Aug. 24, 2003
This Week's Game
California opens its 81st season in Memorial Stadium Saturday when the Golden Bears host the Golden Eagles of Southern Mississippi at 1 p.m. Last year, Cal forged a 4-3 home mark, including a 70-22 victory over Baylor and a 34-13 triumph over New Mexico State to start the campaign. In Southern Miss, the Bears face a defense that was ranked last year in the Top 10 nationally for the second consecutive time. Last Saturday, Cal matched up against a Kansas State unit that was second in the country in total defense in 2002, while this weekend's opponent rated fourth in passing efficiency defense and first in passing touchdowns allowed last year. Despite having to replace record-setting signal-caller Kyle Boller, the Bears didn't seem to skip a beat offensively against Kansas State. Junior Reggie Robertson - in his first start in nearly two years - completed 16-of-29 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns, while backup sophomore Aaron Rodgers finished 9-of-13 for 121 yards and one score. The duo's combined 378 passing yards were Cal's highest total since Nov. 2, 1996 when Pat Barnes set the school record with 503 yards through the air in a four-overtime win over Arizona. The main beneficiary of the aerial assault was junior Geoff McArthur, who corralled eight passes for 169 yards - a yardage total that ties for 11th on the Cal season chart - becoming the Bears' first 150-yard receiver in six years. After the installation of Momentum Turf - a state-of-the-art synthetic surface - over the summer, the Cal-Southern Miss contest marks the Bears' first home game on artificial turf since a 24-23 Big Game victory over Stanford in 1994.
Cal-Southern Miss Series
This marks the first time Cal and Southern Miss have met. The Bears will make a return trip to Hattiesburg, Miss., on Sept. 25, 2004.
A Quick Look at Southern Mississippi
Southern Mississippi returns 15 starters from a team that finished 7-6 with a berth in the Houston Bowl last season, the program's fifth bowl appearance in the last six years. In fact, starting with a 6-5 mark in 1994, the Golden Eagles have had a winning record each of the past nine seasons-a feat matched or exceeded by only nine other schools nationally. This fall, the strength of the Southern Miss squad lies in its defense, which returns eight starters from a unit that ranked fourth nationally in pass effenciency, No. 15 in scoring defense and No. 34 in total defense last year. The Golden Eagles led the country in fewest touchdown passes allowed (6) and tied for second in fewest total TDs given up (19). Senior linebacker Rod Davis, who had 23.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks, earned first team All-American honors from the All-American Football Foundation and CollegeFootballNews.com and third team attention from the Associated Press last fall, while senior safety Etric Pruitt, with six interceptions, was a second team All-American (CNNSI.com) and a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award in 2002. On the offensive end, Southern Miss features a new offensive offensive coordinator, Rip Scherer, who previously served as head coach at James Madison (1991-94) and Memphis (1994-2000). Quarterback Micky D'Angelo threw for 1,647 yards and seven scores last season, and he has his top two receivers back in juniors Chris Johnson (50 catches, 673 yards) and Marvin Young (41, 615).
Jeff Tedford, California (Fresno State '83), who directed Cal to its first winning football season (7-5) in nine years and the nation's biggest one-year turnaround in the regular season in 2002, is in his second season as head coach of the Golden Bears. 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 last year. A vote of his fellow conference coaches awarded him the 2002 Pac-10 Coach of the Year award. Tedford arrived at Cal after four highly successful seasons at Oregon, where he served as offensive coordinator and helped the Ducks to a combined 38-10 record, including an 11-1 mark in 2001 when Oregon won the Pac-10 championship and earned a No. 2 national ranking. Tedford 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. 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) enters his 13th season as head coach of the Golden Eagles with an 80-58-1 record. The 1999 Conference USA Coach of the Year, he has guided Southern Miss to five bowl appearances in the last six years and three league championships (1996, '97 and '99). Bower first began his association with Southern Miss as a quarterback from 1973-75. He later served as a graduate assistant (1976-77), quarterbacks and receivers coach (1978-81) and assistant head coach/offensive coordinator (1988-89). In addition, Bower made coaching stops at SMU (quarterbacks, 1982-86), Wake Forest (quarterbacks, 1987) and Oklahoma State (assistant HC/offensive coordinator, 1990) before taking over the Southern Miss program.
Saturday is ANG Newspapers Youth Day, with all fans 17 and under able to purchase reserved tickets in advance for only $5 (on gameday, only general admission seats will be offered for the $5 price). In addition, all fans in attendance will receive a free team poster. Following the football game, fans can watch the Cal field hockey team against Ohio State on adjacent Maxwell Family Field at 4 p.m.
IKON Office Solutions Play of the Week
Each week throughout the 2003 football season, IKON Office Solutions salutes the Golden Bear Play of the Week. Against Kansas State, senior WR Vincent Strang made a diving 34-yard catch of a pass by junior QB Reggie Robertson to tie the score at 7-7 with 10:39 left in the first quarter.
