Sept. 8, 2002
Off to its first 2-0 start in five years, Cal takes to the road for the first time this season when the Golden Bears visit 15th-ranked Michigan State for a nationally televised game on ESPN2 Saturday.
In winning their opening two games, the Bears have taken control early, scoring a total of 52 points in the first quarter. Cal is 6-for-6 on scoring drives in the first 15 minutes (5 TDs, 1 FG), in addition to returning two interceptions for scores. Senior quarterback Kyle Boller has been a model of efficiency, completing 63.8 percent of his attempts and tossing five touchdowns without an interception. Ranked sixth on Cal's all-time passing list with 5,558 yards, he moved into fourth on the Bears' TD passes chart with a pair of scoring strikes last week, now with 41 in his career.
At tailback, senior Joe Igber also rates among Cal's all-time best, needing just 45 yards to pass Lindsey Chapman for sixth in career rushing. With 152 yards this season, Igber has 2,146 as a Bear, averaging 76.0 ypg in 2002.
Cal's defense has also provided its share of highlights in the early going. Last week vs. New Mexico State, senior DE Tully Banta-Cain wreaked havoc in the Aggie backfield with 4.5 sacks, while DT Josh Beckham and MLB John Klotsche each added three tackles for loss.
Cal-Michigan State Series
This weekend's game between Cal and Michigan State will be the third meeting between the two clubs, with the last being a 32-12 Spartan win in East Lansing on Sept. 27, 1958 when MSU was ranked fourth in the country. A year earlier, Michigan State - ranked second at the time - also claimed a 19-0 victory in Berkeley on Oct. 5, 1957. Cal's last win on a Big Ten campus came in 1990 when the Bears beat Wisconsin, 28-12, in Madison.
A Quick Look at Michigan State
Ranked 15th in this week's ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll, Michigan State enters the Cal game 2-0 after beating Eastern Michigan (56-7) and Rice (27-10). Junior WR Charles Rogers, rated the nation's No. 1 receiver by Lindy's magazine, has 13 catches for 293 yards (22.5 ypc) and three touchdowns through two games, while QB Jeff Smoker has completed 60 percent of his passes (30-for-50) for 445 yards and six TDs. On the ground, Dawan Moss (80.5 ypg) leads a rushing attack that averages 213.5 yards per game. The Cal game is the third of five consecutive home contests for Michigan State to open the season.
Game Time: 9 a.m. PT / 12 noon ET
Radio: KGO (810 AM)
A Reversal of Fortune: Bears' 2002 Numbers the Polar Opposite of '01
Under the direction of new head coach Jeff Tedford, the 2002 Golden Bears have experienced a rebirth. Blazing to its first 2-0 start since 1997, California has produced one the nation's biggest turnarounds in the early season. A year ago, the Bears had been outscored 88-33 in opening losses to Illinois (44-17) and BYU (44-16). This year, Cal has outpointed its foes by an eye bulging 104-35 margin, dismantling Baylor (70-22) and New Mexico State (34-13) in back-to-back wins. In 2001, the Bears coughed up eight turnovers in their first two contests; in two games this year, they have committed only one turnover. Last year, the Bears' Kyle Boller absorbed eight sacks after two games; this season, Boller has been dumped only twice in two tilts. This fall, Cal has erupted for 52 points in the first quarter; last season, the Bears tallied only 68 first-period points for the entire season. In fact, Cal's school-record 35 points scored in the first quarter in its Aug. 31 opener were more points than the Bears had tallied in any regulation game going back 50 previous contests (63-37 loss at Washington State in 1997).
No. 15 Ranked Spartans to Provide First Stern Test of '02 for California
Ranked 15th in this week's ESPN/USA Today national poll, the Michigan State Spartans are certain to provide Tedford's Bears with their stiffest test of 2002 this Saturday. The Spartans, who wowed Bay Area football fans nine months ago with a 44-35 win over Fresno State in the 2001 Silicon Valley Football Classic in San Jose, rang up victories over several major programs last year. Despite a 6-5 regular-season mark, the Spartans bested the likes of Notre Dame (17-10), Michigan (26-24), Wisconsin (42-28) and Iowa (31-28) last fall. Coach Bobby Williams' club paced the Big Ten Conference in total offense (447.0) and passing offense (292.5).
