Aug. 31, 2000
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BERKELEY - California opens its first season of the new century with an intersectional match-up against Utah. The Bears have had a good amount of success in openers of late, winning 10 of the past 13 season-opening games. This will be the third straight season-opener in Memorial Stadium, with the Bears beating Houston, 14-10, in 1998 and Rutgers last season, 21-7. Prior to those games, Cal had opened its season on the road for five straight years. Overall, Cal has a 69-42-5 (.616) record in season-openers, but is even more dominant in season-opening games in Memorial Stadium with a 36-13 (.735) mark.
Cal Meets a Utah Team in Midst of 3-Game Pacific-10 Mini-Schedule
California and Utah meet for only the fourth time in history and the first time in 36 years as this year's game is the first of a two-game series that sees Cal travel to Salt Lake City on Sept. 13, 2003. The Bears won the first three games in the series, 63-0 in 1920 in Berkeley, 36-21 in 1958 in Berkeley and 35-22 in 1963 in Salt Lake City, before dropping a 14-0 decision to the Utes in Berkeley in 1964. Utah opened its season on Saturday at home vs. Arizona and will host Washington State next week before starting its Mountain West schedule. California is 11-6 overall against Mountain West Conference opponents, but has lost three of the past four meetings against MWC opponents since 1994, including a 38-28 decision last year at BYU.
Bears Unveil the "A Bomb" as Andre Carter Bids for Big Senior Campaign
Cal has a tremendous threat in the strong arm of quarterback Kyle Boller, who has the ability to throw the football as far as 75 yards in the air, but the team's true weapon is senior defensive end Andre Carter, one of the most accomplished pass rushers in all of college football. When he held a press conference last December 17 to announce he was foregoing the NFL draft to return for his senior season at Cal, he indicated goals of becoming a consensus All-American and Outland Trophy candidate. He has done everything possible in the off-season to make those goals a reality as his relentless workouts have put him in absolute top physical shape. Checking in at 262 pounds (up almost 10 pounds from last season), he ran an unbelievable 4.08 time in the pro shuttle drill, the fastest on the Cal team. A pro scout who has been in the business over three decades said he has never see a defensive lineman with a time that fast during his career. He also squatted 530 pounds, benched over 400 pounds, cleaned 345 pounds and registered a 37-inch vertical leap. He has been named a pre-season first team All-America choice by several publications, including Playboy, Street & Smith's, Athlon and Blue Ribbon magazines. His numbers on the field are equally impressive. He led the Pac-10 last year with 20 tackles behind the line of scrimmage (including 10 sacks) for minus 101 yards. The Bears will clearly be looking for more of those "A" bombs this season.
The Education of a Quarterback: Kyle Boller Enters Year II
The storybook tale of a freshman quarterback riding in on a white horse and leading his team to a great season didn't last long last year. In his first start as a rookie QB in 1999, Kyle Boller hit 17-of-32 passes for 213 yards and a pair of TDs to lead the Golden Bears to a 24-23 come-from-behind victory over Arizona State in the Pac-10 Conference opener. If everybody jumped to the conclusion that it was the first chapter of a Cinderella story, then it was premature, as Boller found out how difficult it was making the jump from the prep ranks to the major college level. He finished the season completing only 38.6 percent of his passes and throwing 15 interceptions compared to just nine TDs. And then, he suffered a separated shoulder in the 10th game of the season and there was some question whether he would ever be the same physically. Nine months later, Boller looks like a new man. The injury has completely healed and he added 20 pounds of muscle through rigorous workouts. That work, combined with the education he received as a freshman, plus the time he spent in the film room becoming more comfortable with the offense, has paid obvious dividends. He has enjoyed a superb pre-season camp, culminating in a 9-of-13 performance for 130 yards and a TD in the major fall scrimmage. If Cal can develop a consistent group of receivers during the early-season, he may emerge as a candidate for Comeback Player of the Year this fall.
Announcer Lee Grosscup Painfully Recalls Cal-Utah Game in '58
Cal radio color announcer Lee Grosscup was part of the Utah team that traveled to Memorial Stadium in 1958 to take on a Cal team that would eventually earn a spot in the Rose Bowl later that season. He was coming off a consensus All-America season in 1957 when he set a NCAA completion percentage record. But in an era of limited substitution rules, Grosscup also played safety on the other side of the football. His job on that afternoon of October 11 was to mirror Cal quarterback Joe Kapp and come up strong against the run. The final results not only showed a 36-21 Cal victory but also a Utah defense that simply couldn't stop the run. The Bears had 165 yards on the ground by halftime with a 21-0 lead at the intermission. "It was the mismatch of the century," laughs Grosscup. "Joe (Kapp) was a linebacker inadvertently lining up at quarterback and I was a spindly legged quarterback who was only on the field defensively because of the substitution rules. He ran over me time after time. And when he wasn't running over me, he was pitching the ball to other guys, who ran right by me." Grosscup said that Utah head coach Jack Curtice had a different philosophy in 1957 than the new Utah coach Ray Nagel in 1958. "Coach Curtice told me to line up 15 yards deep and begin retreating as soon as the ball was snapped, but Coach Nagel wanted someone coming up to attack the run," said Grosscup. "Obviously, that wasn't my forte." For the record, Kapp actually only gained 41 yards on 10 carries. It was Jack Yerman and Hank Olguin who did most of the damage, as each averaged over 10 yards per carry against the Utes. Grosscup had five carries for minus 38 yards, while completing 12-of-21 passes for 196 yards and one interception (returned 68 yards ford a TD by Frank Sally).