The Times Player of the Game
Each week throughout the 2003 football season, the Contra Costa Times will recognize the Cal Player of the Game. In his first start since the middle of 2001, junior QB Reggie Robertson completed 16-of-29 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns.
California Passes for 378 Yards, 4 TDs in Scoring 28 Points vs. Kansas State's Vaunted Defense
While nationally No. 5 ranked (ESPN/USA Today) Kansas State certainly lived up to its pre-season hype, Jeff Tedford and his young and inexperienced Golden Bears showed signs of promise in Saturday's 42-28 loss to the Wildcats at the BCA Classic in Kansas City. Matched against a K-State defense that led NCAA Division I-A football for fewest points allowed (11.8 ppg) and ranked second in total defense (249.0 ypg) in 2002, Cal unleashed the school's greatest passing yardage day in seven years. With starter Reggie Robertson (16-29, 257 yds., 3 TDs, 1 Int.) and backup Aaron Rodgers (9-of-13, 121 yds., 1 TD, 0 Int.) both dissecting the Wildcats' vaunted defense, the Bears passed for 378 yards and four touchdowns in scoring 28 points in the 2003 opener. Ironically, the 378 yards are more than any game of the Kyle Boller era, and are the most by a Cal passing attack since Nov. 2, 1996, when the Bears rang up 503 yards in a 56-55, four-overtime win against Arizona in Berkeley. The last regulation game that featured a better passing yardage figure occurred the previous week (Oct. 26) in that 1996 season, when Cal passed for 435 yards in a 38-29 loss to visiting UCLA. Perhaps of greater significance is the fact that Cal's 28 points exceeded the scoring output of 12 of Kansas State's 13 opponents last season, as only Colorado tallied more in beating the Wildcats, 35-31, in Boulder last fall. What's more, only three 2002 regular-season opponents fared better than Tedford's young Bears against K-State in scoring margin (besides Colorado, Texas edged Bill Snyder's club, 17-14, in Austin, and USC lost, 27-20, to the Wildcats in Manhattan).
Cal Defense Baptized Under Fire in BCA Classic, Dented for 535 Yards
Cal's defense, sporting only two returning starters and a host of inexperienced players, was severely tested by Kansas State's high-octane running game. The Wildcats, led by Heisman Trophy candidates Darren Sproles and Ell Roberson, cranked out 330 yards on the ground-the highest rushing total against a Bears' defense in seven years. Sproles zoomed to a career-high 175 yards on 22 carries at tailback, while Roberson rushed for 150 yards on 18 attempts at quarterback. The last time Cal allowed more than 330 rushing yards was in a 38-29 setback to Arizona State, when the Sun Devils steamrolled the Bears for 345 yards on 61 carries at Memorial Stadium Nov. 11, 1995. Despite yielding 42 points and 535 yards to Kansas State, Cal's defense did produce some respectable individual efforts. Free safety Matt Giordano, a transfer from Fresno City College, registered a game-high 12 tackles, while linebackers Brian Tremblay and Francis Blay-Miezah added eight and seven stops, respectively. And while 42 points may be a hefty number, it actually is almost three points less than the 44.8 ppg that K-State averaged last year as the nation's No. 2 scoring offense.
Bears Face 2nd Top Ranked Defense in as Many Weeks
For the second straight week, Cal will face one of the nation's premier defenses. Southern Miss returns eight starters and 28 lettermen from last year's team-compared to the Golden Bears' defense, which returns only two starters and 18 letter-winners. Anchored by linebacker Rod Davis and defensive back Etric Pruitt, both returning All-Americans, the Golden Eagles' defensive unit has allowed only 69 touchdowns since the start of the 1999 season, the fewest TDs by an NCAA Division I-A defense during that time span. Southern Mississippi's 2002 crew ranked 10th nationally in pass defense (168.85) and also returns linebacker Michael Boley, defensive end Terrell Paul and defensive back Greg Brooks, all 2002 All-Conference USA selections.
Cal's Loss Only 2nd Setback in Last 8 Season Openers Dating Back to 1996
California's 42-28 loss to nationally No. 5 ranked Kansas State was only the Bears' second setback in a season opener in the past eight years. Cal was victorious in five straight curtain-raisers from 1996-2000 before the streak was snapped in 2001, when the Sugar Bowl-bound Illinois Fighting Illini walloped the home eleven, 44-17. Jeff Tedford is now 1-1 in season openers at Cal, having christened his maiden season of 2002 in smashing fashion with a 70-22 rout of visiting Baylor last year in Memorial Stadium.