Tully Ho! Banta-Cain's 5-Sack Day Leads Defensive Charge vs. NMSU
Fast becoming one of the nation's premier pass-rushers, Cal senior end Tully Banta-Cain has been inflicting serious pain on opposing offenses this year. He swarmed inside for a career-high four-and-a-half sacks last weekend, also forcing a fumble and totaling six tackles overall (including five stops for losses of 26 yards). The 6-4, 260-pound menace has stockpiled 5.5 sacks, recovered one fumble and forced another in his two games this year, ranking first in the Pac-10 with 3.0 sacks per game. Dating back to the '01 season finale at Rutgers, Banta-Cain has ransacked opposing quarterbacks for 9.5 sacks in his last three games. He now has 19.0 sacks during his college career, only one-half sack away from tying Natu Tuatagaloa and Sekou Sanyika for seventh place on Cal's all-time list. Another 5.5 sacks would shoot Banta-Cain three more rungs up the career ladder into fourth place.
With 5 TD Passes This Season, Boller Claims 4th Place on Cal's Career List
Senior QB Kyle Boller, whose 149.16 passing efficiency figure ranks 20th among NCAA passers this week, has dazzled fans in Strawberry Canyon thus far in 2002 with 393 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions through the air. What's more, his current .638 completion percentage (37-for-58) is 18 percent higher than his career mark of .451 entering this season. Threading 19 of 32 attempts for 180 yards and two TDs against New Mexico State last weekend, Boller moved into fourth place on Cal's career ladder for touchdown passes with 41. He now trails only Pat Barnes (54, 1993-96), Troy Taylor (51, 1986-89) and Dave Barr (48, 1992-94). With 5,558 yards in his college career, Boller ranks sixth on the Bears' all-time passing chart. He needs 748 yards to eclipse Barr's 6,305 for fifth place.
Swoboda's 6 Grabs Most Receptions by Cal Tight End Since Gonzalez in '96
Another new dimension in the Cal offense this year is the use of the tight end as a receiver. Senior Tom Swoboda punctuated that change in coaching philosophy in Saturday's 21-point win over New Mexico State, leading all Bear receivers with six catches for 45 yards and his first career TD. The six receptions are the most by a Cal tight end in six years, the last time coming in the 1996 Aloha Bowl when future NFL tight end Tony Gonzalez chased down nine passes for 69 yards against Navy. To put Swoboda's effort into even clearer perspective, consider this: the tight end corps caught only 16 passes and scored one touchdown the entire year in 2001.
Joe Igber Needs 111 Yards to Move from 7th to 5th Place on Cal Rushing Ladder
Barreling for 147 yards in total offense (18-87 rushing, 3-60 receiving) against New Mexico State last Saturday, senior tailback Joe Igber continues to distinguish himself as one of Cal's all-time rushers. With 152 yards and a 4.9 yards-per-carry average this year-both team-leading figures-Igber is primed and ready to join Cal's Top 5 in career rushing. Currently perched in the seventh spot with 2,146 yards, the Nigerian native needs only 45 yards to vault past No. 6 Lindsey Chapman (2,190) and 111 yards to surpass No. 5 Reynard Rutherford (2,256). Igber's position on the all-time list is even more remarkable when you consider he was limited to a career-low 399 yards in '02 after missing the club's last four games due to a fractured clavicle.
Bears Boast +6 Takeaway Margin After Enduring Pac-10 Worst -17 Last Year
Perhaps the most telling stat of Cal's early season has been turnover margin. After two games, the Bears sport a +6 figure with seven takeaways (four interceptions, three fumbles) and only one giveaway (fumble). By averaging a +3 per game, Bob Gregory's defense currently ranks eighth best among NCAA Division 1-A teams (second in the Pac-10). By sharp contrast, last year's Cal team finished 114th out of 115 schools with a -17 turnover margin (-1.55 per contest).
Led by Kickoff Units, Cal's Special Teams Shine in Early Outings
Since his arrival here in January, Coach Tedford has stressed team excellence in all three phases of the game. Clearly, all three units-offense, defense and special teams-have contributed to the Bears' quick start in 2002. Special teams particularly have flourished in the early season. In kickoffs, Cal's return team has averaged 25.0 yards per attempt (tied for 17th nationally, second in the Pac-10), while its coverage unit has muzzled opponents to the tune of 16.2 yards per return (second in the Pac-10). Thus far in '02, James Bethea and LaShawn Ward have reeled off 49- and 43-yard KO returns, respectively. And while punt returns are virtually even-Cal averages 10.8 (fourth in the Pac-10) and its opponent averages 11.0-the Bears' kickers have also provided an early edge. Placekicker Mark Jensen has converted 14 of 14 extra points and two of three field goal attempts this year, while punter Tyler Fredrickson has averaged a respectable 39.4 yards per boot, with four of his seven punts landing inside the 20-yard line and two soaring beyond 50 yards (55 and 54).
