Oct. 10, 2004
Game No. 5: UCLA Bruins (4-1, 2-0 Pac-10) at
California Golden Bears (3-1, 1-1 Pac-10)
Date: Saturday, Oct. 16, Memorial Stadium (67,537 - Momentum Turf), Berkeley, CA
Kickoff: 4:00 p.m.
Radio: KGO Radio (810 AM) with Joe Starkey, Mike Pawlawski, Roxy Bernstein and Lee Grosscup
Television: TBS with Ron Thulin, Charles Davis and Craig Sager
Attendance (est.): 65,000
This Week's Game
California (#8 Associated Press/#9 ESPN/USA Today) returns home for the first time since Sept. 11 when the Golden Bears host UCLA Saturday before a TBS national television audience. Despite falling at top-ranked USC, 23-17, last weekend, Cal enters the UCLA contest confident that it still ranks among the best teams in the country. In fact, the writers and coaches agree, as the Bears fell just one place in the AP ratings and two spots in the ESPN/USA Today poll from their seventh-place standing last week.
Although Cal lost on the scoreboard to the Trojans, the Bears dominated the statistical battle, most notably piling up 424 yards of total offense to USC's 205. Cal also had more first downs (28-12) and controlled the clock by a 37:11 to 22:49 margin.
QB Aaron Rodgers opened the game by completing each of his first 23 attempts to tie the NCAA single-game record first set by Tennessee's Tee Martin vs. South Carolina in 1998, and he broke Martin's NCAA mark for consecutive completions in a season with 26, which included his final three passes at Oregon State Oct. 2.
Finishing the USC contest 29-for-34 for 267 yards and a touchdown, Rodgers is now completing an uncanny 78.3 percent of his attempts this year (72-92) for a 179.46 quarterback rating - a figure that ranks third in the country.
Even with Rodgers' arm, the Bears sport one of the nation's best running attacks, with their 247.75 ypg average ninth in Division I-A. The leader of the backs is senior TB J.J. Arrington, the No.1 rusher in the Pac-10 with 144.50 ypg. Owner of four straight 100-yard efforts to open the season, Arrington has tied Chuck Muncie's school record for consecutive 100-yard outings. Muncie, runner-up for the 1975 Heisman Trophy, accomplished the feat twice during the `75 campaign.
Not to be overlooked by its more acclaimed offense, Cal's defensive unit leads the conference by allowing only 247.50 ypg - an improvement of 137.4 ypg from 2003. The Bears have not surrendered more than 305 yards in a game and have yielded just 14 total points in the second half. Last Saturday, USC managed just 78 yards and seven points after halftime, and no fourth-quarter first downs.
Although UCLA leads the all-time series, 47-26-1, Cal owns an 8-6 advantage since 1990, when the Bears snapped an 18-game losing streak with a 38-31 victory in Berkeley. Three of the last four games have come down to the final minutes, including a pair of overtime affairs. In 2000, Cal upset the 13th-ranked Bruins, 46-38 in triple OT, with the game ending on Jemeel Powell's interception in the end zone. Two years later, the Bears sacked UCLA seven times in a 17-12 squeaker, while in last season's contest in Pasadena, Justin Medlock's 41-yard field goal in overtime was the deciding factor in a 23-20 Bruin win. Cal sent the game into the extra frame on a 35-yard pass from Aaron Rodgers to Burl Toler with 11 seconds left in regulation.
A Quick Look at UCLA
With its 37-17 win over Arizona last Saturday, UCLA extended its winning streak to four games, with the Bruins scoring at least 33 points in each contest during the run. TB Maurice Drew, although limited to 22 yards on 11 carries by the Wildcats, still averages 138.2 ypg on the ground with a 7.6 yards per carry average. In the Bruins' 37-31 victory at Washington Sept. 18, he rushed for 322 yards and five touchdowns, setting school records in both categories. Drew ranks second in the Pac-10 in rushing, just behind Cal's J.J. Arrington, while he is third nationally in all-purpose yards with 194.20 per game. At quarterback, Drew Olson is coming off his best effort of the year a 17-for-25 performance vs. Arizona, throwing for 234 yards and four scores with no interceptions. OLB Spencer Havner already has 71 tackles (14.2 per game), including 5.5 tackles for loss, an interception and a blocked kick. He has had at least 10 stops in every game this year, with a high of 17 at Illinois.