Rebuilding or Reloading? Cal's Recruiting Class Must Help '03 Club That Returns Only 9 Starters
It's not Jeff Tedford's style to lay awake at night worrying about his team's potential, but any way you slice it, the Bears suffered heavy losses from last season's 7-5 club. Tedford and his club were forced to say farewell to the school's No. 2 career passer (Kyle Boller), No. 2 all-time rusher (Joe Igber), No. 3 career sack leader (Tully Banta-Cain) and No. 5 career kickoff returner (LaShaun Ward), plus a cornerback in Nnamdi Asomugha who joined Boller as NFL first-round picks last spring. Yet, perhaps more importantly, Cal lost 23 seniors from last year's team, and returns only nine starters-a figure that ranks dead last (tied with Florida and South Carolina) among 117 NCAA Division 1-A schools. While those facts and figures may sound gloomy for the '03 Bears, there may be reason to believe another winning season may be in the cards. Why? Because Tedford and his Cal coaching staff enjoyed one of the finest recruiting years in school history. The Bears signed 28 players in February, including 11 who received All-American accolades. Virtually every recruiting publication and web site ranked Cal's incoming class among the nation's Top 20. In Rival.com's ranking of the state's Top 100 prep players, the Bears landed 14 from the list (only USC had more among NCAA schools). Cal also boasted six of the country's Top 125 junior college players, according to PrepStar magazine.
Tedford Continues QB Tradition at Cal
Since the days of All-American John Meek, who passed Cal to an unbeaten season and Rose Bowl title in 1937, the Golden Bears have been a cradle for college quarterbacks. Twelve years later in 1949, Bob Celeri also earned All-American honors after guiding the Bears to a 10-1 mark and Rose Bowl appearance. In the past four decades, Cal has produced an extraordinary list of polished passers. They include such legends as Joe Kapp (1956-58), Craig Morton (1962-64), Steve Bartkowksi (1972-74), Joe Roth (1975-76), Rich Campbell (1977-80), Gale Gilbert (1980-84), Troy Taylor (1986-89), Mike Pawlawski (1988-91) and Pat Barnes (1993-96). Perhaps, the best is yet to come in Berkeley, thanks to the arrival of head coach Jeff Tedford last year. Tedford, himself a former All-American honorable mention QB at Fresno State, has recruited and/or developed five quarterbacks who have become high first-round draft choices in the NFL. As offensive coordinator at Fresno State, he worked his magic with Trent Dilfer (No. 6 pick by Tampa Bay, 1994) and David Carr (No. 1 by Houston, 2002). As offensive coordinator at Oregon, he transformed Akili Smith (No. 3 by Cincinnati, 1999) and Joey Harrington (No. 3 by Detroit, 2002) into college superstars. And last year at Cal, he inherited senior Kyle Boller, who after three previous seasons of frustration, blossomed into perhaps the nation's most improved quarterback. Boller, who later would become a first-round draft choice of the NFL's Baltimore Ravens, finished his Cal career ranked first in TD passes (64) and second all-time in passing yards (7,980) in school history. Now, on the horizon, are four new faces on Tedford's QB assembly line. Returnees Reggie Robertson and Richard Schwartz, plus newcomers Aaron Rodgers (Butte JC) and Cary Dove (Taft HS), provide promising arms for the head coach. Robertson saw limited action as Boller's understudy the past two years, completing 30 of 67 passes for 362 yards and two TDs, while backup Rodgers was a JC third team All-American in throwing for 2,408 yards, 28 TDs and only four interceptions last year.
Gregory a Wizard in Molding Turnover-Minded Defenses
At age 40, Cal defensive coordinator Bob Gregory may be one of the top young defensive minds in all of college football. As defensive coordinator at Boise State two years ago, he molded that unit into the Western Athletic Conference's No. 2 ranked scoring defense. And inheriting a Cal defense that had surrendered a school-record 432 points (39.2 ppg) in 2001, he transformed virtually the same group of players into one of the Pac-10 most opportunistic defenses. The 2002 Bear defense yielded 26.5 points per contest-almost two touchdowns less per game than the year before-and ranked among the nation's best in many key statistical categories. Cal boasted a +18 turnover margin, which led the Pac-10 and ranked No. 7 nationally. Much of the credit for that wide differential must be given to Gregory's defense, which ranked second in the NCAA in fumble recoveries (21) and seventh in total takeaways (36). Last year's Bears also ranked fifth in the Pac-10 and 19th nationally in rushing defense (114.0). In fact, the Bears held their last three 2002 opponents to 87 combined rushing yards-vs. Arizona (-5), Arizona State (-2) and Stanford (94). Gregory heads a defensive coaching staff that features another former defensive coordinator (defensive line coach Ken Delgado at San Diego State), a former four-time Super Bowl starter (DB coach J.D. Williams at Buffalo), and the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Dave Wilcox (linebacker coach Justin Wilcox).
