Oct. 8, 2000
BERKELEY - California hosts UCLA in a Homecoming game that is scheduled to kickoff at 12:30 p.m. Cal has been featured on national television three of the past four weeks, but there is no live television for Saturday's game. UCLA leads the series by a 45-23-1 edge, but there have been several streaks when either team has dominated since the rivalry began in 1933. After the two teams tied 0-0 in 1933, the Bears won 14 of the next 20 games. Starting in 1951, UCLA turned the tables with different winning streaks of 7, 4, 4 and 21 games (although one of the games in the longest streak was later forfeited due to use of an ineligible player) through the 1989 season. Cal then put together a five-game winning streak from 1990-94. UCLA came back with four straight from 1995-98 before Cal started what it hopes is a new streak with a 17-0 shutout last season. It was first shutout that had been forced on UCLA in six years and only the third time in the previous 28 seasons. Cal threw for only 123 yards, but had a season-high 248 rushing yards (including 113 by Joe Igber) and Cal's defense held UCLA to just 168 yards of total offense as Corey Paus suffered through 9-of-28 passing day for 81 yards.
Reunion of 1975 Team on 25th Anniversary as Cal Restores Joe Roth Memorial Game
It should be a festive weekend on the Cal campus as the Bears welcome back members of Cal's 1975 team that captured a Pac-8 co-championship and led the nation in total offense. The school is celebrating the 25th Anniversary of that '75 squad, which featured an offense that not only averaged 458.5 yards a game, but incredibly had the exact same number of rushing yards and passing yards (2,522). After a 1-2 start, Cal installed Joe Roth as quarterback and went on to win seven of its final eight games. However, the Bears lost the tiebreaker, and UCLA went to the Rose Bowl and an 8-3 Cal team didn't go to a bowl game. A Friday evening gathering is scheduled in the Hall of Fame Room in Memorial Stadium, with a pre-game brunch slated Saturday morning. Among those who will be present for the festivities are former Cal head coach Mike White and offensive coordinator Roger Theder and many players from that '75 team, including Chuck Muncie, Steve Rivera, Bob Warner, Fred Besana, Ralph DeLoach, George Freitas, Jeff Moye and Leo Biedermann. Joe Roth's brother, Tom, will also be present as Cal will re-institute the Joe Roth Memorial Game. After Roth's tragic passing in 1977 due to cancer, Cal had a Roth memorial game against either of the Los Angeles schools for several seasons. That practice stopped in the 1980s, but will begin again this year.
Five Straight Ranked Opponents on Tap
If Cal's young team that has struggled out of the blocks with a 1-4 record thinks things will get easier heading down the stretch, a quick look at the upcoming schedule offers little comfort. Cal will face No. 15-ranked UCLA this week and then be on the road for three of the following four weeks against ranked opponents. The Bears will travel to No. 10 Washington, then to USC, which was ranked as high as No. 8 before a pair of losses dropped the Trojans to No. 29. After a home game against No. 20 Oregon State, the Bears are back on the road against No. 12 Oregon. That is called staring adversity in its face.
Comparing the Golden Bears with Next Two Opponents
California faces a UCLA team that hasn't doesn't have dramatically different statistics than Cal. The Bears actually seem to have the advantage on the line of scrimmage, with better rankings in rushing offense and rushing defense and also faring slightly better in the turnover margin and net punting categories. However, UCLA is sitting at No. 15 in the nation with a 4-1 record, while Cal is 1-4 and far out of the national rankings. The Bruins are clearly more efficient getting into the end zone, as the Bruins are averaging 26.0 points a game, almost double Cal's total, despite only averaging 351.4 yards a game offensively.