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 an 18-12 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.
Karl Dorrell, UCLA (UCLA `87) is in his second season as head coach of the Bruins and owns a 10-8 record. Before returning to his alma mater as head coach, Dorrell was a standout receiver for the Bruins (1982-86) and his 108 receptions rank 10th on the UCLA career list. After spending part of the 1987 season as a player with the Dallas Cowboys, Dorrell began his coaching career as a graduate assistant with UCLA in 1988. He spent 11 years as a college assistant at six different programs before moving on to the NFL, assisting the Denver Broncos from 2000-02. Dorrell, 40, was born in Alameda.
Saturday is Homecoming and Parents weekend at Cal with events scheduled throughout the weekend. For more information, visit homecoming.berkeley.edu or call 888-UNIV-CAL.
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 USC, LB Ryan Foltz tipped a Matt Leinart pass in the end zone, allowing CB Harrison Smith to intercept the ball and ends a USC threat late in the third quarter.
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 USC, QB Aaron Rodgers was 29-for-34 for 267 yards and a touchdown, tying the NCAA record with 23 straight completions to start the game.
Golden Bear Notes
Every Which Way But...Lose? Cal Dominates the Statistical Battle Only to Fall 9 Yards Short From Upset of No. 1 USC
In a game for the ages, the Calilfornia Golden Bears came within an eyelash of scoring one of the biggest road victories in the school's 122-year history last Saturday. But what made last weekend's 23-17 loss to nationally No. 1 ranked USC at the Los Angeles Coliseum so disheartening for Cal fans was simply this: the Bears were the runaway winners in the final stat sheet. Cal won virtually every statistical category, outdistancing the Trojans by wide margins in total yards (424 to 205), rushing yards (157 to 41), passing yards (267 to 164), first downs (28 to 12) and time of possession (37:11 to 22:49). Yet, facing a fast-charging Bears' offense at its own nine-yard line with 1:47 left in the game, the USC defense rose to the occasion to snuff out a brilliant Aaron Rodgers-led rally by denying the Bears one final touchdown that would have given Cal one of its greatest wins in school history. The six-point loss halted a six-game winning streak for California, dating back to last year, and marked the first time in five games that the Bears' offense failed to reach the 40-point plateau.
Rodgers' Stock Soars Despite Defeat; Cal's Junior QB Sets and Ties NCAA Records for Consecutive Completions
Before a sellout crowd of 90,008 in the L.A. Coliseum, Cal junior quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed his first 23 passes en route to one of the greatest passing exhibitions in Bears' football history. Carving up the Trojans' vaunted defense for 267 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions on 29-of-34 accuracy, Rodgers showed the nation why he is one of the top quarterbacks in NCAA Division I-A football. His 23 consecutive completions tied the single game NCAA record (Tennessee's Tee Martin vs. South Carolina, 1998), while the Cal QB set a NCAA mark for most consecutive completions in a season. He broke Martin's 1998 record of 24 with 26 completions, dating back to the Oregon State game Oct. 2. What's more, Rodgers established a new Cal record for completion percentage, as his .853 figure eclipsed the previous best of .852, set by Gale Gilbert (23-of-27) against Oregon State in 1983. Remarkably, Rodgers entered that fateful first-and-goal at the nine yard-line in the game's final two minutes, having completed 29 of 31 attempts--with both incompletions resulting in intentional throw-aways by the Bears' quarterback.
Saturday's Bout to Showcase Pac-10's Top 2 Rushers and Top 2 Ground Teams
The Pac-10's premier rushers, Cal's J.J. Arrington and UCLA's Maurice Drew will be on display at Memorial Stadium this weekend, as they provide the focal point for the conference's leading ground attacks. Arrington, a senior from Nashville, N.C., is averaging a Pac-10-leading 7.71 yards per carry and 144.5 yards per game as the nation's No. 7 rusher and No. 9 scorer (10.5 ppg.). He's ripped off 181 (Air Force) and 177 chunks (New Mexico State) of yardage in games thus far this season, scoring a grand total of seven touchdowns to date. Drew, meanwhile, has thundered for 138.2 yards per game, equaling Arrington in TDs (7) and nearly matching his yards-per-carry average (7.59) as the No. 3 all-purpose runner (194.2) and No. 9 rusher in the nation. Nearly half of Drew's rushing total of 691 yards came in one memorable game against Washington Sept. 18, when he bolted for 322 yards and five touchdowns against the Huskies. Arrington and Drew rank one-two, respectively, in the Pac-10 rushing race, as do their teams--Cal (247.8 ypg) holds a slight edge over UCLA (241.4 ypg).
