Sept. 12, 2004
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Game No. 3: California Golden Bears (2-0) at Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (1-0)
Date: Thursday, Sept. 16, M.M. Roberts Stadium (33,000 - Momentum Turf), Hattiesburg, MS
Kickoff: 4:45 p.m. PT / 6:45 p.m. CT
Radio: KGO Radio (810 AM) with Joe Starkey, Mike Pawlawski, Roxy Bernstein and Lee Grosscup
Television: ESPN with Mike Tirico, Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso and Jill Arrington
This Week's Game
With a pair of convincing wins to open the 2004 season, California has clearly caught the nation's attention with a Top 10 ranking this week in both the ESPN/USA Today and Associated Press polls. Now holding down the 10th slot, the Bears are in the Top 10 for the first time in 13 seasons. Back in 1991, Cal defeated Clemson, 37-13, in the Citrus Bowl to cap a 10-2 campaign which earned the Bears a No. 8 Associated Press final ranking and a No. 7 rating in the USA Today poll.
This year, Cal's offense is in high gear, although it is the Bears' running game - not their vaunted passing attack - that has generated the majority of yardage. Cal rushed for 342 yards and seven touchdowns in its opener at Air Force, then followed that performance with 336 yards and four more scores on the ground against New Mexico State.
Senior TB J.J. Arrington has been the catalyst, surpassing 175 yards in both contests. He now ranks fourth in the country with an average of 179.0 ypg on 32 carries - for an amazing 11.2 yards average every time he lugs the ball - and he leads the nation in scoring with 18.0 points per game. True freshman Marshawn Lynch, with 132 yards on 12 rushes, actually tops Arrington in yards per carry at 11.3, while junior Terrell Williams has 76 yards in only nine attempts.
Led by Arrington's six touchdowns, Cal has accumulated 11 scores on the ground in two games - a figure that tops the Bears' entire rushing TD totals from 2001 (8 TDs), 1999 (6) and 1998 (7).
Although perhaps overshadowed by the running game so far, junior QB Aaron Rodgers has efficiently compiled a 192.18 quarterback rating (No. 4 nationally) by completing 73.8 percent of his passes for 474 yards and three touchdowns. His favorite target has been senior TE Garrett Cross - his teammate a Butte College in 2002 - who has eight receptions to date. Senior WR Chase Lyman has been the big-play specialist with seven catches for 210 yards (30.0 yards per catch), including a 78-yarder at Air Force.
On the defensive side, Cal is allowing only 2.5 yards per rush after holding New Mexico State to just 37 yards in 36 attempts last week and Air Force's tripe option to only 25 yards in the second half.
Cal-Southern Miss Series
The Bears won the lone meeting between the two schools, defeating the Golden Eagles, 34-2, on Aug. 30, 2003. After spotting Southern Miss a 2-0 lead, Cal roared back with 20 points in the second quarter. The Bears piled up 260 yards rushing, with both Adimchinobe Echemandu (17-127) and J.J. Arrington (16-114) both crossing the 100-yard barrier. Cal limited Southern Miss to just 65 yards on the ground and to only 3-of-15 on third-down conversions.
A Quick Look at Southern Miss
Southern Miss opened its season last Satuday with a 21-17 victory at Nebraska, handing the Cornhuskers only their seventh home loss in the last 16 years. The Golden Eagles capitalized on five Nebraska turnovers, converting four of them for scores. USM's game-winning touchdown came after the Eagles recovered a fumble near midfield and scored two plays later on a 46-yard pass from Dustin Almond to Marvin Young. Last year, Southern Miss captured the Conference USA title with a perfect 8-0 league mark that included a 40-28 victory over then-No. 9 TCU. Overall, nine starters return on offense, while senior LB Michael Boley - the 2004 preseason CUSA Defensive Player of the Year - leads four starters back on defense. The Eagles are 14-3 at home the last three seasons and are 33-6 at Roberts Stadium - also known as The Rock - since 1996.
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.
