Sept. 17, 2000
BERKELEY - California heads back on the road for the second consecutive week for another nationally televised game as the Golden Bears take on Fresno State Saturday night at 7:15 p.m. in a Fox Sports Net game. The game is the second part of a two-game contract signed by the schools in the mid-1990s, which saw Fresno State come to Berkeley on Sept. 9, 1995 and emerge with a 25-24 come-from-behind victory. In that game, Cal had a 24-12 lead in the fourth quarter, but Fresno State rallied on a pair of long TD drives and then saw Cal's Ryan Longwell miss a potential game-winning 56-yard field goal at the final gun.
Nick Harris Should Be a Heisman Candidate
It may have been just a regular day in the office for brilliant Cal punter Nick Harris last week at Illinois, but those who witnessed his performance considered it one of the top punting performances in college football history. Illinois head coach Ron Turner even declared after the game that, if he had a Heisman Trophy vote, he would cast it for Harris. Harris had a bigger influence on the game than any other player on the field, and that's almost never said about a punter who was only on the field 12 times. His stat line - 12 punts for a 41.4 average - may seem just solid to those who don't analyze things a little deeper. He pinned a potent Illinois offense deep time after time. Ten of his 12 punts were downed at or inside Illinois' 13-yard-line, including punts downed at the Illini 1, 2, 3, 3, 4, 9 and 10 yard lines. One of his kicks was a 64-yarder (downed at the Illinois 3-yard-line), the second longest punt in his career. The average field position for opponents after his 15 punts this season is the opponent 13.3-yard-line. In terms of pure contribution to his team, it's hard to imagine any of the more highly publicized Heisman Trophy candidates having better credentials than Harris. The 6-4, 220-pound senior now has 264 career punts for 11,572 yards and is on pace to break the NCAA record in both categories (Cameron Young of TCU: 320 punts for 12,947 yards from 1976-79).
Andre Carter Dominates in Showdown of Pre-Season All-Americans
Last week's game was one of the few times during the college football season that sees All-America candidates line-up opposite each other. That was the case when Cal defensive end Andre Carter waged battle against Illinois' 6-5, 320-pound offensive tackle Marques Sullivan. Carter clearly dominated action on the field as he was in on all 81 of Cal's defensive plays and recorded nine tackles (including six unassisted stops). He was credited with a pair of stops behind the line of scrimmage for minus three yards and caused one fumble that Cal recovered. He also drew one holding penalty against Sullivan. His stats are even more remarkable in view of the fact that he was double-teamed most of the game, with Sullivan drawing help from a guard or an offensive back. Carter now has five tackles behind the line of scrimmage this season and 40 in his career. Carter bypassed the NFL draft this past spring so he could return to Cal for his senior season, make a bid for All-America honors and contend for the Outland Trophy. His performance on national TV last week should aid his candidacy. This week, he'll test another massive tackle in Fresno State's 6-3, 323-pound senior Ahmad Bhatti, a pre-season first team All-WAC selection by several publications
Setencich Returns to His Roots with Trip to Fresno State
The three-hour trip from the Bay Area to Fresno may seem foreign to some on the Cal coaching staff, but Golden Bear defensive coordinator Lyle Setencich could probably make the drive blindfolded. He has many roots in the Central Valley, including his alma mater Fresno State. Growing up in Reedley, Setencich played under Darryl Rogers from 1966-68 as a nosetackle/linebacker, starting as a junior and senior. He still has many close associates in the Fresno area, including his cousin Eli (who was actually raised as Lyle's brother), one of the lead columnists for the Fresno Bee. Eli, who was a close associate of legendary San Francisco columnist Herb Caen, also has ties to Berkeley as he graduated from Cal and hasn't missed a Golden Bear home game since 1947. Setencich also has some close ties on the Fresno State coaching staff as he has been close friends with Bulldog wide receiver coach Tim Simons since they played against each other on rival high school teams in the Fresno area and together at Fresno State. In addition, Fresno State linebacker coach Dan Brown not only played under Setencich at Boise State, but began his coaching career under him at Boise State.
Cal Manages a Revolving Door along Its Offensive Line
Cal offensive line coach Ed White is a creative one with a background in painting and sculpture. He's needed a good amount of creativity in patching together an offensive line that has resembled a revolving door since the start of pre-season camp. The first issue arose during the summer when offensive guard Scott Tercero had arthroscopic knee surgery. He has been in a rehabilitative phase and did not play in the Utah opener. His expected replacement David Hays went down with a knee sprain early in camp and has been on the sidelines since the start of the season. Center Reed Diehl went down in the first half of the Utah opener with a nerve palsy in his left leg and was unable to play last week. Then in the third quarter last week, offensive guard Brandon Ludwig suffered a high ankle sprain and he's likely lost for a few weeks. The injuries have wreaked havoc on a line that wasn't particularly deep to begin with. The good news is that many of the injured are gradually filtering back into playing shape. Tercero was in on 20 to 25 plays last week and may be back in the starting line-up this Saturday. Diehl also is hoping to be back at center, although his status is questionable. Hays is still a couple weeks away and Ludwig may be in the same category. At one point last week, the Bears offensive line had four players in the line-up with a cumulative total of just 10 games of college playing experience under their belt. Freshman Marvin Philip was in his debut game at center, flanked by Rob Truhitte at guard and Mark Wilson at tackle, who both made their college debuts the previous week. On the other side was Tercero, a soph who has only started eight games in his career.
