Oct. 18, 1999
BERKELEY, Calif. - As Cal's heads into the second half of its 1999 season, it is presented with a great opportunity to solidify its position as a Pac-10 contender with three of its next four games scheduled in Memorial Stadium, where the Bears are 2-0 this season. The Bears are 2-1 in league games and clearly the league race is wide open as the final month of the season unfolds.
With only Stanford unbeaten in league play and the Cardinal facing three straight weeks on the road, there's still much to be determined about who will end up in the Rose Bowl this season. After winning its first road contest of the season in a 17-0 shutout of UCLA last Saturday, the Bears now take on another streak which has haunted the program for over two decades.
Cal will host Washington on Saturday, facing a team that the Bears haven't beaten in 23 years. The last Cal win was a 7-0 shutout in Seattle in 1976 when Warren Moon was the Husky quarterback. The streak has been particularly frustrating as Cal has had several opportunities for victory slip away in the second half over the last several years. In fact, Cal has had more total offense and more first downs in the last two games, but still has walked away a loser.
Last season, Cal fell victim to a 39-yard quarterback draw by Marques Tuiasosopo for a TD, an onside kick recovery that set up another TD and a 91-yard punt return for a TD by Joe Jarzynka. That built a 21-0 lead for the Huskies who escaped with a 21-13 win, despite just 246 yards of total offense.
Cal Defense Puts Together One of Best Overall Performances in Cal History
Cal entered the 1999 season knowing its defense would have to carry the load if the Bears expected to seriously contend for a bowl berth. Through the first five games, the Bears were solid defensively, but certainly not dominant. That was not surprising in view of the loss of standout linebacker Matt Beck, who went down with a foot injury in the first quarter of the Nebraska game, and have been without star defensive tackle Jerry DeLoach for most of the past three games.
However, everything came together last week as Cal suffocated a UCLA offense that entered the game averaging 31.0 points a game and 402.7 yards a game. The Bruins didn't even get a first down until the second quarter of last Saturday's game.
Cal held the Bruins to just 168 yards of total offense, a mark that would have been even better except for four scrambles by Bruin QB Cory Paus who turned broken plays into runs of 31, 27, 16 and 10 yards. Other than those plays, Cal would have held the Bruins to well under 100 yards of total offense. The Bruins managed only six plays over 10 yards all afternoon and none over 16 yards (aside from the scrambles).
The Bears now rank No. 1 in the Pac-10 in total defense (tied for No. 38 nationally), allowing opponents just 340.5 yards a game. Cal is also tops in the conference and 28th in the NCAA in rushing defense, allowing opponents just 112.0 yards a game. That continues a trend of improvement under coordinator Lyle Setencich, who joined the program in 1997.
Cal's Dramatic Turnaround over the Last Four Years
1996 (11 games)* 1997 (11 games) 1998 (11 games) 1999 (6 games)
Scoring 33.2 ppg (9th/Pac10) 30.8 ppg (10th/Pac10) 22.8 ppg (3rd/Pac10) 24.0 ppg (1st/Pac10)
Total D 460.3 ypg (10th/Pac10) 381.4 ypg (8th/Pac10) 340.3 ypg (3rd/Pac10) 340.5 ypg (1st/Pac10)
Pass Eff 137.8 rating (10th/Pac)139.9 (10th/Pac10) 109.8 (3rd/Pac10) 128.2 (8th/Pac10)
Rushing 189.5 (9th/Pac10) 144.4 ypg (7th/Pac10) 133.8 ypg (3rd/Pac10) 112.0 ypg (1st/Pac10)
* does not include bowl game
Cal Punter Nick Harris Having an All-America Season in 1999
To find a better punter in college football than Cal's Nick Harris is a futile effort. The 6-3, 215-pound junior has been a dominant performer all season long and he continued that performance last week against UCLA.
After being asked to pooch his first two kicks from the Bruin 35-yard-line (which was downed at the UCLA 1-yard-line) and the Bruin 45-yard-line (touchback), Harris still managed to average 53.1 yards on seven punts during the game. He launched a career-long 68-yarder and also had a 60-yarder that was downed at the Bruin 3-yard-line. His other punts vs. UCLA were 58 yards, 57 yards and 50 yards. He now is ranked No. 2 in the nation with a 47.98 average on 42 punts. That average is over five yards better than any other punter in the Pacific-10. That's even more amazing when considering he's been asked to pooch punt inside opponent territory nine times this year, including four punts from the opponent 40-yard-line or closer.
He now has had a punt of at least 48 yards in all 28 games of his Cal career. This season, he has 20 punts of 50 yards or longer and six of 60 yards or longer. The following are the Harris punts of 50 yards or more this season:
Rutgers - 56, 52, 67, Nebraska - 65, 50, 64, Arizona State - 50, 60, 58, Washington State - 52, 50, BYU - 51, 50, 51, 54, UCLA - 50, 57, 58, 68, 60.
Outside or Inside, Cal's Sekou Sanyika Keeps Making a Big Impact
Cal senior linebacker Sekou Sanyika, who has been a standard in the Cal line-up at outside linebacker the last four seasons, was asked to make a major change last week vs. UCLA. The 6-4, 240-pounder played the entire game on the inside, allowing sophomore Scott Fujita to make his first collegiate start at outside linebacker.