Churning Out 510.3 Yards & 40.8 Points Per Outing, Bears Rank
2nd in Total Offense & 6th in Scoring in NCAA Division I-A
Despite being held to 21 points and more than 100 yards under its season average by the ultra-talented Trojans, California's lethal offense enters the UCLA game with some robust statistics for the season. Nationally, head coach Jeff Tedford's offense ranks first in passing efficiency (191.85), second in total offense (510.3), sixth in scoring (40.8) and ninth in rushing (247.8).
Balancing Act: Cal Offense Averages 262 Passing, 248 Rushing
One of the nation's most balanced offenses will be on display in Berkeley this Saturday when Cal's multi-pronged attack--the brainchild of head coach Jeff Tedford--spews out a Pac-10 best 247.8 yards per game and 5.90 yards-per-attempt on the ground, while also averaging 262.5 yards through the air. With the conference's No. 1 rusher J.J. Arrington (144.5 ypg) and true freshman Marshawn Lynch (49.0 ypg, 11th in Pac-10) paving the way with averages of 7.7 and 8.2 yards per carry, respectively, the Bears have early visions of repeating as Pac-10 rushing leaders in 2004. And California's passing game is also in good hands with junior Aaron Rodgers, who ranks third to Toledo's Bruce Gradowski (189.6) and Purdue's Kyle Orton (181.6) in national passing efficiency (179.5) in completing 78.3 percent of his passes (72-of-92) for 881 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions.
Arrington Gaining 7.71 Yards Per Carry in 2004 as Pac-10's
No. 1 Rusher with 578 Yards and 7 TDs in 1st 4 Games
Adimchinobe who? Last year, first team All-Pac-10 tailback Adimchinobe Echemandu finished second in the conference rushing race with 1,195 yards and 13 touchdowns. One would think his departure to the NFL this year would leave a large void in the Bears' ground game. Not so. In fact, J.J. Arrington seems intent on making his senior year even more eventful that Echemandu's was. Thus far, the 5-11, 210-pound back has flattened Cal's firs four opponents for 578 yards and seven touchdowns on only 75 carries, including breath-taking runs of 89 (at Air Force) and 69 (vs. NMSU) yards. Clearing the century mark in all four Cal games, he ranks seventh in the nation in rushing (144.5 ypg), stands ninth in scoring (10.5 ppg) and 10th in all-purpose (159.5 ypg). He bolted for 181 yards and three TDs on 16 carries at Air Force Sept. 4--the second most rushing yards in a season opener in Cal history--and for an encore performance, he pierced New Mexico State for 177 yards and three TDs in another 16-carry game. The mercurial back netted 108 yards and one TD on 22 carries at Oregon State Oct. 12, then became the opposing running back to rush for 100 yards against USC in 14 games when he zoomed for 112 on 21 carries last Saturday.
J.J. Now Owns 3 of Top 22 Rushing Efforts in California History; 1st Bear to Run for 3 TDs in Back-to-Back Games Since 1993
Although he's only played in 17 games and made five starts in his brief Cal career, Arrington certainly has made his mark. He's already rushed for 100 yards or more five times in his career, and owns three of the Top 22 all-time single game rushing efforts in Golden Bear history (only Russell White owns more spots among the Top 22 with four). Arrington, who transferred to Berkeley from College of the Canyons in Southern California last year, has been the author of rushing outbursts of 185 (15th, vs. Washington, 2003), 181 (20th, at Air Force, 2004) and 177 (22nd, vs. New Mexico State, 2004) yards. By rushing for three touchdowns in each of his first two 2004 contests, J.J. also became the first Bear to accomplish that feat in back-to-back games since Lindsey Chapman turned the trick during the 1993 season. With seven scores to date, Arrington is already halfway to the school's record for rushing TDs in a season (14), held by both White (1991) and Chapman. Interestingly, in his last five starts at tailback, Arrington is averaging 8.57 yards per carry in gaining a robust 763 yards and eight touchdowns on 89 carries. Those starts occurred against Washington (54-7) last year, and Air Force (56-14), New Mexico State (41-14), Oregon State (49-7) and USC (17-23) this season, games in which Cal has outscored its opponents by a whopping 217-65 count.