Three-Headed Tailback to Replace Igber in 2003
It will be rushing by committee in 2003, as Cal running back coach Ron Gould fields three quality ball-carriers who will replace the departed Joe Igber, who zoomed for 1,130 yards on 241 carries last year to become the first Bear thousand-yard rusher since 1993. Igber, who capped his Berkeley tenure with a career-best 226 yards vs. Stanford in his final game, claimed the No. 2 spot behind Chuck Muncie on Cal's career rushing list with 3,124 yards. While the diminutive back will be missed, the Bears may actually be deeper and better on the ground this fall. Senior Adimchinobe Echemandu (formerly Joe Echema), a former prep All-American who has risen above personal adversity to claim the starting tailback position this year, is a strong (6-0, 225 pounds), versatile back that Coach Tedford compares favorably to his former Oregon star Onterrio Smith. As a sophomore in 2000, the Lagos, Nigeria, native was the Bears' third-leading rusher with 215 yards. He was limited to 18 yards on four carries against K-State, while backups Marcus O'Keith and J.J. Arrington seized more significant numbers. Redshirt-freshman O'Keith, a former prep All-American who was one of the surprises of camp, was the club's leading rusher with 32 yards on seven carries, while JC transfer Arrington, who barreled for 769 yards and 19 TDs for College of the Canyon last season, entered the game in the fourth quarter and squirted free for touchdown receptions of 22 and seven yards. While the Bears' ground game was held to 62 yards on 27 carries by K-State-which ranked second in the nation in rush defense last year (69.5 ypg)-Cal averaged 5.0 yards per carry in the second in netting 55 yards on 11 attempts.
Golden Bears Boast Strong NFL Presence
California has been perennially ranked among the nation's Top 20 in former players currently in the NFL. As of June 30, Cal had 29 alumni on NFL rosters, tied for second most in the Pac-10 and tied for the 17th highest total in the country.
Tight End Plays Featured Role in Cal Offense
Uncharacteristic of the new Cal offense, Bear tight ends were shut out in receptions by Kansas State Saturday. Since head coach Jeff Tedford and offensive coordinator George Cortez arrived in Berkeley last year, however, the tight end position has played a much more prominent role in the Cal offense. Under a previous coaching resume in 2001, the Bear tight ends only mustered 18 receptions as an entire unit. But last year, under the direction of Tedford and Cortez, the tight end corps produced 50 catches. In fact, senior Tom Swoboda-who had managed only eight grabs the previous season - exploded for 42 receptions for 451 yards and seven touchdowns in 2002. Swoboda's seven TDs led all Pac-10 tight ends and his catch total tied him for the league lead last year. While Swoboda has graduated, the Bears again figure to dissect opposing defenses with sure-handed tight ends this fall. Listed as the top three players at the position in 2003 are senior Brandon Hall (8 rec., 79 yds.), true freshman Craig Stevens and junior Garrett Cross. Hall, fully recovered from last year's ankle injury, hopes to return to his 2001 form when he snatched 26 passes for 295 yards and two TDs at Orange Coast College and was one of the nation's prized JC recruits. Stevens, perhaps the biggest surprise in fall camp among the 18 incoming freshmen, was an All-Region tight end at Peninsula High in San Pedro last year. A first team JC All-American, Cross hauled in 39 passes for 590 yards as a teammate of QB Aaron Rodgers at Butte College in 2002. Cross' 10 touchdown grabs last year led all JC tight ends in the state.
Unheralded Makonnen Could be One of Pac-10's Best
One of the Pac-10's most underrated receivers resides in Strawberry Canyon. In a conference bloated with superstar pass-catchers, it's easy to overlook Cal's senior wideout Jonathan Makonnen. A transfer from City College of San Francisco's national championship team last year, the 6-0, 175-pound Makonnen has overcome the critics who said he was too small or lacked breakaway speed. He may very well lead all Pac-10 receivers in toughness and consistency. Missing no practices despite suffering a broken finger in early pre-season 2002 camp, Makonnen went on to snare 54 passes for 682 yards and seven TDs as the conference's ninth-leading receiver. The Menlo Park product-who works out with future Hall-of-Famer Jerry Rice during the off-season-was the acme of consistency, catching three passes or more in 11 of Cal's 12 games last year.
McArthur, Strang Shine in 2003 Debut at Arrowhead Stadium
While Makonnen posted a solid first game, it was junior Geoff McArthur and senior Vinny Strang who produced pass-catching heroics in Kansas City. McArthur shredded KSU's secondary for eight catches and a career-high 169 yards, including a career-best 65-yard touchdown reception, while Strang added three grabs for 62 yards, including a scoring 34-yarder. McArthur, whose 169-yard effort were the most receiving yards by a Cal player in five years (Bobby Shaw, 11 rec. for 204 yards at Houston, Sept. 6, 1997), was well on his way to a big year in 2003, averaging 6.0 catches and 60 yards per game over his first five contests. However, a hamstring injury limited him to only one start and six catches in the final seven games last season. Strang, who has added 13 pounds in the weight room from last year, still only packs 150 pounds on his 5-8 frame as perhaps the most exciting player on the 2003 Cal team.