Jeff Bower, Southern Mississippi (Southern Miss `75) is in his 14th season as head coach of the Golden Eagles and has amassed an 90-62-1 career record. Bower began his affiliation with the Southern Miss program as a quarterback in 1972. In 1975, he served as team captain and was voted team MVP after leading the Eagles to an 8-3 record. Bower started his coaching career at Southern Miss, first as a graduate assistant and then as quarterbacks and wide receivers coach until taking the quarterbacks job at SMU in 1982. After coaching at Wake Forest, and acting as offensive coordinator at Southern Miss and Oklahoma State, he returned to his alma mater as head coach in 1990. Under Bower, Southern Miss has won four Conference-USA titles, and Bower has been named C-USA Coach of the Year three times.
Cal Travel Plans
The Bears will depart for Hattiesburg, Miss., on Wednesday and return immediately after the game. Cal will be staying at the Holiday Inn in Hattiesburg (601-268-2850). Executive Associate AD/Communications Bob Rose and Assistant AD/Media Relations Herb Benenson will accompany the team.
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:
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 14th and 26th, respectively, among NCAA Division I-A schools. Last week against New Mexico State, Cal muzzled the Aggies' running game to a measly 37 yards on 36 carries and yielded only 212 total yards. 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):
YPG PPG W-L 1st 7 Games of 2003 423.0 26.9 3-4 Last 8 Games (2003-04) 294.9 16.5 6-2
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).
Tedford Becomes 1st Cal Coach to Win 15 Games in 1st 2 Seasons in Berkeley Since Legendary Pappy Waldorf
To further illustrate the impact that Jeff Tedford has made on the Cal football scene, consider this: last season he became the first California coach to win 15 games in his first two years at the helm since the legendary Pappy Waldorf chiseled out a 19-2 record in his first two seasons in 1947-48. Tedford, who followed the five-year Tom Holmoe era--which endured a 16-39-1 record--has guided the new, improved Bears to a 17-11 ledger over the past two-plus seasons. Here's a list of Cal head coaches who have chalked up at least 10 wins in their first two seasons at the helm:
Head Coach Years Wins Head Coach Years Wins James Schaffer 1909-10 24 Keith Gilbertson 1992-93 13 Pappy Waldorf 1947-48 19 Roger Theder 1978-79 12 Jeff Tedford 2002-03 15 Joe Kapp 1982-83 12 Garrett Cochran 1898-00 15 Andy Smith 1916-17 11 William Ingram 1931-32 15 Clarence Price 1920-26 10 Stub Allison 1935-36 15Returning 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.
Key Players Back to Lead Golden Bears' High-Octane Offense
Seven starters, including perhaps the nation's premier pass-catch tandem in quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receiver Geoff McArthur, return on a Cal high-octane offense that set school single-season records for total offense (6,061 yards), passing yards (3,705), first downs (327) and pass completions (278) last year. Among Pac-10 teams, the Bears ranked first in rushing (168.2 ypg) and third in both scoring (32.6 ppg) and total offense (432.9 ypg). Four of Cal's returning starters on offense enter 2004 on at least one national "watch list."
Cal Receiver Leads NCAA's Returning 100-Yards-Per-Game Club
Cranking out 115.69 yards per game, McArthur is one of six returning NCAA Division I-A players who averaged more than 100 receiving yards per contest last year.