Cal's Holmoe Attracting National Attention with Stance on Contract
Cal head coach Tom Holmoe is obviously a different breed than usually found in the coaching profession. As he enters the fourth year of a rebuilding program, there is much evidence that he has his team on the right track. He has seen a defense rise through the Pac-10 ranks from dead last to first in his three-season tenure. Through strong recruiting efforts, he has a superb nucleus of young offensive players, including a trio of sophomores in quarterback Kyle Boller, tailback Joe Igber and offensive lineman Scott Tercero, who all figure to contend for all-conference or even All-America honors in the near future. Most coaches would be lobbying for a contract extension. Holmoe, on the other hand, has put Cal A.D. John Kasser's multi-year contract extension on hold, until he feels comfortable with better results in the win-loss column. "I think we have things in place for a real surge of success, but I don't feel comfortable being rewarded until we show that progress on the field," said Holmoe. "I expect to be at Cal a long, long time. When the timing is right, we'll get the contract stuff done." His stance has opened a lot of eyes around the country, drawing mention in Sports Illustrated and causing ESPN.com's Gene Wojciechowske to list it as one of the top 20 developments in college football entering the season, "...you can count on one hand how many coaches would do what Cal coach Tom Holmoe is doing - that is, declining to sign a proposed contract extension until he turns the program around. Until further notice, Holmoe is No. 1 in our integrity poll."
Who's Wearing No. 8? It's Not Deltha O'Neal, Just Check the Uniforms
There have been several number changes on the Cal team from last year to this season, including the change of Joe Igber from No. 29 to No. 6, LaShaun Ward from No. 24 to No. 8 (inheriting Deltha O'Neal's number), Dewey Hale from No. 36 to No. 21, Jameel Powell from No. 21 to No. 1, Calvin Hosey from No. 3 to No. 13 (Sekou Sanyika's number), Joseph Echema from No. 19 to No. 18, Saleem Muhammad from No. 34 to No. 9 and Nnamdi Asomugha from No. 1 to No. 2. It's enough to make one's head swim. However, a lifeline has appeared. Cal coach Tom Holmoe has made the decision to put players names on the uniform backs after a one-year hiatus. Last season, he acceded to a request from the Cal defense to take the names off the uniforms as a sign of team unity. However, the move proved unpopular with Cal spectators and he's elected to change back for the coming season. Thank God for small favors.
Tailbacks, Tailbacks and More Tailbacks plus an H-Back Clearly the strength of the 2000 Cal football team resides at the tailback position where the Bears boast three potential starters in sophomore Joe Igber, soph Joseph Echema and junior Saleem Muhammad. With different styles of running, they offer different dimensions to the Cal offense, and that likely will translate into significant playing time for all three. Igber is coming off an impressive freshman season in which he finished in seventh place in the Pac-10 rushing derby (694 yards), despite not starting until the fifth game of the season, and being hampered by a shoulder injury the final four games of the season. His mid-season run, when he was healthy, of three straight 100-yard games was the first time that had ever been accomplished by a Cal freshman. The 195-pounder has a darting, stop-and-start style of running and which compares to the slashing style of 215-pound Echema and the powerful inside running of 215-pound Muhammad. As a further counter-point, there's senior 220-pound Marcus Fields, who will occupy the new H-Back spot installed by the coaching staff in the off-season. He won't get as many carries as the other three, but he'll have to be accounted for by opponent defenses, particularly if he matches up against linebackers in the passing game.
The only player from the Cal roster from Utah is sophomore placekicker Mark-Christian Jensen, who played at Pleasant Grove HS through the 1994 season and then went on a Mormon mission before enrolling at Cal in 1998, in contrast, Utah has 25 players from the state of California on its roster, including five from the Bay Area...Bulletin Board Material?: The Cal media guide lists the school's all-time single-game total offense record as 670 yards against Utah in 1958, however, it is a mistake, as the Bears only had 371 yards on that October 11 afternoon...Cal tailback Joe Igber and Utah offensive tackle Ed Ta'amu attended the same Iolani HS in Honolulu, playing together when Igber was a sophomore and Ta'amu a senior...Utah's Andre Dyson is ranked the third best cornerback in college football by Lindy's and is ranked No. 17 by The Sporting News...Steve Smith is ranked the No. 2 return specialist in the nation by The Sporting News and is the No. 4 return specialist by Lindy's...Cal's schedule is rated the sixth toughest in college football by Sports Illustrated while Inside Player's magazine rates Cal's slate the third most difficult in the nation...Pre-season All-America punter Nick Harris needs to average 6.5 punts this year to set a new NCAA career mark for punts, currently held by Cameron Young of TCU (320 punts from 1976-79).