Led by Special Teams, Bears Rip off Big Plays in '02
Another contributing factor to Cal's comeback season was the big play. In their 12 games last year, the Bears unleashed no less than 22 plays that measured 50 yards and beyond. Cal ranked first in kickoff return average (24.5) and third in punt return average (12.80) in the Pac-10. However, gone is kick returner LaShaun Ward, who averaged 28.9 yards per attempt as a senior last year to rank first in the conference and fifth nationally. Cal's coverage units were also very respectable last year, limiting their foes to a 17.4-yard kickoff return average (1st in Pac-10) and 11.2 punt return figure. What's more, Cal special teams blocked four punts and three kicks last season.
Tables Turned in '03 Opener, As K-State Rips Off 7 Plays of 30 Yards or More
While Cal enjoyed the two longest plays of the game-a 65-yard Reggie Robertson-to-Geoff McArthur TD pass and James Bethea 62-yard kickoff return-it was Kansas State that won the big-play battle last Saturday. The Wildcats uncorked seven plays of 30 yards or more, including three plays that measured beyond 50 yards in length (a 53-yard Darren Sproles run and a pair of Ell Roberson-to-tight end James Terry 52-yard pass plays). The Bears managed four plays of 30 yards or more. Besides the aforementioned two plays, wide receiver Vinny Strang hooked up with Robertson for a 34-yard scoring missile that knotted the score, 7-7, in the first quarter, while McArthur collaborated with Aaron Rodgers on a 31-yard strike in the final period.
Cal Rover McCleskey Among Nation's Premier Sophs
How many college football teams can say that their top returning tackler is a sophomore? And how many of those teams can say that their sophomore didn't even crack the starting lineup until midway through his freshman season? Well, Cal's rover Donnie McCleskey fits the bill. Making a remarkable transformation from high school running back to the college secondary, McCleskey averaged 5.4 tackles in starting the Bears' final seven games. A member of The Sporting News' Pac-10 All-Freshman Team, he finished the season with 45 tackles, five pass break-ups and one interception. He figures to be one of this year's team leaders on a defense that returns only two starters from 2002.
All-Pac-10 2nd Teamer McGrath Leads Special Teams
Junior Mike McGrath came to Cal as a walk-on from nearby Watsonville. As far as special teams players are concerned, he may be one the best tacklers in college football. Unleashing one of the finest seasons by a special teams player in recent history last year, he drilled opponents for 21 tackles (17 solo) and forced one fumble-exclusively on special teams. For his efforts, he was named second team All-Pac-10 last season. And perhaps more importantly, he was awarded a football scholarship by head coach Jeff Tedford during the off-season. In the 2003 opener, McGrath mustered only one assisted tackle on special teams, although he did contribute two stops at free safety against K-State.
Total Transformation: Cal Made Dramatic Upgrade in '02
Very few college football programs underwent such a positive one-year transformation as the likes of last year's California team. In their 11-game schedule in 2001, the Bears were saddled with an 1-10 record and were outdistanced by an average score of 39.2 points to 18.3 points. A year later, a revitalized Cal club carved out its best record (7-5) since 1994 and outscored its opponents by a margin of 9.1 points (35.6 to 26.5).
California's 6-Win Increase in 2002 Tied Nation's Lead, Ranked 2nd Best Ever in School History
With their impressive 7-5 mark last season, the 2002 Golden Bears produced one of the biggest one-year turnarounds in college football history. They bettered the previous year's mark by six wins, which tied for the biggest increase among NCAA Division 1-A teams last year (regular season games only). And their 5.5-game improvement (margin of wins and losses divided by two) equals the second best one-year turnaround in Cal history. The greatest one-year flip by a Cal team came in 1947, when first-year coach Pappy Waldorf led his Golden Bears to a 9-1 record-a six-and-a-half game improvement from the previous season (2-7 in '46 under Frank Wickhorst).
'02 Bears Outscored Foes, 244-127, in 1st Halves
Roaring out of the gates like few others, Cal feasted on 2002 opponents in the first half last year. The Bears, who trailed at halftime only twice in 2002, outscored their foes by a whopping 244-127 margin. That was a complete reversal from the previous season, when California was outscored by a 231-105 count in first halves. Cal was particularly lethal in first quarters last year, outscoring its opponents, 116-43, in the opening period. The script changed in the 2003 opener, however, as K-State's juggernaut marched to a 27-14 advantage at intermission. It marked only the third time in 13 games under Tedford that Cal has trailed at halftime (the Bears also stared at deficits against both Oregon State and Arizona last year). The 27 points tallied by Kansas State in the first half were the most by a Cal opponent in the opening 30 minutes during the brief Tedford Era. Last year's high was 24 points scored by Arizona Nov. 16.
