Oct. 29, 2000
BERKELEY - How the times have changed. After facing last place USC a week ago, Cal now faces an Oregon State team that is in the middle of the Rose Bowl race entering the final three games of the season. At 7-1, OSU seems assured of its second straight bowl berth and three straight wins in November will also guarantee the team a share of the Pac-10 title. Cal has a 31-21 edge in the series, which dates back to the 1905 season. Although Oregon State posted a 17-7 victory last season in Corvallis, Cal has won six of the past seven and 15 of the last 22 games versus OSU. Last year's Beaver victory clinched the school's first winning record in 29 years, but it was hardly an artistic success offensively. Both teams combined to complete only 20 of 72 passes as Kyle Boller was 12-of-39 for 151 yards, while Jonathan Smith was 8-of-33 for 160 yards. Neither team did much on offense as OSU had 280 yards of total offense compared to Cal's 229. The difference in the victory was a second quarter OSU safety and a 24-yard fumble recovery returned for a TD by Tevita Moala in the fourth quarter. The last time the two teams met in Berkeley in 1997, Cal scored TDs on five of its first seven possessions and coasted to a 33-14 win.
Bears Have Renewed Hope Entering November
It may be too early to draw any final conclusions about a young Cal team that still has three games on its 2000 schedule, but there are clear indications the Tom Holmoe's program has begun to turn the corner and has a bright outlook in the future. After a disappointing 2-4 start, Cal has been one of the hottest teams in the league of late with a win over then 13th-ranked UCLA Oct. 14, having an 11-point fourth quarter lead over then No. 9 Washington before eventually faltering down the stretch on Oct. 21, and handling USC on the road last week, 28-16. With a 3-5 record, the Bears still have life for a possible bowl berth. However, it would take three straight November victories for that to happen, the next two against nationally ranked teams. The month of November hasn't been particularly kind to the Bears as Cal has lost nine straight and 12 of the last 13 games they've played in November. Cal's last November victory was a 33-14 decision over Oregon State on Nov. 1, 1997.
Cal Happy to Come Home after Spending Five of First Eight Weeks on the Road
California will be in a familiar role this weekend as the Bears will be underdogs for the eighth time in nine games against No. 14 Oregon State. However, the one thing that will be slightly different for Cal is playing at home in Memorial Stadium. Cal has played five of its first eight games on the road, including three of the past four weeks. Now, Cal finishes out the season with two of its final three games in Berkeley. Cal is 2-1 in Memorial Stadium and is averaging 29.0 points per game at home, compared to 16.0 points per game on the road. Oregon State, meanwhile, has played five of its first eight games at home with a perfect 5-0 mark in Reser Stadium with an impressive winning margin of 21.0 points. In three road games, OSU is 2-1, with close victories over New Mexico (28-20) and UCLA (44-38) along with a narrow defeat at Washington (33-30).
Bears Start to Find End Zone as Scoring Offense Emerges from Hibernation
Just when it appeared that the Cal offense would never emerge from what some would consider a three-year offensive draught, the Golden Bears have shown some genuine punch on the offensive side of the ball the last month. Cal finished last in both scoring offense and total offense in both 1998 and '99 and rates 9th in the conference in both categories this season. After averaging 16.6 ppg in 1998 and 16.4 points per contest in '99, Cal was averaging just 13.8 ppg after the first five games of this season. However, the Bears have averaged 32.7 ppg the last three weeks. The Bears haven't rolled up big numbers in terms of total yards (averaging only 305.7 ypg in those three games), but that's deceptive in that the Bears haven't had the football on offense much in those games vs. UCLA, Washington and USC. Those opponents have run an average of 80 plays, compared to Cal's 63 plays. They've also enjoyed an astounding average time of possession advantage of 8:13. There have been a variety of elements that have contributed to that deficiency, including a new-found quick strike ability on offense. Among the eight offensive TD drives the past three games, the average drive time has been 1:57. When you add in an interception return for a TD, a fumble recovery returned for a TD and a punt return for a TD, it means the defense is on the field much longer than the Cal offense. Below is a list of Cal's touchdowns the last three weeks (minus the three OT touchdowns vs. UCLA).
Cal's Quick Strike Ability - Touchdown Drives the Last Three Weeks
UCLA (time of TD drive) Washington (time of drive) USC (time of drive) 65 yards 2:34 54 yards 2:58 80 yards 1:25 36 yards 0:08 Fumble Recovery 7 yards 0:46 Interception Return 78 yards 2:11 30 yards 1:26 70 yards 4:11 Punt Return
Nick Harris Should Claim NCAA Punting Record on Saturday
Nobody in Pac-10 history has ever punted for more yards than Cal's Nick Harris has. On Saturday, the Cal senior figures to set a new NCAA record for most punting yards in a career. Harris has punted for 12,797 yards in his brilliant Cal career, averaging 42.23 on those punts. He needs just 150 yards on Saturday to take over the top spot in the NCAA record books, passing Cameron Young of TCU, who punted for 12,947 yards from 1976-79 on 320 punts. Harris also should eventually break Young's 320-punt record as well, needing to average 5.7 punts over the final three games to capture that national mark. Harris only ranks 45th nationally in punting this season with a 40.85 average, but that stat is misleading. He has been asked to punt for placement rather than distance most of the season as 21 of his 54 punts (38.9 percent) this season have come with a line of scrimmage inside opponent territory. He's has 31 punts downed inside the opponent 20-yard-line (57.4%). Included in that total are 9 punts inside opponent's 5-yard-line. Harris is a candidate for the Ray Guy Award for the nation's top punter.