The move was necessitated by the absence of Matt Beck, who has been lost for the season with a foot injury suffered in the first quarter of the Nebraska game. The coaching staff used Juan Jimenez since the loss of Beck, but at 6-0 and 195 pounds, he wasn't able to provide a real physical presence.
Moving Sanyika inside and the 6-5, 235-pound Fujita outside, along with veteran 240-pound Keith Miller at the other linebacker position gives the Bears good size at the position. Sanyika was his typical dominant self as he registered four tackles behind the line of scrimmage for minus 20 yards (including a pair of sacks) and provided constant pressure on Bruin quarterback Cory Paus, who finished the day just 9-of-28 for 81 yards.
Sanyika overtook Jerrott Willard and is now Cal's all-time tackle-for-loss leader with 58 during his Cal career. He also is seventh on Cal's all-time sack list with 4.5 this year and a cumulative total of 17.5.
He has really picked up the pace in recent games, as he had just three tackles for loss in the first three games of the season, but has had three vs. Washington State, three vs. BYU and four vs. UCLA the last three games.
Cal's Ever-Changing Wide Receiver Group: Who's on First?
When opponent defensive coaching staffs go into the film room to chart Cal's wide receiver production, there must be a lot of puzzled looks on their faces. That's because Cal's wide receiver group changes more often than people's opinion about who the "team to beat" is in the Pac-10.
Cal has used a different receiver starting line-up in all six games this season, as injuries and other factors have led to a lot of instability. That also, however, has created a lot of opportunities.
Last week, the heroes were Joseph Echema, a natural tailback who has moved to the receiver position and caught the first touchdown pass of his career (a 27-yarder to open the Cal scoring), and sophomore Sean Currin, who made only the second catch of his career with a crucial 39-yarder in the fourth quarter to convert a 3rd -and-26 situation and set up Cal's second touchdown.
Others in the Cal receiving carousel are another tailback in Marcus Fields (who missed last week's game with a shoulder injury), defensive backs Jemeel Powell and Drae Harris, who both moved over to wide receiver on a fulltime basis last week, and part-time receivers LaShaun Ward and Deltha O'Neal, who spend most of their time at the cornerback positions. Even starting tailback Joe Igber spent a couple games at the receiver position earlier this year.
Deltha O'Neal: Mr. Versatility Continues His Knack for Making Big Plays
Cal senior Deltha O'Neal now has produced a punt return, reception or run for 20 or more yards in 16 of his past 18 games, dating back to late in the 1997 season.
He had an apparent 40-yard punt return for a touchdown called back by a questionable officiating call on a block below the waist. However, he was credited with a 27-yard return on that play and it set up Cal's first touchdown against UCLA.
Thus far this season, he has opened two games with long kickoff returns, a 50-yarder vs. Rutgers and a 53-yarder vs. Arizona State. He also has had a 61-yard kickoff return called back because of a holding penalty this season. He had a 35-yard punt return at Washington State. His 21-yard fourth quarter punt return vs. ASU that set the Cal offense up at the Sun Devil 27-yard-line keyed Cal's winning field goal drive.
Earlier this season, he was named the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week after the win over Rutgers, thanks to a pair of interceptions (one of which he returned 75 yards for a TD). Two weeks ago, he was the conference Special Teams Player of the week for his influence on the Arizona State win. He now ranks tied for No. 10 nationally in interceptions with 0.67 interceptions per game, tied for the Pac-10 lead in that category. He also ranks No. 11 nationally in kickoff returns with a 27.9 average and is No. 49 in punt returns with a 9.44 ypr average.
He is Cal's career leader in both kickoff return yards and punt return yards. During his career, he has 10 different kickoff returns over 40 yards or longer (plus a 39-yarder). He now has 4,290 all-purpose rushing to rank second on Cal's all-time list, behind only Russell White. Below is a list of O'Neal's long kickoff returns in his career, plus the breakdown of his all-purpose yardage.
Deltha O'Neal's Long Kickoff Returns O'Neal on Cal Career All-Purpose Rushing List
12/25/96 vs. Navy 100 yards* Player (years) Rush Rec Ret Total
9/20/97 vs. Oklahoma 53 yards 1. Russell White (1990-92) 3367 364 1212 4943
10/4/97 at Louisiana Tech 45 yards 2. Deltha O'Neal (1996 - ) 667 335 3288 4290
10/25/97 at UCLA 45 yards
9/12/98 vs. Nebraska 49 yards
9/26/98 vs. Washington St. 49 yards
10/10/98 at USC 57 yards
10/24/98 vs. UCLA 40 yards
9/4/99 vs. Rutgers 50 yards
9/25/99 vs. Arizona St. 53 yards
*Aloha Bowl record
Cal-Washington: A Series of Recent Frustrations for the Golden Bears
During Washington's current 16-game winning streak over the Golden Bears, there have been games of every type. There have been some blowouts, including three games in which the Huskies have scored 50 points (50-31 in Berkeley in 1977, 50-7 in Seattle in 1982, 50-18 in Seattle in 1986) along with a 46-7 victory in 1990. However, there have also been a number of games in which Cal had probable victories snatched away in the final minutes. Five of those games are listed below.
