's top player in 1975; Ron Rivera won the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year in 1983; Mike Pawlwaski was the Offensive Player of the Year in 1991; and O'Neal was the league's top defender in 1999.
Lynch, an Oakland product, has turned out an impressive trifecta in the Pac-10 thus far this year, leading the conference in rushing yardage (107.1 yards per game), all-purpose yardage (142.3 yards per game) and touchdowns (13, tied with Jackson). The junior became just the second player in Cal history with two 100-yard rushing seasons and is the fourth Golden Bear to tally over 3,000 career rushing yards.
Hughes, also a first-team selection in 2005, entered the season as one of the nation's top cornerbacks and only solidified that status during the year. He leads the Pac-10 and ranks second in the nation with eight interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns. The Los Angeles product also has 62 tackles and 11 pass break-ups this season. For his career, he has 15 interceptions to rank second all-time in Cal history.
Bishop is the second-leading tackler in the Pac-10 with 104 takedowns while Mebane, a first-teamer last year as well, has registered a career-best 41 tackles while anchoring the defensive line. Jackson has established himself as one of the most exciting players in the nation; he leads the nation in punt-return average, including four punt returns for touchdowns. As a receiver, he has team-highs of 47 catches, 852 yards and nine touchdowns. Mack stepped into the Golden Bear starting lineup this year, replacing NFL Draftee and two-time first team all-Pac-10 selection Marvin Phillip, and Cal did not miss a beat, as the sophomore led the team in both knockdowns and pancake blocks.
The Golden Bears have posted an 8-3 record going into this Saturday's "Big Game" against Stanford. It is the fifth straight season that Cal has posted a winning record, marking the first time since 1947-52 that the Bears have accomplished that. In addition, Cal will advance to a fourth straight bowl game for the first time in program history.