Pac-10 is Truly the "Conference of Champions"
Entering the 2003-04 season, the Pacific-10 Conference continues to uphold its tradition as the "Conference of Champions." Pac-10 members have claimed 73 NCAA titles over the past nine seasons, for an average of more than eight championships per academic year. Even more impressive is the breadth of the Pac-10's success, as those 73 crowns have come in 21 different men's and women's sports. The Pac-10 has led the nation in NCAA championships 38 of the last 43 years and finished second the other five times. Spanning nearly a century of outstanding achievement, the Pac-10 has captured 323 NCAA titles (243 men's, 82 women's) overall, far outdistancing the runner-up Big Ten Conference's 193 titles.
Cal's defense received some good news over the weekend. Freshman cornerback Brandon Sanders, a two-time all-state pick at Oakland's Skyline High School, may only miss a couple of games despite undergoing an emergency appendectomy at Overland Park Regional hospital early Saturday morning in Kansas. Due to an early diagnosis by the Cal medical team, Sanders' surgery was limited to a laparoscopic procedure. Avoiding open surgery will allow Sanders to return to the team in one week's time and then will slowly be worked back into full play. On another defensive front, 6-3, 250-pound JC transfer Ray Tago has completed administrative requirements at Long Beach City College and will enroll in classes at Cal this week. Tago, the former CIF Southern Section Division 1 Defensive MVP at Long Beach Poly High, was listed among the Top 125 JuCo players in the nation by Rivals.com this year as a dominating pass-rushers at defensive end...James Bethea averaged 23.5 yards on six kickoff returns against Kansas State's speedy coverage unit last weekend, including the 62-yarder in the third quarter...The 42 points scored by Kansas State were the second-most by a Cal opponent since Tedford assumed the coaching reins last year. Arizona chalked up 52 points in last year's 52-41 Wildcat win in Berkeley...The 14-point loss to K-State was the widest margin of defeat in the Tedford Era, as the 2002 Cal team was beaten by 11-point margins twice (Oregon State and Arizona)...In 120 previous seasons of Cal football, the Golden Bears have never played a team from the state of Mississippi...Cal and Southern Miss have a return date in Hattiesburg on Sept. 25, 2004...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), Shelton Gandy (running backs) and Lytrel Pollard (outside linebackers/special teams)...This will be Southern Mississippi's longest road trip of the season, measuring 2,216 miles (second longest is Nebraska at 1,011 miles)...Offensively, where Southern Miss returns tackle Jeremy Parquet (6-7, 318) and wide receivers Chris Johnson (50 rec., 673 yds.) and Marvin Young (41 rec., 615 yds.), Bower's club scored only 147 points in its eight conference games last year...A glance at the Golden Eagles' roster reveals no players born west of the state of Texas...Southern Miss opened 3-0 last season, before finally tasting defeat at Alabama, 20-7...This Saturday marks only the fourth time that Cal has played a Conference USA team. The Bears own a 2-1 previous record vs. the conference, having beaten Houston twice (35-3 at Houston in 1997, 14-10 at Berkeley in 1998) and Tulane once (7-3 at Berkeley in 1960)...Cal head man Jeff Tedford has been associated with teams that have carved out a 28-8 record 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 posted a 7-5 record in '02...Coincidence or not? Cal was 6-1 in games that were televised last year, 1-4 when there was no live TV...This season marks the 10-year anniversary of Keith Gilbertson's 9-4 Cal team that shellacked Iowa, 37-3, in the 1994 Alamo Bowl on New Year's Eve and finished ranked No. 25 nationally in the final Associated Press poll...It's also the 80th anniversary of Andy Smith's 9-0-1 Bear club that capped its season with a 9-0 win over Stanford in the first-ever game played at California Memorial Stadium in 1923...Among the more famous alumni produced by Southern Mississippi are singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett; former San Francisco Giants third baseman Jim Davenport, a member of the original 1958 Giants and celebrating his 39th 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."
Cal Has Won 6 of Last 7 Home Openers Dating Back to 1996
Home openers have been kind to Cal in recent years, with the Golden Bears winning six of the last seven home season debuts dating back to 1997, and nine of the past 12 campaign lid-lifters at Memorial Stadium. The Bears christened the new Jeff Tedford Era with a 70-22 blowout victory over visiting Baylor in last year's Aug. 31 opener, as quarterback Kyle Boller passed for 213 yards and three touchdowns. The Bears broke the school's all-time record for most points in a quarter with a 35-point explosion in the very first quarter of the season. Linebacker Matt Nixon returned an interception 100 yards for a TD in that first-period bonanza, while freshman wide receiver David Gray caught a pass from tailback Terrell Williams and raced 71 yards for a TD on the game's first play from scrimmage. Cal had rattled off victories in five straight home season openers from 1996-2000-beating San Diego State (42-37), Oklahoma (40-36), Houston (14-10), Rutgers (21-7) and Utah (24-21) in succession-before losing the 2001 curtain-raiser to visiting Illinois, 44-17. The current 9-of-12 run began in 1991 with the greatest one-game scoring effort in Cal history, as the Bears uncorked an 86-24 conquest of Pacific on Sept. 7, 1991.