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 he was held to two catches for 31 yards last Saturday--and has been limited to only three receptions for 38 yards and no TDs--McArthur 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. Here's how he stacks up with some of Cal's all-time greats:
Cal Career Reception List Player No. Yds. Avg. TD 1. Dameane Douglas (1995-98) 195 2335 12.0 13 2. Bobby Shaw (1994-97) 180 2731 15.2 27 3. Brian Treggs (1988-91) 167 2335 14.0 15 4. Na'il Benjamin (1993-96) 165 2196 13.3 13 5. Geoff McArthur (2000- ) 148 2364 15.9 13
Cal Career Receiving Yardage List Player No. Yds. Avg. TD 1. Bobby Shaw (1994-97) 180 2731 15.2 27 2. Geoff McArthur (2000- ) 148 2364 15.9 13 3. Dameane Douglas (1995-98) 195 2335 12.0 13 Brian Treggs (1988-91) 167 2335 14.0 15 5. Na'il Benjamin (1993-96) 165 2196 13.3 13
Cal Single Season Leaders for Receiving Yards Player Year No. Yds. Avg. TD 1. Geoff McArthur 2003 85 1504 17.7 10 2. Dameane Douglas 1998 100 1150 11.5 4 3. Bobby Shaw 1997 75 1093 14.6 10 4. Sean Dawkins 1992 65 1070 16.5 14 5. Mike Caldwell 1993 55 962 17.5 7
Cal Single Season Leaders for Receptions Player Year No. Yds. Avg. TD 1. Dameane Douglas 1998 100 1150 11.5 4 2. Geoff McArthur 2003 85 1504 17.7 10 3. Bobby Shaw 1997 75 1093 14.6 10 4. Sean Dawkins 1992 65 1070 16.5 14 5. Bobby Shaw 1996 58 888 15.3 9
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. Here's a quick rundown on the Bears' top pass-catchers:
Player Ht. Wt. Yr. Comments Geoff McArthur 6-1 200 Sr. Preseason 1st Team A-A, could own Cal's career record book by season's end Chase Lyman 6-4 210 Sr. Set Cal bowl mark with 149 yds. on 5 rec. in Insight Bowl, subbing for injured McArthur Jonathan Makonnen 6-0 200 Sr. Cal's leading receiver in '02 (54 rec.), gained medical redshirt year in '03 Burl Toler 6-2 190 Sr. Started 10 games last year, catching 48 passes for 609 yards & 3 TDs Sam DeSa 5-11 180 Fr. 2-time national winner of Biletnikoff Award, ex- track sprinter at Monte Vista HS Sean Young 5-10 180 Fr. Perhaps most impressive redshirt WR last year, hails from nearby Berkeley HS Noah Smith 5-11 180 Fr. Prep A-A who was clocked at 4.29 in the 40, 10.54 in 100m and 21.03 in 200m
The Golden Bear with the Golden Arm: Junior Aaron Rodgers Looking to Fulfill Promise Shown Last Year
Ever since he first stepped on campus, Aaron Rodgers has had the look of someone special. Displaying an air of confidence, a remarkable aptitude for football and a golden arm compared favorably to the greatest quarterbacks in Cal history, Rodgers made a remarkable debut in Berkeley last year. Despite not starting until Week 5 of the season, the precocious sophomore riddled 2003 defenses for 2,903 yards and 19 touchdowns, completing 61.6 percent (215 of 349) of his passes and throwing a conference-low five interceptions. His 2,903 yards rank No. 2 on Cal's single season passing list, even eclipsing the heroics of his predecessor Kyle Boller, the Baltimore Ravens' No. 1 draft pick who passed for 2,815 yards for the Bears in 2002. And despite starting only 10 games last year, Rodgers also zoomed into second place among Cal single-season leaders in total offense with 3,113 yards. Here's the greatest single season yardage totals in Cal history for both passing and total offense:
Cal's Single Season Passing Yardage Leaders Player Year PA PC HI Pct Yds TD 1. Pat Barnes* 1996 420 250 8 59.5 3499 31 2. Aaron Rodgers 2003 314 188 5 59.9 2509 17 3. Kyle Boller 2002 421 225 10 53.4 2815 28 4. Gale Gilbert 1983 365 216 17 59.2 2769 13 5. Troy Taylor 1989 394 220 12 55.8 2738 16 6. Justin Vedder 1997 390 221 14 56.7 2718 20 7. Pat Barnes 1995 362 197 11 54.4 2685 17 8. Dave Barr* 1993 275 187 12 68.0 2619 21 9. Rich Campbell* 1979 322 216 12 67.1 2618 13 10. Steve Bartkowski 1974 325 182 7 57.0 2580 12 *does not include bowl games