Dating Back to 2003, California Has Averaged 40.7 Points & 511.0 Yards in Winning 6 of 7 and 8 of its Last 10 Games
Picking up where it left off last season, California's dismantling of three of its 2004 foes (Air Force, New Mexico State and Oregon State) only adds more juice to the rising reputation of Jeff Tedford and his Bears. One of the hottest teams in college football dating back to last year, Cal has cashed in victories in six of its last seven games and eight of its last 10 contests. During that stretch--a period in which they have mowed down the likes of Virginia Tech (52-49), Washington (54-7), Arizona State (51-22) and Air Force (56-14)--the Good News Bears have averaged 40.7 points and 511.0 yards.
Cal Defense Holds USC to 205 Total Yards and 1.6 YPC Rushing; Ranks 5th in Total Defense, 16th in Scoring Defense Nationally
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 has served 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 wobbly first half at Air Force in the opener, Gregory's defensive unit has shined this year. Allowing only seven TDs in four games, the Bear hitmen have parcelled out only 247.5 yards (a Pac-10 low) and 14.5 points per game in 2004, which ranks fifth and 16th, respectively, among NCAA Division I-A schools. Continually handed short fields to defend, the Bear defense proved extremely stingy in Los Angeles last weekend. They limited the explosive USC offense to 205 totals yards, 12 first downs, 41 rushing yards and a miniscule 1.6 yards-per-carry on the ground. They harnessed Matt Lienart & Co. to 3-for-11 in third-down conversions, and set season highs for sacks (four) and tackles-for-loss yardage (41). Earlier this year, Cal's defense muzzled New Mexico State's running game to a measly 37 yards on 36 carries and yielded only 212 total yards. While admittedly the option-oriented offenses of its first two opponents may have influenced its defensive numbers, California also owns the NCAA's 12th-best mark against the pass, allowing only 159.8 aerial yards per game.
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).
All-American Geoff McArthur Claims No. 2 Spot on California's Career Receiving Yards List, Needs 221 Yards for All-Time Mark
Rebounding from an abdominal strain in the early season that impacted his 2004 numbers (14 for 185 yards, 1 TD), All-American wide receiver Geoff McArthur looked like his old self at USC Saturday with seven catches for 101 yards and one TD. 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 5 of the 2004 season, McArthur (159 for 2,511 yards) needs only 37 catches and 221 yards to become Cal's career leader in both categories. McArthur has leap-frogged both Dameane Douglas and Brian Treggs (both at 2,335) this season to claim sole possession of second place on the Cal career receiving yardage chart.
McArthur Heads One of Deepest Receiving Corps in Cal History
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, as well as three redshirt-freshmen, creating a veritable logjam at wideout.
Lyman Averaging 103.5 Receiving Yards Per Game & NCAA-Leading 29.6 YPC But Knee Injury vs. USC Poses Questions
Saddled with injuries throughout his career, senior wide receiver Chase Lyman had apparently turned over a new leaf in 2004. Finally healthy, Lyman was inserted into the starting lineup for an injured Geoff McArthur in last year's Insight Bowl and he had played like a man possessed after since. 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, and he has thrived as a starter along side McArthur this season. With his five-catch, 176-yard day at Oregon State--the 176 yards were the 11th most by a Cal player in school history--the receiver entered the USC tilt with 17 passes for 535 yards and six TDs in his last four games dating back to the bowl game (interestingly, Lyman had managed only 526 yards and three TDs on 63 receptions during his Cal career prior to the Insight Bowl). But a hyperextended knee sidelined the Bear wideout for most of the second half at USC Saturday, raising doubts of whether the senior pass-catcher will be available. If he misses Saturday's skirmish with UCLA, it would be a big blow for Cal, as Lyman leads all Bear receivers in yardage this year with 414 yards and five TDs on 14 catches--an average of 29.6 yards per grab and 103.5 yards per game, ranking first and 10th, respectively, among Division I-A receivers.