Bears Play One of Nation's Toughest Schedules in 2003
The California Golden Bears have traditionally played one of the nation's most challenging schedules, and 2003 is no exception. Of their 13 opponents, nine were bowl teams in 2002-USC (Orange), Washington (Sun), UCLA (Las Vegas), Arizona State (Holiday Bowl), Oregon State (Insight), Oregon (Seattle), Kansas State (Holiday), Southern Mississippi (Houston) and Colorado State (Liberty). What's more, three other 2003 foes were bowl bound two years ago-Illinois (Sugar), Stanford (Seattle) and Utah (Las Vegas).
Tedford Already Tied for 5th in Pac-10 for Seniority
Just how unstable is it to be a Pac-10 head football coach? Well, consider this: Cal head coach Jeff Tedford, who enters only his second year at the helm, is already tied for fifth in seniority among conference head coaches. Tedford, named the Pac-10 Coach of the Year after transforming Cal from a 1-10 team in 2001 to 7-5 in 2002 in his first season, trails only Oregon's Mike Bellotti, Arizona's John Mackovic, Arizona State's Dirk Koetter and USC's Pete Carroll in consecutive years of service.
California Defense to Face 4 of Nation's Top 10 QBs, Says The Sporting News
California's defense, which returns only two starters (tackle Lorenzo Alexander and rover Donnie McCleskey) from last year's unit, will square off against four of the NCAA's Top 10 quarterbacks, according to The Sporting News' pre-season magazine. They are Washington's Cody Pickett (4,458 yards, 28 TDs), Kansas State's Eli Roberson (1,032 yards and 16 TDs rushing, 1,580 yards and 7 TDs passing), Arizona State's Andrew Walter (3,877 yards and 28 TDs) and Colorado State's Bradlee Van Pelt (2,073 yards and 10 TDs passing, 819 yards and 11 TDs rushing).
Cal Has Produced 20 1st Round Draft Picks
With QB Kyle Boller (19th, Baltimore) and CB Nnamdi Asomugha (31st, Oakland) both selected in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft, the University of California has now produced 20 first-round picks in its history. The Bears also can claim eight NFL first-rounders in the past eight years-Regan Upshaw (12th, Tampa Bay) and Duane Clemons (16th, Minnesota) in 1996, Tony Gonzalez (13th, Kansas City) and Tarik Glenn (19th, Indianapolis) in 1997, Deltha O'Neal (15th, Denver) in 2000, Andre Carter (7th, San Francisco) in 2001, and Boller and Asomugha in 2003.
Brett Favre, Ray Guy among Famous Southern Miss 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 that 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 Pittsburgh Steelers and New Orleans Saints.
Cal Posted First Winning Season in Nine Years in '02
Not only did Cal rebound dramatically from its 1-10 debacle the previous year, the 7-5 Bears established themselves as a nationally respected program almost overnight. The 30-7 Big Game victory over Stanford Nov. 23 clinched Cal's first winning season since 1993, when Keith Gilbertson's club etched a 9-4 mark. By shredding No. 25 Arizona State, 55-38, in Tempe Nov. 9, the 2002 Bears became the first Cal team in history to score three road wins against nationally ranked opponents in the same season. The Bears also defeated No. 15 Michigan State (46-22) and No. 12 Washington (34-27). In fact, it had been 52 years since a Cal team had simply beaten three nationally ranked teams in the same campaign period. And national media began to take notice of last year's upstart team. In the Associated Press poll, the Bears were ranked 23rd on Sept. 15, and received 80 votes-29th most in the nation-Oct. 6. To add further credibility, the New York Times' Computer Rankings rated Cal 12th in the country as the Pac-10's highest-rated school on Oct. 6.
Cal Adds Serious Speed to 2003 Team Roster
One of Cal's recruiting priorities was speed, and the incoming 2003 Bear class may be one of the swiftest in recent school history. No less than nine recruits have been clocked in 4.5 seconds or faster in the 40-yard dash. Headed by mercurial wide receiver Noah Smith of Taft High School (Woodland Hills, Calif.), who has blazed to a 4.29 time, the group includes six players with 4.4 times on their resumes. The Torrid Nine also includes wide receivers Devin Stearns (Serra HS), Sam DeSa (Monte Vista HS) and Sean Young (Berkeley HS), running back J.J. Arrington (College of the Canyons), linebacker Francis Blay-Miezah (Mt. San Antonio College), defensive backs Brandon Sanders (Oakland Skyline HS), Kenny Frank (Cerritos HS) and Daymeion Hughes (Crenshaw HS).