Cal's Single Season Total Offense Leaders Player Year Plays Rush Pass Total 1. Pat Barnes* 1996 506 -83 3499 3416 2. Aaron Rodgers 2003 435 210 2903 3113 3. Troy Taylor 1989 481 46 2738 2784 4. Justin Vedder 1997 489 25 2718 2743 5. Kyle Boller 2002 493 -83 2815 2732 6. Troy Taylor 1988 455 136 2416 2552 7. Pat Barnes 1995 404 -160 2685 2525 8. Dave Barr* 1993 350 -98 2619 2521 9. Mike Pawlawski* 1991 353 -66 2517 2451 10. Gale Gilbert 1983 423 -332 2769 2437 *does not include bowl games
Cal QB Passing for 295.8 YPG Over Last 7 Games, Could Vault Bartkowski into 10th on Career Total Offense List Thursday
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 fourth 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 Thursday at Southern Miss, Rodgers could bypass another Bear great. He needs only 338 yards to unseat No. 10 Steve Bartkowski. The Top 15 for total offense at Cal, as it stands currently:
Cal's Career Total Offense Leaders Player (Years) Plays Rush Pass Total TDR 1. Troy Taylor (1986-89) 1479 110 8126 8236 53 2. Kyle Boller (1999-02) 1576 -169 7980 7811 71 3. Pat Barnes (1993-96 1115 -359 7360 7001 56 4. Rich Campbell (1977-80) 1134 -375 7174 6799 43 5. Dave Barr (1991-94) 950 -385 6305 5920 49 6. Gale Gilbert (1980-84) 1178 -808 6566 5788 33 7. Mike Pawlawski (1988-91) 815 -163 5181 5018 44 8. Justin Vedder (1997-98) 975 -175 5040 4865 31 9. Craig Morton (1962-64) 797 -371 4501 4130 44 10. Steve Barkowski (1972-74) 785 -496 4434 3938 22 11. Aaron Rodgers (2003- ) 487 224 3377 3601 28 12. Paul Larson (1951-54) 610 551 2968 3519 31 13. Joe Roth (1975-76) 602 -222 3669 3447 25 14. Russell White (1990-92) 668 3367 14 3381 36 15. J Torchio (1980-83) 719 -282 3641 3359 19
Rodgers Owns 2nd Best INT% Among Returning NCAA QBs
Aaron Rodgers, benefiting under the tutelage of Jeff Tedford and his QB legacy of developing five previous NFL first-round draft picks, tied a school record with five 300-yard passing games and set a Cal record for lowest interception percentage (1.43%) last fall. But most importantly, he inherited a 1-3 team and led it to a 7-3 record as the Bears' starting quarterback. Four of his 300-yard efforts came in the final five games of the season, capped by a classic performance that won him the Offensive MVP Award in the Insight Bowl. In arguably the finest passing display in Cal bowl history, Rodgers set school bowl records for yards and completion percentage in slicing up favored Virginia Tech for 394 yards and two TDs on 27-of-35 passing with no interceptions, while also rushing for 30 yards and two more scores. And he did all that on an injured left knee that would require surgery after the season. Rodgers, who enters his junior year having been named the preseason 2004 Pac-10 Player of the Year by Athlon Sports, has already developed a reputation for mistake-free football. Dating back to his only season at Butte College (28 TDs, 4 INTs in 2002), Rodgers has thrown 50 touchdown passes and only nine interceptions combined over the past two-plus years (including 2004). His current career interception percentage is a microscopic 1.27 (5 INT, 391 attempts), a figure that is almost half the Pac-10 career mark of 2.59 (13 INT, 501 att.) by USC's Paul McDonald in 1976-79 and the Cal record of 2.74 (26 INTs, 950 att.) by Pat Barnes in 1993-96. Here's how he stacks up with returning NCAA Division I-A quarterbacks, based on 2003 interception percentage:
Player Games Att. Comp. Pct. Yards TD Int. Int. Pct. Alex Smith, Utah 11 266 173 65.04 2,247 15 3 1.13 Aaron Rodgers 13 349 215 61.60 2,903 19 5 1.43 Kevin Kolb, Houston 13 360 220 61.11 3,131 25 6 1.67 Kyle Orton, Purdue 13 414 251 60.63 2,885 15 7 1.69 Travis Cox, Utah St. 12 415 235 56.63 2,791 18 7 1.69 Bruce Gradkowski, Toledo 12 389 277 71.21 3,210 29 7 1.80 Zack Mills, Penn St. 10 251 136 54.18 1,404 6 5 1.99 Brad Smith, Missouri 13 350 211 60.29 1,977 11 7 2.00 Charlie Frye, Akron 12 421 273 64.85 3,549 22 9 2.14 Jason White, Oklahoma 14 451 273 61.64 3,846 40 10 2.22
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. A look at his first-half numbers in 2003-04:
Date Opponent Comp-Att Pct. Yds. TD Int 9/20/03 at Illinois 17-28 60.7 236 1 0 9/27/03 USC 17-21 81.0 203 2 1 10/18/03 at UCLA 15-19 78.9 150 0 0 11/1/03 at Arizona State 11-14 78.6 246 3 0 11/8/03 at Oregon 10-14 71.4 87 0 0 11/15/03 Washington 14-22 63.6 257 3 0 11/22/03 at Stanford 14-23 60.9 170 0 1 12/26/03 Virginia Tech* 12-18 66.7 149 2 0 9/4/04 at Air Force 9-12 75.0 122 0 0 9/11/04 New Mexico St. 16-19 84.2 254 2 0 *Insight Bowl
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 six 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. With seven rushing touchdowns in the Air Force opener and another four TDs via the ground last Saturday, 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 their second straight game on Saturday, the Bears have now gained 2,040 ground yards over the past eight games, an average of 255.0 per game over that stretch. Here's a quick rundown of the 2004 Bears' talented six backs:
Player Ht. Wt. Yr. Comments J.J. Arrington 5-11 210 Sr. Pac-10's 10th leading rusher (607) last year as backup, averaged 5.7 ypc Marcus O'Keith 6-1 180 So. Averaged 5.8 ypc; rushed for 103 yds. on 12 carries vs. Washington last year Terrell Williams 6-0 200 Jr. Pac-10's 8th-leading rusher (688) as freshman; healthy after 2 years of injuries Marshawn Lynch 5-11 200 Fr. Ranked No. 2 RB in nation by Rivals.com last year; an eye-opener at Cal training camp Justin Forsett 5-8 180 Fr. Scored 63 TDs and rushed for nearly 5,000 yards at Grace (Texas) Prep last 2 years Brandon Hampton 5-10 180 Fr. 1st Team all-city for Westchester HS in LA; redshirted last year
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 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.
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.
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 Worthy of National Recognition This Season
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 last week). 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?
Playing 4 of First 5 Games on the Road, Cal Looks for Fast Start
Without question, Cal's potential as an elite team in 2004 may hinge on the Bears ability to start fast this year. Tedford's troops will open the season with four of their first five games on the road, including such treacherous places as USC, Oregon State, Southern Miss and Air Force. In fact, four of Cal's first five opponents carved out winning records last fall, with Southern Miss, Oregon State and USC all making Bowl appearances last season. Interestingly, the Bears will play four of their final six 2004 contests at home, and only Oregon represents an opponent with a 2003 winning record.
Bears Face One of Nation's Elite Defenses in Hattiesburg Thursday Night
Cal will face one of the nation's premier defenses this Thursday in Hattiesburg. Anchored by pre-season All-American linebacker Michael Boley, who peeled off 293 tackles (including 38 for lost yardage) over the 2002 and 2003 seasons, the Golden Eagles have ranked among the country's Top 20 scoring defenses each season since 1998. In fact, Southern Miss has allowed only 92 touchdowns since the start of the 1999 season, the fewest TDs by a NCAA Division I-A defense during that time span. Last year's unit ranked No. 5 vs. the pass, No. 9 in forcing turnovers and No. 14 in points allowed among Division I-A schools.