Rodgers' Interception-Free Streak Halted at 102 Pass Attempts; Cal QB Still Threatens Pac-10 Career INT Percentage Mark
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 entered 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 54 touchdown passes and only 11 interceptions combined over the past two-plus years (including 2004). Despite throwing two picks at Oregon State that snapped a 102-attempt streak without an interception, his current career interception percentage is a microscopic 1.59 (7 INT, 441 attempts). That's a figure that is well below the Pac-10 career mark of 2.59 (13 INT, 501 att.) set 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.
Ranking No. 3 Nationally in Pass Efficiency, Rodgers Netting 275.2 Yards Per Game Last 9 Contests Dating Back to '03
Complementing a dominant ground game thus far in 2004, Aaron Rodgers has served as a highly-efficient field general in Cal's opening three victories. The junior signal-caller has completed 78.3 percent (72-of-92) of his passes for 881 yards, while throwing seven touchdowns and two interceptions. Those numbers compute to a 179.5 passing efficiency rating, No. 3 in the nation. Dating back to last year, he owns a 10-4 career record as the Bears' starting quarterback and has connected on 72.0 percent (177-of-246) of his attempts in averaging 275.2 passing yards with 19 TDs and only four interceptions in his last nine games. His numbers are even better over the last seven games: 73.6 percent (145-of-177), 283.2 ypg, 15 TDs, 3 INTs. Despite starting only 14 games and playing in 17 contests in his brief Cal tenure, Rodgers is already perched in 10th place on the school's career total offense chart with 4,008 yards. He has eclipsed such legends as Chuck Muncie (3,205 yards), Russell White (3,381), Joe Roth (3,447) and Steve Barkowski in the process. This Saturday against UCLA, Rodgers should bypass another Bear great. He needs only 123 yards to unseat No. 9 Craig Morton (now a fund-raising executive in the school's athletic department).
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.And it has been much of the same in early Pac-10 play, as he threaded eight of 11 attempts for 102 yards and two TDs at Oregon State and a perfect 14 for 14 for 133 yards at USC. Remarkably, Roders has completed 84 percent of his passes (47 of 56) for 611 yards, five TDs and one interception in first halves this year.
Rodgers' 78.3 Completion Percentage (72-of-92) Threatens NCAA, Pacific-10 Conference Single Season Marks
By connecting on 78.3 percent of his passes (72-for-92) thus far in 2004, Aaron Rodgers is on an early pace to challenge both the NCAA and Pac-10 single season records for completion percentage. The NCAA mark is 73.6 percent (296-of-402) by Daunte Culpepper of Central Florida in 1998, while the Pac-10 standard is held by a fellow Golden Bear, Rich Campbell, who completed 70.7 percent of his attempts (193-of-273) in 1980.
Averaging 247.8 Yards Per Game & 5.90 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. While the Bears lost 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 five other quality tailbacks in their 2004 stable. That fact has been underscored in Cal's first four 2004 games, as the running game has averaged 5.90 yards per carry and an eye-bulging 247.8 yards per game to lead the Pac-10. With seven rushing touchdowns in the Air Force opener and another four TDs via the ground vs. New Mexico State, the Bears' 14 rushing TDs to date have already surpassed the total rushing TDs scored by Cal in four out of the last six seasons (2000: 12; 1001: eight, 1999: six, 1998: seven). Rushing for more than 300 yards in each of their first two games this season, the Bears have now gained 2,353 ground yards over the past 10 games, an average of 235.3 per game over that stretch.
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 has played 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.
All-Pac-10 DB McCleskey Returns from Shoulder Injury to Play in Saturday's Showdown in Los Angeles Against USC
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. After registering nine tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss and one sack in Cal's first two games this year, McCleskey was forced to sit out the Oct. 2 win at Oregon State due to a shoulder injury. He returned to the lineup last weekend, managing only one tackle. If healthy, he's a strong candiate to receive serious 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 Injures Elbow in USC Game
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--he's mustered nine tackles and one tackle for loss this year--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. He missed much of the second half of the USC game due to an elbow injury, with his current status day-to-day.