'02 Bears Set Modern Day Mark with 427 Points Scored
Spewing out 35.6 points per game, Cal ranked second in scoring offense among Pac-10 teams-just behind USC's 35.8 ppg-and rated 10th nationally. Remarkably, Cal outscored its 2001 counterpart by 226 points, cashing in 53 touchdowns and 427 points in its 12 games. In comparison, the previous season's Cal squad tallied 24 TDs and 201 points total over an 11-game schedule and ranked 104th nationally in scoring average (18.3 ppg). The 427 points set the school's modern day record, eclipsing the 1991 club that tallied 406 points in 11 games. The Bears' 55-point outburst at Arizona State in Week 10 marked the first time Cal had scored 55 points or more twice in a season since 1922 (also 70 vs. Baylor).
Bears Ranked Among 2002 NCAA Leaders in TO Margin
The Bears were one of the nation's best in the all-important turnover department in 2002. During the year, Cal forced 36 turnovers and committed only 18 for a conference-leading TO margin of +18-the nation's third-best figure (+1.50 per game). In fact, that +18 figure was the school's best turnover margin since 1951, when Pappy Waldorf's 8-2 Bears finished with a +21 differential. The Bears lived on the other side of the turnover ledger in 2001, finishing 114th out of 115 Division I-A schools with a woeful -17 margin. The club's 36 takeaways (tied for 7th in the NCAA) last fall were 18 more than Cal managed in an 11-game slate the previous season. Included in that total were 21 fumble recoveries, second most in the nation. What's more, Cal scored no less than 121 points off turnovers last season.
Three Negative Streaks Came Crashing Down in 2002
Coach Tedford put an axe to more than the 2002 Big Game vs. Stanford. He led his Golden Bears to three victories last year that mercifully ended long losing streaks. The first win came in Seattle Oct. 5, as the Bears beat the Huskies, 34-27, to halt a 19-game losing streak to Washington that had spanned 26 years. Then on Nov. 9, Cal exorcised another demon when it snapped a 12-year victory drought in Tempe, Ariz. by thumping the Arizona State Sun Devils, 55-38. The Bears had previously dropped five straight at Sun Devil Stadium, all by blowout scores. And then in the 2002 season finale, Tedford's troops capped their remarkable turnaround season by scoring their first Big Game win (30-7) over Stanford in eight years.
Momentum Turf Installed in California Memorial Stadium
California Memorial Stadium celebrates its 81st season as Cal's home venue this fall. And the venerable old stadium will be featuring new playing surface, as Sportexe's Momentum Turf was installed this summer to replace natural grass. This marks the second time that Memorial Stadium has featured synthetic turf. The field was outfitted with Astroturf from 1981-94 before natural grass was installed prior to the 1995 season. The total project cost approximately $975,000 and was completely funded by private donations. Designed to maximize player speed and performance, Momentum Turf is Sportexe's premier sand and rubber infill surface. The turf's special mix of sand and granular rubber provides stability, traction and speed, simulating a perfect natural grass surface. The 73,347-seat stadium first opened with the 1923 Big Game between Cal and Stanford on Nov. 24, 1923 - a 9-0 Bear victory. In the ensuing years, Cal has compiled a 278-200-16 record in the stadium for a .578 winning percentage. With Strawberry Canyon to the east and a sweeping view of San Francisco Bay to the west, Sports Illustrated named Memorial Stadium the best place to watch college football in the country in 1997.
Cal Hall of Fame Adds 7 New Members in '03
Three football All-Americans, including the school's career rushing leader, Russell White, headline a list of seven former athletes who have been selected for induction into the California Athletic Hall of Fame this fall. Formal induction ceremonies are scheduled for Friday, Oct. 24, and the group will be introduced at halftime of the Cal-Arizona football game Oct. 25.
Cal 9th in 2002-03 Director's Cup Standings
On the strength of eight sports that finished ranked in the nation's Top 5 last year, Cal earned ninth-place-its highest finish ever-in the Director's Cup standings in 2002-03. It was the Golden Bears' fourth consecutive Top 20 finish among an NCAA Division 1-A field of 326 colleges. Cal's finish would have been even higher except that three teams, all of whom finished among the nation's top three last year - men's water polo, crew and rugby - did not count in the cup standings. In its overall history, Cal teams have captured 62 national team championships, including 19 in rugby, 14 in men's crew and 11 in men's water polo. Cal's National Championships Rugby - 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1988, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002
Men's Crew - 1928, 1932, 1934, 1935, 1939, 1949, 1960, 1961, 1964, 1976, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002; Women's Crew - 1980
Men's Water Polo - 1973, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1983, 1984, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992
Men's Gymnastics - 1968, 1975, 1997, 1998
Men's Tennis - 1925, 1980, 1989
Baseball - 1947, 1957; Softball - 2002
Football - 1922, 1937
Men's Swimming - 1979, 1980
Men's Track & Field - 1922, 1970
Men's Basketball - 1959