Last Year's 34-2 Win over Southern Miss was Cal's 1st Defensive Shutout Since 1999
In last year's first-ever meeting with Southern Mississippi, the Golden Bears thoroughly muzzled the Golden Eagles' offense, allowing only 277 yards and 16 first downs in registering Cal's first defensive shutout since 1999 (17-0 at UCLA). Southern Miss' only score came on a safety that resulted when Cal punter Lucas Everett dropped a snap in the end zone in the first quarter. In its 2003 home debut, Cal held Southern Mississippi to 65 rushing yards and 1.8 yards-per-carry average. A ferocious and relentless pursuit resulted in seven sacks and 12 tackles for losses of 53 yards by the hometown crew, as there were heroes galore in the Cal locker room afterwards. Leading the hit parade were Donnie McCleskey (team-high 14 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 tackles for losses of 19 yards), safety Matt Giordano (8 tackles, 1 TFL), junior defensive end Ryan Riddle (3 sacks for 15 yards in losses), and junior defensive back Mike McGrath (3 tackles, 1 INT, 1 TFL). McGrath's interception and return to the Southern Miss 36-yard line with 31 seconds left set up a final TD of the first half, which gave Cal a commanding 20-2 at intermission. The two points scored by Southern Miss was the school's lowest offensive output since the Golden Eagles were shut out by Tennessee in 1995.
Rush Week: Last Bear-Eagle Clash Featured Echemandu & Arrington Becoming 1st Cal Tandem to Rush for 100 Yards in Same Game in 10 Years
In the 2003 meeting, Cal's rushing game steamrolled Southern Mississippi's nationally-acclaimed defense for 260 yards on 48 carries. The Golden Bears were buoyed by the electrifying running of now-departed Adimchinobe Echemandu (Cleveland Browns, 7th round) and J.J. Arrington, who became the first Cal tandem to rush for 100 yards in the same game since 1993. Echemandu bolted for a then-career-high 127 yards on 17 carries, including a 60-yard touchdown jaunt, while Arrington added 114 yards on 16 carries for good measure. Not only did both backs average more than seven yards per attempt, they also triggered a second-half barrage which saw the Bears rush for 229 yards on 29 carries after intermission. In the second half, Echemandu netted 115 yards on 13 carries and Arrington added 80 yards on eight attempts. Prior to their eruption, the last time a pair of Cal rushers had cracked the century mark in the same game was Nov. 27, 1993, when Lindsey Chapman (147 yds., 30 att.) and Reynard Rutherford (101 yards, 13 att.) combined for 248 yards at Hawaii.
The Shoe's On the Other Foot: Ex-Cal QB Campbell Now Editorial Page Editor for Hattiesburg American
Talk about making transitions, try this one on for size: Rich Campbell, a star quarterback for the California Golden Bears in Berkeley from 1977-80, now serves as editorial page editor for the Hattiesburg American in the shadow of the Southern Miss campus. Campbell, who still ranks fourth in school history with 7,174 passing yards, owns the all-time Cal career completion percentage record (64.5%, 599-of-929). But the burning question is, "Who will he be rooting for on Thursday night?"
Brett Favre, Ray Guy among Famous Southern Miss Football Alumni
Southern Miss football is steeped in tradition, and perpetuating that heritage are some of the biggest names in college football who have wore Golden Eagle uniforms. Heading list, perhaps, is Super Bowl quarterback Brett Favre, a three-time NFL Most Valuable Player who still leads Southern Mississippi in career passing yardage (7,695) and touchdown passes (52). Other gilded names in school lore include punter Ray Guy, who holds Southern Miss records for both season (46.2 in 1972) and career (44.7, 1970-72) punting average--including a 93-yarder at Ole Miss in `72--and later went on to play in three Super Bowls with the Raiders; quarterback Reggie Collier, who in 1981 became the first QB in NCAA history to both rush and pass for 1,000 yards in a season; running back Sammy Winder, a two-time Super Bowl participant with the Denver Broncos and the school's all-time leader in rushing touchdowns in both a career (39) and season (20); and wide receiver Louis Lipps, a perennial star for the for the Pittsburgh Steelers and New Orleans Saints.