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). 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). He tied a season high with three catches for 16 yards against the Trojans last week. 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 opened some eyes in training camp with a few flashy interceptions. Could he be the next Toler walk-on to pass the grade?
California Features 44 Players, 4 Coaches from the Southland
As has been the norm for many years, the Cal football program is bloated with Southern California refugees. No less than 44 Golden Bear football student-athletes have called or do call the Southland their home. The most accomplished include WR Geoff McArthur, who was named the Los Angeles Times' Westside High School Player of the Year at Pacific Palisades High after catching 91 passes for 1,779 yards (a state mark) and 28 TDs in 1999; DB Donnie McCleskey, the Los Angeles Times San Gabriel Valley Region Player of the Year who, as a running back, rushed for 2,236 yards and 29 TDs as a senior at Bishop Amat High; RB Marcus O'Keith, another prep All-American who led Narbonne High to the CIF 3-A division title; LB Wendell Hunter, the Los Angeles Times City Player of the Year for Carson High; and DB Tim Mixon, a member of the Long Beach Press-Telegram's 2001 Dream Team at Dominguez High; the Crenshaw High duo of DT Brandon Mebane, prep All-American and the L.A. Central City Player of the Year, and CB Daymeion Hughes, a Los Angeles Times' All-Region player; and DE Ryan Riddle, El Camino College's MVP and former third team JC All-American. On the sidelines, Cal coaches who hail from SoCal include head coach Jeff Tedford, who played QB at Warren High in Downey and later at Cerritos College; WR coach Eric Kiesau, born in Pasadena and later coached at Moorpark High and Glendale CC; defensive line coach Ken Delgado, the former defensive coordinator and defensive line coach at San Diego State; and special teams/tight ends coach Pete Alamar, who grew up in Thousand Oaks and graduated from Cal Lutheran College.
UCLA Lists 20 Players Who Hail From Northern California
On the other sideline, UCLA features 20 players with Northern California backgrounds. Ten of those 20 are listed as current starters on the Bruins' depth chart: tailback Maurice Drew (Antioch/De La Salle HS), quarterback Drew Olson (Piedmont/Piedmont HS), linebacker Spencer Havner (Nevada City/Nevada Union HS), defensive backs Jarrad Page (San Leandro/San Leandro HS) and Jebiaus Brown (Milpitas/Milpitas HS), placekicker Justin Medlock (Fremont/Mission San Jose HS), wide receivers Craig Bragg (San Jose/Bellarmine Prep HS) and Tab Perry (Milpitas/Milpitas HS), defensive end DeKyle Morgan (San Francisco/Pearl River JC) and offensive linemen Ed Blanton (Napa/Napa HS) and Eyoseph Efseaff (Porterville/Monache HS).
Cal's Defense Bagged 6 Sacks, Allowed 2 TDs & 228 Total Yards at UCLA Last Year
Unleashing perhaps their best defensive effort of the season, the Golden Bears muzzled UCLA's offense holding it to only two touchdowns, 16 first downs and 228 total yards in last year's ulcerating 23-20 overtime loss to the Bruins. Triggered by a swarming line that battered UCLA quarterback Drew Olson for six sacks, Cal held UCLA to only six first downs, three rushing yards and 69 total yards in the first half--a period in which the Bears owned a commanding edge in time of possession (20:27 to 9:33). Spearheading Cal's defensive surge was now-departed senior end Monte Parson, who swooped inside for two sacks, three tackles for losses of 29 yards, two blocked passes and one forced fumble--clearly the finest game of his collegiate career. Fellow ends Ryan Riddle and Tosh Lupoi, and tackle Tom Sverchek also contributed one sack each, as the Bears' defensive line accounted for five of the team's six sacks. While Lupoi remains on the shelf with a fractured foot, Riddle and Sverchek are slated to start on the defensive front again this Saturday.