Boller Showing Signs of Mastering the Two-Minute Offense With 10 games of starting experience under his belt, Cal's quarterback Kyle Boller continues to show solid improvement in all aspects of his game. One of the major areas of concern a year ago was his touchdown-to-interception ratio, as he threw just nine TDs compared to 15 interceptions. Thus far, he's connected on three touchdown passes with just a single pick. His pass efficiency mark has dramatically increased from 80.75 to 120.1(currently ranking No. 5 in the Pac-10). His accuracy is also much improved, jumping from 38.6 percent last year to 55.0 percent this season. Another sign of his improved maturity is his command of the offense in a hurry-up situation. Cal's two longest drives of the season have come with Boller directing a two-minute offense without any huddles. At the end of the first half at Illinois, Cal took over at its own 20-yard-line with just 1:42 left on the clock. Eight plays later, Cal was in the end zone after an 8-play drive and only three seconds left before halftime. With Cal down by eight points and only 2:50 left in the Illinois game, Boller and the Cal offense took over at their own 41-yard-line. This time, he took the Bears on a TD drive in just 1:24, hitting consecutive passes of 27, 3 and 32 yards to get into the end zone. A potential two-point conversion to tie the game was batted down at the line of scrimmage, but Boller's ability to produce in the clutch is an obvious sign of encouragement for the Cal coaching staff.
Cal Pass Defense Rated among Best in Nation Gets Major Test at Fresno
Although the Bears have three new faces in their defensive backfield this season, the early results have been excellent. Through the first two games, Cal is allowing opponents to complete just 41.8 percent of their pass attempts. The Bears rank 10th nationally in pass efficiency defense with a rating of 85.4. The coaching staff has used a playing rotation of four cornerbacks (Chidi Iwuoma, Harold Pearson, LaShaun Ward, Jemeel Powell) and three safeties (Nnamdi Asomugha, Dewey Hale, Bert Watts) and has to like the performance thus far. The one area Cal would like to see some improvement is in the interception category. The Bears have made just a single interception this season, although it was a big one in the Utah opener when Powell made a leaping interception in the end zone to end a Ute threat near the end of the first half. A year ago, Cal allowed opponents to complete 47.4 percent of their passes and had 21 interceptions. Cal held an accomplished Illinois passing attack to just 7-of-24 passes for only 112 yards last week. This Saturday, the Bears will have their hands full with a Fresno State passing attack that ranks 23rd in the nation, averaging 267.0 yards per game.
Cal Spreading the Ball Around in the Passing Game
The Cal receiving corps is still developing an identity, but one of the hallmarks figures to be that the Bears will have several players with significant statistics when all is said and done in 2000. Thus far, 11 different players have caught passes in the first two games. That number will certainly rise this week with the expected return of two players who have been held out because of minor injuries. Both Chad Heydorff (hamstring) and Derek Swafford (back sprain) should return this week and are expected to move into the playing rotation. Heydorff has the reputation of having the best hands in the Cal receiving corps and that could be a big addition as the Bears had a half-dozen drops last week at Illinois. Cal may have found a big play performer last week in Charon Arnold, a JC transfer. Arnold was the game's leading receiver with six catches for 68 yards. More importantly, he caught two TDs, including a 32-yarder with 1:26 left in the game to pull the Bears to within two points.
Bears Using Freshman Group Extensively
With the debut of running back Pana Faumuina last week, the Bears now have used six first-year freshmen extensively in the first two games. Offensively, receivers Chase Lyman and Geoff McArthur have been important members of the playing rotation. Center Marvin Philip played about half of the Illinois game and could end up in the starting line-up this week. Jonathan Giesel played over half the snaps against Illinois at defensive tackle, despite undergoing thumb surgery earlier in the week. James Bethea is on a few Cal special teams, but has not yet played at cornerback. Tosh Lupoi is the primary back-up to Andre Carter, but has not played thus far this season.
Fresno State has won 11 of its last 12 home games...Cal center Reed Diehl, who is questionable for this week's game, celebrates his 22nd birthday on Monday (Sept. 18), while LaShaun Ward turns 20 on Friday (Sept. 22) and Phillip Pipersburg turns 22 on Sunday (Sept. 24)...Cal offensive coordinator Steve Hagen is spending the game in the press box, as opposed to last season when he was on the sidelines...Cal's schedule was ranked the sixth toughest nationally by Sports Illustrated.