Tedford has been associated with teams that have carved out a 38-14 record (.731) since the start of the 2000 season, as Oregon reeled off 11-1 and 10-2 marks in 2000 and '01 with Tedford serving as offensive coordinator, while Cal has posted 7-5, 8-6 and 2-0 records the past two-plus years...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...Rodgers owns a 22-5 TD-to-INT ratio in his first 15 games at Cal...Under head coach Jeff Bower, Southern Miss has become one of NCAA's juggernauts in recent years. The Golden Eagles, who blazed through their league schedule unscathed (8-0) last year, have claimed four titles in the eight-year existence of Conference USA. One of only 10 schools nationally to enter 2004 with 10 straight winning seasons, Southern Mississippi has made six post-season bowl appearances in the last seven years...During the Bower Era, the Golden Eagles own a 49-11 record at M.M. Roberts Stadium on the Southern Miss campus...Southern Miss this year has installed "Momentum Turf" in M.M. Roberts Stadium, the same artificial turf that Cal installed at Memorial Stadium prior to last season...Joe Maningo suffered a right knee sprain in the first half of the Southern Miss game last year, an injury that forced the Cal linebacker to miss three games and hindered him for the remainder of the season...Cal's defense was particularly stifling in critical situations in last year's matchup, as Southern Mississippi's offense was successful on only three of 15 third-down conversions, and was 0-for-3 in fourth-down tries...The 32-point victory over the Golden Eagles last year is the fifth largest margin of victory by a Tedford team at Cal, topped only by a season-opening 70-22 rout of Baylor at Memorial Stadium in 2002, last year's 51-23 road win at Arizona State and 54-7 romp over visiting Washington, and the 56-14 cakewalk at Air Force in this year's debut...Cal QBs Reggie Robertson and Rodgers combined for only 18 pass attempts against Southern Miss last year, equaling the fewest attempts by a Bear offense in Tedford's three years at the helm. The Golden Bears-Golden Eagle matchup last season marked the first time in Cal's 122-year history that the school had played a team from the state of Mississippi...To say Southern Mississippi's coaching staff knows the "Golden Eagles way" might be an understatement. Including head coach Jeff Bower, there are five members of the coaching staff who are graduates of Southern Miss. Those schooled in Hattiesburg include Bower, Randy Butler (assistant head coach/defensive line), Tyrone Nix (defensive coordinator), Derrick Nix (tight ends and Tyrone's brother) and Lytrel Pollard (outside linebackers/special teams)...A glance at the Golden Eagles' roster reveals no players born west of the state of Texas...Southern Miss opened 2-4 last season, before reeling off six straight victories to finish the regular season at 8-4. The Golden Eagles dropped a 17-0 decision to Utah in the 2003 Liberty Bowl...This Thursday marks only the fifth time that Cal has played a Conference USA team. The Bears own a 3-1 record vs. the conference, having beaten Houston twice (35-3 at Houston in 1997, 14-10 at Berkeley in 1998) and both Tulane (7-3 at Berkeley in 1960) and Southern Miss once... Among the more famous alumni produced by Southern Mississippi are singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett (whose recently released CD "A License to Chill" has shot to the top of the charts); former San Francisco Giants third baseman Jim Davenport, a member of the original 1958 Giants and celebrating his 40th year with the organization, now a special assistant in player personnel; and Dr. Delores "Dottie" White, a professor at Henderson State University (Ark.) who played baseball in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which was featured in the movie, "A League of Their Own."