Oct. 26, 2003
Game No. 10: California Golden Bears (4-5, 2-2 in Pac-10) at Arizona State Sun Devils (4-4, 1-3 in Pac-10)
Date: Saturday, Nov. 1, 2003, Sun Devil Stadium; (73,379 - natural grass), Tempe, AZ
Kickoff: 12:30 p.m.
Radio: KGO Radio (810 AM): Joe Starkey, Lee Grosscup and Mike Pawlawski
This Week's Game
California begins a two-game road trip with a visit to Arizona State this Saturday-the site of one of the Bears' most stirring victories from the 2002 season.
Last year, Cal won in Tempe for the first time since 1990, out-gunning the 25th-ranked Sun Devils, 55-38, in a game that featured five lead changes, a blocked punt return for a touchdown, an interception return for a TD and five touchdown passes from QB Kyle Boller.
Most of the prominent players who figured in the win are gone, but the Bears enter the contest a more balanced unit, averaging 147.4 yards on the ground and 234.3 yards through the air. Cal displayed its running game in a 42-14 triumph over Arizona last Saturday, piling up 327 rushing yards-the team's highest total since 1992-with senior TB Adimchinobe Echemandu gaining a career-best 201 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries and junior TB J.J. Arrington adding 92 yards on 11 touches. All six of the Bears' scores came on running plays.
Echemandu, who had only 239 career yards heading into the season, now ranks second in the Pac-10 with an average of 97.9 ypg. He has topped 100 yards four times this year, including a 147-yard effort in a triple-overtime win over USC. With 881 yards in 2003, Echemandu needs just 119 more to post the 10th 1,000-yard season in school history.
Sophomore QB Aaron Rodgers heads a passing game that averages 234.3 yards per outing, slightly less than the 247.6 ypg Cal averaged with Boller last year. Rodgers has completed 56.4 percent of his attempts for 1,307 yards and seven TDs, and he has not thrown an interception in either of his last two games (57 attempts). In fact, the Bears have not committed a turnover in their last two games against UCLA or Arizona.
Junior WR Geoff McArthur, with 54 catches for 877 yards and six scores, has moved into a tie for ninth on Cal's season reception chart. With five more catches, he'll jump all the way to fourth place behind only Dameane Douglas (100, 1998), Bobby Shaw (75, 1997) and Sean Dawkins (65, 1992).
Defensively, sophomore ROV Donnie McCleskey leads the group with 77 tackles, including 11 for loss and 5.5 sacks. Eight different players have accounted for Cal's nine interceptions, with only SAF Mike McGrath (2) hauling in more than one.
Cal-Arizona State Series
Arizona State owns a 13-10 all-time mark over the Bears, including a 9-5 record against Cal in Tempe. The Bears are making their third straight road trip in the series this week. Last season, Cal scored the final 20 points of the game for their first win in Tempe since 1990, 55-38. The game featured five lead changes, but QB Kyle Boller's five TD passes helped propel the Bears to victory.
A Quick Look at Arizona State
Arizona State began the season in the Top 25 and reached as high as No. 16 in the Associated Press poll following opening victories over Northern Arizona and Utah State.The Sun Devils, however, dropped their next three contests before rebounding for wins over Oregon and North Carolina before last Saturday's 20-13 setback at UCLA. QB Andrew Walter has thrown for 1,974 yards and 15 touchdowns, with only six interceptions. The junior, though, sprained his right ankle early in the UCLA contest and did not return to action. Freshman RB Loren Wade has averaged 5.85 yards per carry, gaining a total of 491 yards on the ground, while WR Derek Hagan (42) and WR Skyler Fulton (40) have each grabbed at least 40 receptions. ASU rates second in the Pac-10 in passing defense, allowing 229.75 ypg. The Sun Devils have picked off 13 passes this year and have returned three for touchdowns.
Jeff Tedford, California (Fresno State '83), who directed Cal to its first winning football season (7-5) in nine years and the nation's biggest one-year turnaround in the regular season in 2002, owns an 11-10 mark in his second season as head coach of the Golden Bears. After taking over as the program's 32nd head coach in December 2001, he transformed Cal from a 1-10 team in 2001 to a 7-5 club last year. A vote of his fellow conference coaches awarded him the 2002 Pac-10 Coach of the Year award. Tedford arrived at Cal after four highly successful seasons at Oregon, where he served as offensive coordinator and helped the Ducks to a combined 38-10 record, including an 11-1 mark in 2001 when Oregon won the Pac-10 championship and earned a No. 2 national ranking. Tedford began his coaching career in 1989 as an offensive assistant with the CFL's Calgary Stampeders. In 1992, he returned to his alma mater, Fresno State, as quarterback coach. A year later, he was elevated to offensive coordinator, a position he held through 1997. A native of Downey, Calif., Tedford was a record-setting quarterback as a player at Fresno State, graduating with a degree in physical education in 1983.
Dirk Koetter, Arizona State (Idaho State '82) is in his third year with the Sun Devils having compiled a 16-17 mark at ASU. Koetter, who serves as his own offensive coordinator, guided the Sun Devils to an 8-6 record and a berth in the Holiday Bowl last season. He started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Idaho State before becoming a head coach at nearby Highland High School in 1983. In 1985, Koetter received his first opportunity as an offensive coordinator at San Francisco State, then moved on to UTEP from 1986-88. From 1989-97, Koetter split time as a coordinator at Missouri, Boston College and Oregon. He got his first college head coaching opportunity at Boise State in 1998, where he posted a 26-10 record in three years, including two Big West titles.