Category Cal UCLA Washington Total Offense 87th (307.6 ypg) 71st (351.4 ypg) 26th (414.8 ypg) Rushing Offense 54th (149.2 ypg) 70th (131.2 (ypg) 22nd (192.8 ypg) Passing Offense 91st (158.4 ypg) 48th (220.2 ypg) 47th (222.0 ypg) Scoring Offense 105th (13.8 ppg) T54th (26.0 ppg) T39th (28.8 ppg) Total Defense 74th (373.0 ypg) 54th (347.6 ypg) 68th (367.8 ypg) Rushing Defense 41st (122.4 ypg) 61st (148.2 ypg) 69th (152.2 ypg) Pass Eff. Defense 87th (129.2 rating) 22nd (99.7 rating) 94th (137.6 rating) Scoring Defense 46th (21.2 ppg) 72nd (25.0 ppg) 60th (23.2 ppg) Turnover Margin T69th (+0.0) T71st (-.20) T71st (-.20) Net Punting 42nd (36.31 ypp) 53rd (34.95 ypp) 78th (32.88 ypp)
Cal Running Game Begins to Flourish Behind Igber
Cal entered the 2000 season believing it could be an effective running team and vastly improve on last year's 10th-place Pac-10 ranking in that category (99.7 yards a game). It took a couple games to work out the kinks, but it now appears that the Golden Bears have begun to establish themselves with one of the top rushing attacks in the Pac-10. The 255 yards Cal gained on the ground last week at Arizona State was the best by a Cal team since running for 278 yards on Sept. 7, 1996 against San Jose State. That comes on the heels of a 149-yard outing vs. Washington State the previous week (which included 23 yards of loss on fumbled punt attempts). After averaging just 114.0 yards a game the first three weeks, Cal has now raised its rushing average to 149.2 yards a game to rank No. 4 in the Pac-10 (and 54th nationally). That's a significant accomplishment in view of the injury-wracked offensive line that will start its sixth different line-up this Saturday. It's a major testament to the play of sophomore Joe Igber and his primary back-up Joseph Echema, who have combined to give Cal a potent one-two punch at tailback. Igber was brilliant at Arizona State last week, rushing for 181 yards, the 16th-best single-game performance in Cal history. He ran out of gas at the tail end of an 80-yard run when he stumbled and fell at the Arizona State one-yard-line (Cal fumbled the next play). It still was the longest run by a Cal player since Tarik Smith went 90 yards vs. San Diego State on Sept. 14, 1996. Igber ranks No. 33 nationally in averaging 88.8 yards a game on the ground (fourth in the Pac-10). Not quite halfway into his sophomore year, Igber already has 1,138 rushing yards and figures to move into Cal's career Top 15 before the year is over. He needs just 266 yards to overtake Arleigh Williams (1,404 yards from 1932-34) to move into 15th place. Echema has proven to be a fine complement at tailback, as he's averaged 12 carries a game the last three games and is averaging 34.8 yards a game. Junior Saleem Muhammad also has been solid with nine carries last week at ASU, but his status is uncertain entering this week's game due to an ankle injury.
Cal Offensive Line Producing Despite Injuries
One of the gratifying developments in the first half of the season for Cal has been the play of the offensive line. With four of the five projected starters having missed starting assignments due to injuries, the Bears still rate as perhaps the most improved OL unit in the Pac-10. Cal has improved its rushing attack by over 50 yards from last season, averaging 149.2 yards a game. The 255 rushing yards last week at ASU was the most by a Cal team since running for 278 yards on Sept. 7, 1996 against San Jose State. Cal has also improved in the pass protection area as the Bears have allowed only 11 sacks in the first five games. A year ago, Cal gave up a league-worst 36 sacks in 11 games. The results have been encouraging because of the musical chairs that have been played along the offensive line due to injuries. The Bears only standard in the line-up has been redshirt-freshman Mark Wilson, who has been a stalwart at right tackle. Last week, center Marvin Philip went down with a sprained knee and thus the starters likely will be shuffled again this week. Senior Reed Diehl continues to have problems with nerve palsy in his leg and he played sparingly at Arizona State. The hope is that he will be back to handle center duties vs. UCLA.
Game LT LG C RG RT Utah Walker Ludwig Diehl Truhitte Wilson At Illinois Walker Ludwig Bluntzer Truhitte Wilson At Fresno St. Walker Diehl Philip Tercero Wilson Washington St. Walker Truhitte Diehl Tercero Wilson At Arizona St. Chick Diehl Philip Tercero Wilson UCLA* Chick Ludwig Diehl Tercero Wilson *projected
Andre Carter Named Semifinalist for Rotary Lombardi Award
On Friday of last week (Oct. 6), Cal's Andre Carter was named one of 12 semifinalists for the 2000 Rotary Lombardi Award, given to the college offensive or defensive lineman who, "in addition to outstanding performance on the field, best exemplifies the characteristics and discipline of Vince Lombardi." Others on the list are Alex Brown of Florida, Steve Hutchinson of Michigan, Willie Howard of Stanford, Wendell Bryant of Wisconsin, Leonard Davis of Texas, Ben Hamilton of Minnesota, Dominic Raiola of Nebraska, Jamal Reynolds of Florida State, Aaron Schobel of TCU and Roland Seymour of Florida State. The list will be pared to four finalists Nov. 3.
Nick Harris Closes in on NCAA Punting Records
After being asked to pooch almost half his punt attempts in the first four games (46.4 percent of his punts came with a line of scrimmage inside opponent territory in the first four games), Nick Harris was finally able to unleash his power last week at Arizona State. He responded with eight punts for an average of 47.8 ypp. That means the Avondale, Ariz., native finished his four games against his hometown Sun Devils with 31 punts for an average of 46.71 yards per punt. He's been even more dominant in the UCLA series, averaging 46.9 yards on 24 career punts against the Bruins, including four downed at or inside the UCLA 2-yard-line. Among his 36 punts this year, he's placed 23 inside opponent 20-yard-lines (64 percent), including eight inside the 5-yard-line. Harris now has punted for 12,407 yards in his career (a Pac-10 record) on 285 career punts (another league mark). He needs to average just 90.0 yards and only 5.8 punts per game down the stretch to break the NCAA record set by Cameron Young of TCU, who had 320 punts for 12,947 yards from 1976-79.
