Cal to Host Rutgers in Football Opener Sept. 4
Courtesy: Cal Athletics  
Release:  08/29/1999

Aug. 29, 1999

BERKELEY - Cal and Rutgers will meet on the gridiron for the first time Sept. 4 when the Scarlet Knights visit Berkeley. The game kicks off at 2:30 p.m. in Memorial Stadum. For ticket information, call 1-800-GO BEARS or stop by the Cal ticket office at 2223 Fulton Ave.

Cal Opens 117th Year of Football with Match-Up vs. Rutgers

California opens its final season of the century with an intersectional match-up against Rutgers. The Bears have had a good amount of success in openers of late, winning nine of the past 12 season-opening games. This will be the second straight season-opener in Memorial Stadium, with the Bears escaping with a 14-10 win over Houston last Sept. 5. Prior to that game, Cal had opened its season on the road for five straight years. Overall, Cal has a 68-42-5 (.613) record in season-openers, but is even more dominant in season-opening games in Memorial Stadium with a 35-13 (.729) mark.

Cal May Have Big Name Players, But Names Won't Be on Uniforms

Entering the season, a fair number of Cal players have established reputations as some of college football's finest. Hopefully, announcers and spectators have memorized those numbers entering the 1999 season, because the Golden Bear uniforms will not sport names across the back of the jerseys this fall. Over the summer, senior linebacker Matt Beck led a group of players who proposed to head coach Tom Holmoe that the names be removed. The move is a symbol that success this season will come as a result of team unity and combined efforts, rather than that of individual performances. It's the first time since 1981 that Cal hasn't had players' names on the back of the uniforms. In another jersey change, Beck was granted his request to move from his familiar No. 59 to No. 99 for his final collegiate campaign. He is making the change in honor of teammate Nate Geldermann, who wore the number the last three seasons before being forced to retire with neck problems. The two have showed similar relentless styles of play during their careers, often playing with injuries that would send others not just to the sidelines, but to the locker room. They remain best friends. That's a rather significant sacrifice by Beck, who has many NFL scouts monitoring his progress and will have to get used to watching a different number on film this fall.

Bears Hoping to Have Right Mix of Defense, Offense in 1999

In recent years, Cal has often had some of the best offensive or defensive units in the Pacific-10. Unfortunately, the team has not been able to put together solid efforts from both sides of the football in the same seasons. In 1996, Cal finished second in the Pac-10 in total offense (457.6 ypg) and was tops in passing offense (321.5 ypg), but was last in total defense (460.3 ypg). Last season, Cal was third in the Pac-10 in total defense (340.3 ypg), but the offense was last in total offense (292.2 ypg). This season, Cal will have perhaps its best defense since the 1968 "Bear Minimum" unit that allowed opponents only 10.4 points per game (ranking fourth in the NCAA) and just 252.2 yards a game (11th nationally). However, the team's hope for real success will be contingent on whether an inexperienced offense can improve significantly on last year's performance. There have been encouraging signs in the preseason that Cal will be far better than anticipated along the offensive line and at the running back positions. If Cal can establish a passing game threat, the Bears could emerge as one of the nation's surprise teams in '99.

Veteran Cal Defense Hopes to Dominate

It's clear that a star-laden Cal defense's hope to be dominant this fall is not just an ambition, but a necessity, if the Bears hope to evolve into one of the nation's top teams in 1999. There's clearly no lack of talent on that side of the football as four different starters are considered by most NFL scouts as potential first round draft picks - outside linebacker S?kou Sanyika, defensive tackle Jerry DeLoach, defensive end Andre Carter and inside linebacker Matt Beck. Add in players like defensive end Mawuko Tugbenyoh, who has returned three fumbles for touchdowns over this career, safety Pete Destefano, ranked among the top 25 safeties in college football by Lindy's magazine, cornerback Deltha O'Neal, rated by Lindy's as the No. 8 all-purpose player in the nation, and cornerback Chidi Iwuoma, who has started games the last two seasons and is primed for a big year, and it isn't difficult to understand the optimism. After inheriting a defense that ranked last in the Pac-10 the year before he arrived in 1996, highly regarded defensive coordinator Lyle Setencich took the Bears to eighth in '97 and third last year. Now, he will try to lead Cal to the top of the Pac-10 this fall.

Cal Plans to Offer Double-Dose of Eager Young Players at Quarterback

Depending on your perspective, Cal either has a great wealth of ability at the quarterback position or a dangerous lack of depth. The Bears have two young talents in sophomore Sam Clemons and freshman Kyle Boller, who are both expected to get playing time early in the season. Both of them have shown signs they could develop into highly competent starters, although neither player has any significant game experience at the collegiate level. Clemons played in four games as a redshirt-freshman last fall, completing 2-of-12 passes for two yards, but has made significant strides since the end of the 1998 season. Boller, the '98 California state high school Player of the Year, will see his first collegiate action this season after throwing for 4,838 yards and 59 TDs last year at Hart HS in Newhall. The two are listed even on the depth chart, and head coach Tom Holmoe has promised each of them will see action against Rutgers.