Rodgers Shined in Defeat vs. Bruins with 322 Yards and Then-Career-High 28 Completions
Cal's quarterback Aaron Rodgers, starting only the fourth game of his collegiate career, set a career-high in completions (28, since broken) with 322 passing yards against UCLA last year in the Rose Bowl. He connecting on 28-of-41 attempts, with no interceptions and one touchdown--a dramatic 35-yard scoring strike to Burl Toler on a fourth-and-10 that tied the game with 11 seconds left, sending the contest into overtime. Rodgers particularly shined in the first half, as he threaded 15 of 19 attempts for 150 yards.
Fredrickson's 4 Missed Field Goals Spelled Doom for Golden Bears in Last Year's Thriller
While the Cal offense misfired frequently in last year's 23-20 overtime loss at UCLA, it's undeniable that Tyler Fredrickson's inability to convert four field goal attempts played a key role in the Bears' narrow loss. The senior placekicker--who only the week before drilled a game-winning 38-yard FG in Cal's 34-31 triple OT win over USC--missed three-point attempts of 34, 41, 50 and 51 yards during the sweltering afternoon in Pasadena. The 34-and 41-yarders were blocked by UCLA, while the errant 50-yard try, which hit the left upright, came in overtime and would have tied the score, 23-all, to send the game into a second extra period.
Bears' Defense Truly Golden in 17-12 Win Over UCLA in TBS National Telecast 2 Years Ago in Berkeley
Mounting a defensive effort so inspiring that its coaching staff considered nominating the entire unit for Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week honors, Cal's defense staged perhaps its finest performance of the 2002 season against the Bruins in Strawberry Canyon. UCLA's high-powered offense, which entered the game with averages of 33.5 points and 437.3 yards per contest, was limited to a season-low 12 points--including a giveaway safety to end the game--and 226 total yards of offense. Up 17-10 in the fourth quarter, Cal's defense stopped the Bruins twice inside the Bears' 20-yard line in the closing minutes. Bear defenders ripped off a season-high seven sacks. The top returnee from that game is senior DT Lorenzo Alexander, who had four tackles, including two tackles for loss, and a fumble recovery in the game, which also televised nationally by TBS.
Cal Has Held Its Own vs. SoCal Schools in Recent Years
While UCLA (47-25-1) and USC (57-30-5) own sizeable edges over Cal in the two schools' all-time series records, the Bears have fared well in recent years against their cross-state rivals. California, which traditionally features many players from the Southland, has won seven of its last 13 meetings with its intrastate foes. Despite absorbing last year's heart-breaking loss to the Bruins, the Bears have won three of the last five and eight of the past 14 outings vs. UCLA. By virtue of a 38-31 win in Berkeley, the Bears snapped an 18-game Bruin winning streak in 1990.
Cal, UCLA Boast Quarterbacks with Super Bowl ImprintsCal, UCLA Boast Quarterbacks with Super Bowl Imprints
The University of California is one of only three schools that have had three quarterbacks start in a Super Bowl game. The Bears' threesome were Joe Kapp (Vikings), Craig Morton (Broncos) and Vince Ferragamo (Rams), while Bart Starr (Packers), Joe Namath (Jets) and Ken Stabler (Raiders) represented Alabama as Super Bowl starters, and Daryle Lamonica, (Raiders), Joe Theisman (Redskins) and Joe Montana (49ers) did the same for Notre Dame. While UCLA has sent only two QB into Super Bowls as starters--Troy Aikman (Cowboys) and Billy Kilmer (Redskins)--the Bruins hold the record for most quarterbacks who have played in a Super Bowl game with five. The other three ex-UCLA QBs are Jay Schroeder (Redskins), Tom Ramsey (Patriots) and Steve Bono (49ers).
Golden Bears are One of Pac-10's Early Road Warriors
The schedule makers didn't do California's Jeff Tedford any favors in the early season. The Bears opened their 2004 slate by playing three of their first four games on foreign soil--in fact, it would have been four of the first five had the Southerm Miss trip not been postponed. Tedford's club ventured into traditionally difficult road venues at Air Force (56-14 win Sept. 4), Oregon State (49-7 win Oct. 2) and USC (23-17 loss Oct. 9).