Nick Harris Punting vs. UCLA Year No Yds Avg Long In 20 1997 8 348 43.5 52 1 1998 9 406 45.1 53 6 1999 7 372 53.1 68 3 Totals 24 1126 46.9 68 10
Cal Looks for Passing Game to Evolve in Same Way as Rushing Attack
When you're building from ground zero as Cal has attempted to do the last two seasons, progress is sometimes measured in small bricks rather than fully completed buildings. The evidence is clear that the Bears have made major improvement in their rushing attack, improving over 50 yards a game in 2000 from a year ago and over 70 yards a game from 1998. The passing game hasn't evolved in the same way, but there have been some signs of improvement. After completing just 39.4 percent of its passes last season, the Bears are completing 46.5 percent of their attempts this season. The Bears have done a good job of spreading the ball around, meaning opponents can't concentrate on just one target. Last week, Cal played almost the entire game without its top three receivers as Chase Lyman retired after just a couple series and one catch for 3 yards due to a thigh bruise, and Charon Arnold (lower leg) and Geoff McArthur (thumb and thigh) both stayed home with minor injuries. Still, the Bears were able to compensate as tight end/H-back Keala Keanaaina had a career-best three catches and 10 different players had at least one catch. If Cal's wideouts can return in full health, the hope is that the Golden Bear passing game can begin to complement the reinvigorated run attack and begin to turn the corner. Clearly, the key for the Bears is to get into the end zone as Cal's 13.8 points per game, ranking 105th out of 114 Division IA schools, isn't going to allow much success in the win-loss column. The Bears have actually been fairly efficient in the red zone (opponent 20-yard-line and in), converting on 78.6 percent of their chances to rank in the top three in the Pac-10. Cal has converted 11 of its 14 opportunities in the red zone (7 touchdowns, 4 field goals). Throughout the season, Cal's offense has been a constant presence in opponent territory, but the results have been brutal. Cal has been in opponent territory 42 times in the first five games, but have been able to convert only 12 times for scores (8 TDs, 4 FGs). Below is a breakdown of Cal's opportunities in opponent territory each of the first five games, listing Cal's deepest penetrations.
Cal's Deepest Penetrations into Opponent Territory (results) Utah Illinois Fresno State Washington St. Arizona State Utah 27 (0 pts) Illinois 33 (0) Fresno 30 (0) WSU 13 (TD) ASU 22 (0) Utah 33 (0) Illinois 9 (0) Fresno 34 (0) WSU 45 (0) ASU 10 (FG) Utah 1 (TD) Illinois 49 (0) Fresno 23 (0) WSU 6 (TD) ASU 45 (0) Utah 34 (0) Illinois 40 (0) Fresno 30 (0) WSU 41 (0) ASU 39 (0) Utah 12 (TD) Illinois 33 (0) Fresno 42 (0) WSU 3 (FG) ASU 1 (0) Utah13 (TD) Illinois 2 (TD) Fresno 15 (0) WSU 33 (0) ASU 1 (TD) Utah 10 (FG) Illinois 43 (0) Fresno 6 (FG) WSU 41 (0) Utah 35 (0) Illinois 43 (0) Fresno 40 (0) WSU12 (0) Illinois 49 (0) Fresno 32 (0) Illinois 32 (TD) Fresno 40 (0)
Bears Hope to Solve Pass Defense Breakdown in Recent Games
During the early part of the season, Cal's pass defense was one of the team's strongest areas. In fact, after the first two games of the season, Cal ranked 10th nationally in pass efficiency defense with an 85.4 rating. The Bears did a terrific job of shutting down Illinois All-America candidate Kurt Kittner, who completed only 4-of-16 passes for 73 yards. However, the Bears have been much less efficient the past three games and have now fallen to No. 87 nationally in pass efficiency defense. The main culprit has been the big play. Last week, Arizona State completed only 12 of 32 passes, but hooked up on completions of 50 (td), 47, 34, 68 (td), 54, 29, 50 (td) and 34 yards. Cal is set at one of the cornerback positions as opponents have generally avoided Chidi Iwuoma's side. The other side has been problematic, as Harold Pearson and LaShaun Ward have been inconsistent. The coaches are hopeful of getting back sophomore Jemeel Powell, who may rank as Cal's best cover corner, but has missed the last two games with a hip flexor.