Nick Harris Career Punting Statistics
Year Punts Yards Avg LG In 20 1997 77 3250 42.2 63 8 1998 87 3546 40.8 63 27 1999 85 3795 44.6 70 21 2000 54 2206 40.9 64 31 Total 303 12,797 42.23 70 87
Cal Sophomore Cornerback Jemeel Powell Emerging as Blue Chip Talent
Cal knew it had a potential star down the road in Jemeel Powell, a sophomore cornerback with a load of potential but little experience entering the 2000 season. He started to show his superb ball-hawking abilities in the Utah opener when he made a leaping interception of a Darnell Arceneaux pass in the end zone with just seconds left in the first half to preserve a 7-7 tie and set the stage for a Cal victory. However, he suffered a hip flexor injury the next week at Illinois and, after playing just a few plays at Fresno State, was sidelined the next two games. However, he has emerged in the last three weeks as one of the top young defensive players, not just in the Pac-10, but the entire country. It's way too early to crown the 6-1, 190-pounder as an All-America candidate as consistency is the true gauge of a player over time. However, nobody can dispute the impact he has had in the last three games. Against UCLA, he had two interceptions. The first set Cal's offense up at the Bruin 20-yard-line and the second was in the third overtime period in the Cal end zone to clinch the Golden Bear victory. He also had three pass deflections. The next week, Powell had four more pass deflections at Washington in addition to recording seven tackles and making his debut as a punt return specialist. Last week, he truly was the most dominant player on the field at USC. He not only had five unassisted tackles and three more pass deflections, but he also had an interception in the fourth quarter that helped seal USC's fate. He also had a huge impact with two long punt returns in the second half. The first was a 44-yarder to get Cal out of poor field position in the third quarter and the second was an 83-yarder for a touchdown with 12 minutes left in the game to provide Cal's final margin of victory. It was the fourth longest in Cal history. He now ranks No. 5 nationally (No. 1 in the Pac-10) with .67 interceptions per game. He also would be third in the nation in punt returns with a 20.4 average on seven returns, but is one return short of qualifying for inclusion in the national stats (minimum of 1.2 punt returns per game required).
Joe Igber, on Verge of Cal's Top 15, Could Challenge 1000-Yard Barrier
With three games remaining, Cal sophomore Joe Igber still has a legitimate chance of becoming Cal's first 1000-yard rusher since Lindsey Chapman ran for 1,037 yards in 1993. Igber would need to average 103.7 yards down the stretch to turn the trick, but it's certainly not out of the question as he's averaged 106.5 ypg the last four weeks. Although he's only started 12 games in his career, he already has posted five 100-yard rushing games, something only 10 other players in the Cal annals have achieved. He has rushed for 1,383 yards in his brief career on 298 carries and is on the verge of breaking into Cal's Top 15 career rushing list. He needs just 21 yards to match No. 15 Arleigh Williams, who had 1,404 yards from 1932-34. Igber ranks No. 5 in the Pac-10 and No. 40 nationally, averaging 86.1 yards a game. Igber's contributions go far beyond taking handoffs, as he also rates as Cal's leading pass receiver with 17 catches. He isn't just taking short dump-off passes either as he's averaging 13.2 yards per reception. The last four games, Igber has accounted for 610 yards of all-purpose rushing (207 yards at ASU, 175 yards vs. UCLA, 148 yards at Washington, 80 yards at USC). That's an amazing 46.7 percent of Cal's total offense of 1,307 yards in those three games. Below is a listing of all of Igber's runs and catches this season.
Indestructible Andre Carter Continues to Put Up All-America Numbers
Cal defensive end Andre Carter elected to return to Cal for his senior season rather than join the NFL draft in order to complete his academic degree and contend for All-America honors in 2000. After being named a pre-season All-American over the summer, Carter has done just about everything one could expect from a All-American, and he was recently named one of 12 Lombardi Award semifinalists. He is coming off a dominating game at USC when he recorded a game-high 9 tackles (8 unassisted), including four tackles behind the line of scrimmage for minus 33 yards. He had 2.5 sacks for minus 32 yards and caused a fumble on one of those sacks, which Cal recovered at the USC 7-yard-line, setting up a short touchdown drive. He now has 27 sacks in his career, just one short of the all-time Cal record held by Regan Upshaw, who had 28 from 1993-95. Perhaps the most remarkable stat of all is that despite constant double-teaming all season, Carter has almost never left the field. Of the 597 plays opponents have run on offense against the Bears, Carter has missed only three plays all season. He sat out two plays late in the Arizona State game to put a quick bandage on a cut and missed one play last week at USC when he suffered an abdominal pull that might have sent lesser men to the sidelines for the duration.
Cal Defensive Line Making Berkeley the Sack Capital of College Football
After leading the Pac-10 with a school-record 53 sacks last season, most observers thought Cal would fall off some in that category after losing the bulk of the Bear defense to graduation, including Pac-10 sack leader Mawuko Tugbenyoh. But a current look at the league statistics shows that Cal remains atop the sack chart. Through eight games, Cal has recorded 32 sacks for minus 234 yards. That's three more than second-place Arizona. After posting 127 tackles behind the line of scrimmage last season (an average of 11.5 per game), the Bears are on a similar pace this season, registering 71 thus far, an average of 8.9 per game.