Ed White Starting to Mold Offensive Line into Credible Force

After Cal's offensive line gave up 58 sacks last year (worst in the Pac-10), lost its best lineman in fourth-round NFL draft choice John Welbourn and had to find its third new line coach in three seasons, there were not many who believed better things lay ahead in 1999. Head coach Tom Holmoe went looking for a miracle-worker. He may have found one in new assistant coach Ed White, who returns to Cal this fall for the first time in 31 years to handle offensive line chores. White has only been on the job since January, but he seems to have quickly orchestrated a major transformation of Cal's forward wall. His group's performance during the preseason has been perhaps the team's most positive development. and now many close to the program believe Cal's offensive line play may become a strength, rather than a liability. At center, senior John Romero is clearly an anchor that any program would be proud to call its own. The 6-3, 320-pounder was recently named to the NFL Draft Report's first team All-America squad and is ranked by Lindy's magazine as the No. 5 center in college football. White's work with the supporting cast is attracting the most attention. Returning starters Langston Walker (6-8, 340) and Brandon Ludwig (6-4, 295) seem ready to blossom as sophomores under White's work and could be honors candidates over the next few seasons. Junior Reid Diehl (6-4, 305) is another White student who seems to be making major strides. Senior Kevin Doherty (6-4, 295) has improved and is listed as the starter at a guard position opposite Ludwig, but Yauger Williams (6-6. 305) came out of retirement midway through fall camp and will push hard for major playing time. That gives Cal a nucleus of six solid players for 1999. Perhaps more significant is the impression that several Cal incoming freshmen offensive line players have made. Foremost among those are guard Scott Tercero and center Nolan Bluntzer, who have quickly moved into the depth chart as second team players. They may end up redshirting, but if injuries occur, they could also find themselves in a position of significant playing time this fall.

Rutgers Coaching Staff Will Be Familiar with Memorial Stadium

While Rutgers is traveling 3,000 miles across the country for the first-ever meeting between the two schools, the Scarlet Knight program has many ties to Cal. Head coach Terry Shea spent three years at Cal from 1987-89 as offensive coordinator under Bruce Snyder. His son, Garrett, currently a Rutgers defensive back, often spent time at Cal practices shagging balls and spending time with his dad. Three other members of the staff have Cal backgrounds. Offensive line coach Bill Laveroni lettered for the Bears from 1967-69 (teaming with current Cal offensive line coach Ed White in '67 and '68) and then spent time on three different Cal coaching staffs. He worked under Roger Theder in 1978, then returned under Joe Kapp in 1983 and remained through the first three years of Bruce Snyder's tenure through the 1989 season. Secondary coach Charlie West joined former Minnesota Viking teammate Joe Kapp at Cal for one season in 1982. Finally, Rutgers defensive coordinator Dennis Creehan served as Cal's defensive line coach from 1987-89. Shea is the only coach who has spent time in Memorial Stadium's visiting locker room, posting an 0-2 record as a head coach at San Jose State when the Spartans visited Cal in 1990 (a 35-34 loss) and 1991 (a 41-20 defeat).

Bears Hope for Another Quick Start to Season

Since the start of the 1990s, Cal has established a reputation as a quick-starting football team. The Bears have enjoyed six excellent starts among the nine seasons. Cal was 5-1 in 1990 en route to a 7-4-1 record and a Copper Bowl victory. Cal was 5-0 in 1991 on its way to a 10-2 record, a victory in the Citrus Bowl and a No. 7 national ranking. Cal was 3-1, although it finished at 4-7 in 1992. The Bears were 5-0 in 1993 en route to a 9-4 record, an Alamo Bowl win and a No. 25 national ranking. Cal was 3-2 in 1994 before ending at 4-7. Cal was 5-0 in 1996 and earned an Aloha Bowl berth while finishing at 6-6. Last season, Cal earned a 4-1 start, but again stumbled late in the season to finish at 5-6.

Miscellaneous Notes, Et Cetera, Three-Dot Data

According to Sports Illustrated, Cal's schedule, which features non-conference games against Rutgers, Nebraska and BYU, is rated the second-toughest in the country ... senior linebacker Matt Beck needs eight tackles for loss to tie Jerrott Willard's school record of 54, while senior linebacker S?kou Sanyika needs just nine TFL to match Willard ... cornerback/return specialist Deltha O'Neal has had at least 1200 all-purpose yards the last two years (1297 in 1998 and 1207 in '99) to give him 3741 yards in his career, if he has another similar season, he will pass Russell White (4943 all-purpose yards from 1990-92) for the Cal career mark ... according to the latest two-deep, no backup on either the offensive or defensive line played at Cal last year, listed on the second team are five true freshmen, three JC transfers and sixth-year guard Yauger Williams, who sat out last season ... the Bears have added 16 walk-ons, many of whom turned down scholarship offers from other schools to come to Cal, among the notables in that regard are tight end Tom Swoboda from Rancho Palos Verdes, safety Cameron Bunce (the son of former Stanford QB Don Bunce) from Menlo-Atherton HS and tight end Cale Garamendi (the son of former Cal player and current politician John Garamendi) from Hanford HS.