The Bears have never beaten a No. 1 ranked team in its history, now losing for the seventh time against a top-rated team...Cal's special teams were the main culprit in handing USC its fifth victory of the season. The Bears endured a bad snap by L.P. Ladoceur in Cal's first possession that resulted in an eventual USC touchdown; then saw a punt misplayed by returner Tim Mixon that led to a Trojan field goal; plus a missed 36-yard field goal by Tom Schneider, an offsides penalty on a kickoff, and an 84-yard kickoff return by USC's Reggie Bush...USC's lone touchdown in the third quarter marked the first time this year that a Cal opponent has scored in the third periode...The Bears are outscoring their opponents by a 77-14 margin in the second half this year, as Cal's defense has allowed one touchdown in both the third and fourth quarter...Last Saturday marked only the ninth time in 30 games of the Tedford Era in which Cal failed to score at least 28 points in a game. 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 has not committed a turnover in each of its last two games vs. UCLA...Geoff McArthur (128) and Burl Toler (104) both pierced the 100-yard receiving mark in last year's contest in Pasadena...UCLA's 10 bowl victories in the last 22 years rank No. 1 in the Pac-10. The Bruins were the first school in history to win a bowl game in seven straight years (1982-88)...Cal's 17-0 whitewash of UCLA at the Rose Bowl in 1999 marked the first time the Bears had blanked the Bruins in 49 years. It also was the last time Cal has rolled a shutout, period...Tom Cable, midway through his first season as UCLA's offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, served six years as a Cal assistant coach under three Bear head coaches from 1992-97. As offensive line coach, the Merced, Calif., native worked under Keith Gilbertson, Steve Mariucci and Tom Holmoe, before moving to Idaho in 1998 to become the Vandals' head coach for four seasons...Cal wide receiver Chase Lyman, who sustained a hyperextended knee in the USC game last week, may miss his third straight Bear-Bruin clash due to injuries (ankle sprain in 2003, hamstring in 2002). If he does, it certainly will be a disappointment for him and his family. Lyman was raised in a UCLA household, as his father, Brad Lyman, ran track and played fullback in Westwood (1969-70, '72) before enjoying a brief professional career with the Houston Oilers. One member of the Lyman family who will not be rooting for the Golden Bears is Chase's younger sister, Colby Lyman, a starting sophomore outside hitter for the nationally ranked UCLA women's volleyball team. Colby--named to the Pac-10 All-Freshman first team last year--helped the Bruins beat Cal last Friday in Los Angeles by scores of 30-20, 30-27 and 30-28. It marked the 46th straight Bruin win over the Bears, who have never beaten UCLA in volleyball. (Cal rebounded Saturday night, upsetting nationally No. 2 ranked USC in a three-game sweep in Los Angeles)...Cal offensive lineman Jonathan Murphy has a sister, Elinor, who played water polo at UCLA...Reserve UCLA linebacker Dan Nelson was a Marine who was discharged due to a back injury...Offensively, UCLA has improved dramatically from last year. In 2003, the Bruins ranked 100th in scoring (19.1 ppg) and 110th in total offense (294.9 ypg) nationally. In 2004, they rank 16th in total offense (445.6 ypg) and 26th scoring (32.4 ppg)...Bruins with interesting bloodlines: wide receiver Matt Slater (Orange, Calif.) is the son of former Los Angeles Ram and pro football Hall of Fame offensive lineman Jackie Slater; cornerback Trey Brown (Overland Park, Kan.) is the son of former UCLA and NFL (Chiefs, Seahawks, Cardinals) running back great Theotis Brown; and defensive end Bruce Davis (Houston, Texas) is the son of former pro football offensive tackle Bruce Davis, who played on two Raider Super Bowl teams...In their athletic histories, UCLA has won a nation-leading 94 NCAA team championships entering the 2004-05 school year, while Cal has captured 64 national team titles...Among UCLA's most prestigious alumni are former L.A. mayor Tom Bradley, ex-Disney executive Michael Ovitz, tennis star and humanitarian Arthur Ashe, WNBA President Val Ackerman, TV-movie producer Rob Reiner, movie producer Francis Ford Coppola, singer/songwriter Randy Newman, actors Lloyd Bridges and Mark Harmon, and actress/comedienne Carol Burnett.