Washington's Come-from-behind Victories over Cal in Current 16-game Winning Streak
1979 - Cal had a 417- to 252-yard advantage, but Mark Lee returned a punt 64 yards for winning score with 6:04 left in game to provide a 28-24 victory.
1980 - Cal jumped to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and led virtually the entire game until Chuck Nelson hit a 21-yard field goal with 0:11 left to give the Huskies a 27-26 win.
1988 - Cal built a 27-3 lead in Seattle midway through the third period before Washington scored 25 straight points culminating on a 25-yard John McCallum field goal with 0:02 left to give the Huskies a 28-27 victory.
1991 - Cal took a 7-0 lead against the nation's No. 3-ranked Huskies and the teams were tied 21-21 going into the fourth quarter before Washington emerged with a 28-21 victory, with Cal on the Husky 23-yard-line at the finish.
1992 - Cal had a 23-3 lead in the third quarter, but Washington scored a pair of touchdowns in the final 2:06 to post a 24-23 victory and ruin Cal's bid to go to 6-0 on the season.
Cal Finds Running Game with One-Two Punch in Igber and Muhammad
While Cal entered the UCLA game ranked 107th in the nation in rushing offense, there was a sense among the Cal coaching staff that the Bears had begun to turn the corner in presenting a legitimate running attack. That's why the Bears 248-yard rushing performance at UCLA may have shocked some, but not the Cal coaches.
The insertion of true freshman Joe Igber into the starting line-up has ignited the offense, but he has a lot of help. Igber became the only freshman in Cal history to put together back-to-back 100-yard rushing games with his 113-yard outing against UCLA. Igber is averaging 5.9 yards per carry, which ties him with Heisman Trophy candidate Trung Canidate of Arizona as the best average per carry among the Top 10 rushers in the Pac-10.
The Bears also presented a formidable one-two tailback punch with sophomore Saleem Muhammad turning in a career-best 16-carry, 77-yard outing. He contributed one of the key plays of the UCLA victory when he converted a 3rd-and-25 situation into a 33-yard touchdown run on a draw play early in the fourth quarter to give the Bears a 14-0 lead.
Even fullback Joshua White got into the act as he broke five tackles en route to a career-long run of 62 yards late in the fourth quarter to set up Cal's final score. Below is a list of the 100-yard rushing performances by freshmen in Cal history.
100-Yard Rushing Performances by Freshmen in Cal History
Player Att-Net Yards Opponent Date 1. Marc Hicks 14-139 at Missouri October 5, 1985 2. Deltha O'Neal 14-126 at Oregon November 16, 1996 3. Joe Igber 18-116 at BYU October 9, 1999 4. Joe Igber 20-113 at UCLA October 17, 1999 4. Marc Hicks 22-113 vs. USC November 9, 1985 6. Jackie Jensen 5-109 vs. Washington St. November 2, 1946 7. Greg Zomalt 23-105 vs. Washington St. November 11, 1989
Cal's Freshman Players Making an Impact in 1999
Nnamdi Asomugha - Safety who has seen primarily special teams action thus far is a likely starter in 2000.
Tully Banta-Cain* -- Mainly special teams performer who has fine pass-rushing skills at defensive end.
Atari Callen - Came out of redshirt status to help Cal beat ASU with late interception, starter in nickel alignments.
Kyle Boller - Highly recruited QB led Cal to wins over Arizona State in first collegiate start and UCLA last week
Joseph Echema - A 210-pound tailback who was Cal's leading WR last week with 4 catches including 27-yard TD.
Jeremy Hershey - A first-year placekicker who won the ASU game with 25-yarder late in fourth quarter.
Calvin Hosey - Smart linebacker on several Cal special teams. Playing time at LB figures to increase.
Wayne Hunter - Massive defensive lineman made his debut at Nebraska and is expected to start next fall.
Joe Igber - Increasingly prominent tailback who is strong contender for Pac-10 Freshman of the Year honors.
Mark-Christian Jensen* -- Has handled all Cal kickoff duties this year handled field goal duties at UCLA.
John Klotsche* -- Named Cal's special teams Player of the Game vs. Rutgers.
Matt Nixon* -- Coming off a knee sprain in fall camp, but could see increasing duty at LB in Matt Beck's absence.
Daniel Nwangwu - Solidly in playing rotation at defensive tackle and many consider him a future star.
Jemeel Powell* -- Saw action at CB in Rutgers opener, missed next 4 games with groin, but now in WR rotation.
Scott Tercero - A precocious offensive lineman who has established himself as a starter.
Paul Ugenti* -- Sees action on a few Cal special teams and provides depth at safety.
LaShaun Ward* -- Superb athlete who has come up with a 43-yard catch at WSU and a 55-yard TD catch at BYU.
* indicates redshirt-freshman
Miscellaneous Notes, Three-Dot Data, Et Cetera