Michigan State's Smoker & Rogers Among Nation's Premier Pass-Catch Duos
Quarterback Jeff Smoker and wide receiver Charles Rogers, both bona fide All-America candidates in 2002, comprise a potent one-two offensive punch for Michigan State's passing game. Smoker, who ranked sixth in NCAA passing efficiency (166.4) last year, has connected on 30 of 50 attempts for 445 yards and six touchdowns in the Spartans' first two contests vs. Eastern Michigan and Rice. As a junior, he set a school record with 21 TD tosses, while completing 63.4 percent of his attempts (166-of-262) for 2,579 yards. Often on the other end of those aerials is the explosive Rogers, who averaged eight receptions for 184 yards and 1.8 TDs over his final four games of the 2001 campaign. In doing so, he established Spartan single-season records for receptions (67), receiving yardage (1,470), TD receptions (14) and 100-yard games (six). His crowning moment last year came at another Spartan Stadium in San Jose on Dec. 31, when he feasted on the Fresno State defense for 10 catches and 270 yards in the Silicon Valley Classic. In 2002, Rogers has hunted down 13 passes for 293 yards and three TDs in MSU's opening two games.
A year ago, Cal's defense was gouged for a school-record 431 points (39.2 ppg) in ranking last in the conference and 110th in the NCAA. After two games this year, the Bears rank fifth in scoring defense (17.5 ppg), second in takeaways (seven) and third in sacks (52) in the Pac-10 ... Under the guidance of Tedford and offensive coordinator George Cortez, Cal's offense ranks second in scoring (52.0 ppg; Kansas leads at 58.0 ppg) and ninth in passing efficiency (175.84) among NCAA Division 1-A schools (first in the Pac-10) entering Week 3 ... Every time the Bears have had the ball in the first quarter this year, they have scored-six possessions in the opening stanza have resulted in five touchdowns and one field goal ... Cal's three-game winning streak is the school's longest since 1998-when it beat Oklahoma, Washington State and USC in succession-and the second-longest current skein in the Pac-10 (Oregon has won seven straight) ... The last time Cal spliced together consecutive 30-point games was in 1997, when the Bears started the campaign with wins over Houston (35-3) and Oklahoma (40-36) ... Cal's early level of offensive execution is beginning to mirror Oregon's success under Tedford last year. In their two games this year, the Bears have committed only one turnover, allowed just two sacks and are a Pac-10 best 12-for-12 in red-zone scoring opportunities. Tedford's 2001 Duck club turned the ball over a NCAA-low 11 times and led the Pac-10 in both fewest sacks allowed (11) and best red-zone offense (37-of-39, 94.9%) ... Cal also has been flagged for only 15 penalties this year, including five infractions for 42 yards Saturday vs. New Mexico State-its fewest penalties in 15 games (Nov. 4, 2000 vs. Oregon State) ... Michigan State linebacker Chris Smith was a teammate of Cal's defensive end Monte Parson at L.A. Harbor Community College last year ... Spartan punter Jason Daily was the 40th round choice of the San Francisco Giants in the 2000 Major League Baseball Draft out of San Luis Obispo High School, but opted to attend College of the Canyons (Santa Clarita, Calif.), where he earned JC Gridwire first team All-America honors last year ... If last year's records are any indication, it would seem that Cal plays a more difficult 2002 schedule than Michigan State does. The combined '01 record of this year's Cal's opponents is 75-64, while the Spartans play schools that managed an aggregate mark last year of 60-77, with only three of this year's foes posting winning records in '01-Rice (8-4), Iowa (7-5) and Michigan (8-4) ... Cal has not fared well against Big Ten schools in its history, as it sports an all-time mark of 16-31 against its Midwest counterpart. The only two Big Ten schools in which the Bears own a winning record are Indiana (2-0) and Wisconsin (5-1) ... notable alumni of Michigan State include Spencer Abraham, a key member of President George W. Bush's cabinet as U.S. Secretary of Energy, and former President of the Teamsters Union, the late Jimmy Hoffa.