IKON Office Solutions Play of the Week
Each week throughout the 2003 football season, IKON Office Solutions salutes the Golden Bear Play of the Week. Against Arizona, junior LB Joe Maningo intercepted a pass at the Cal 5-yard-line and returned it 51 yards to set up Cal's first touchdown of the day.
The Times Player of the Game
Each week throughout the 2003 football season, the Contra Costa Times will recognize the Cal Player of the Game. In the Arizona contest, senior TB Adimchinobe Echemandu ran the ball 30 times for a career-high 201 yards and three touchdowns.
Echemandu Averages 134.0 Rushing Yards in Past 4 Games as Pacific-10's 2nd Leading Ground Gainer With 881 Yards
Senior tailback Adimchinobe Echemandu has been perseverance personified, having overcome back-to-back missed seasons due to personal reasons to finally emerge as one of the Pac-10's premier rushers. Averaging an eye-bulging 5.37 yards per carry this year, Echemandu has rushed for 881 yards and eight touchdowns on 164 carries through nine games. His 97.9 yards-per-game average ranks second in the Pac-10 behind Oregon State's Steven Jackson, who's out of sight at 126.38 ypg. Buoyed by a career-high 201 yards (30 carries) and three touchdowns on the ground Saturday against Arizona, the 225-pound senior has averaged a hefty 134.0 rushing yards per game over his last four appearances. Echemandu has reeled off career highs of 201 vs. Arizona, 147 yards (34 carries) vs. USC Sept. 27 and 146 yards (19) vs. Oregon State Oct. 4 in three of his last four games. With his 201-yard rushing bonanza last weekend, he became only the 10th player in Cal history to puncture the 200-yard barrier in a game. With his historic effort, the "Etch Man" also joined the school's 1,000-yard rushing club for his career (1,120) and moved into 12th place on Cal's single season rushing list with his 881 yards. During the season, Echemandu has enjoyed some other noteworthy milestones: his 60-yard touchdown jaunt against Southern Miss was the longest run from scrimmage by a Cal back since the year 2000 (Joe Igber, 80 yards at Arizona State), and his 147-yard outburst against USC marked the first time an opposing running back had rushed for 100 yards in a game against the Trojans in 17 contests. While projections can be faulty at best, it's interesting to note that Echemandu's current rushing rate would compute out to 1,273 yards for a 13-game season. That figure would rank second behind Chuck Muncie (1,460) on Cal's single season list.
5 of Golden Bears' Last 7 Games Decided in Final 2 Minutes
Cal's Cardiac Kids may be only 4-5 this season, but virtually every one of their games has been great theater. Five of the Bears' last seven games have been decided in the final two minutes of the game, with California prevailing in two of those five nail-biters in victories at Illinois Sept. 20 (31-24) and vs. USC Sept. 27 (34-31, 3 OT). The Bears, who roared to a 21-7 hafltime lead over the No. 3 ranked Trojans, finally had their hand raised in victory on a 38-yard Tyler Fredrickson field goal in the third overtime. The previous week in Champaign, Ill., Cal staved off a furious Illinois rally that saw a 31-14 lead dissipate to 31-24 before Bear linebacker Wendell Hunter sacked Illini quarterback Jon Beutjer on the game's final play to seal a Cal victory. Those two last-minute wins came on the heels of two straight losses in which Cal roared back from two-touchdown deficits in the third quarter to claim short-lived leads over both Colorado State Sept. 6 and Utah Sept. 11, only to lose both games by slim margins. The Golden Bears, trailing 20-7 in the fourth quarter against visiting Colorado State, stormed back with two Reggie Robertson-to-Geoff McArthur touchdown strikes of six and 17 yards in the span of five-and-a-half minutes to give Cal a 21-20 lead with 6:34 left in the game. But the Rams, fueled by the brilliant passing and running of 2002 MWC Offensive Player of the Year Bradlee Van Pelt (317 yards passing/60 rushing), rallied in the final two minutes to set up a game-winning 32-yard field goal by placekicker Jeff Babcock. Then in Salt Lake City Sept. 11, the Bears wiped out a 21-7 Utah cushion by scoring 17 unanswered points in the third period. But the Utes regrouped to ring up 10 straight points in the fourth quarter, including a 14-yard winning TD run by Brandon Warfield with only 1:06 left on the clock. The Bears' heartbreaking loss came two weeks ago at the Rose Bowl, where UCLA edged UCLA, 23-20 in overtime, after Cal had tied the game with 11 seconds left in regulation when Aaron Rodgers hit Burl Toler with a 35-yard TD strike and then Rodgers connected with Echemandu with a two-point pass play to knot the score, 20-all. For California head coach Jeff Tedford, who now owns an 11-10 overall record since arriving in Berkeley last season, his Bears have endured five losses by seven points or less in his brief Cal career (including three by two-point margins-a 30-28 tear-jerker at USC last year and a pair of 23-21 decisions to visiting Air Force in 2002 and Colorado State this year-plus the three-point setback at UCLA two weeks ago). In fact, Tedford's 10 defeats at Cal over the past two years have been decided by an average of 7.5 points.
McArthur Ranks 5th Nationally With 877 Receiving Yards
Emerging as one of the nation's leading receivers this year, junior wide receiver Geoff McArthur has pierced the 100-yard receiving mark four times this year in ranking fifth among all NCAA Division I-A players in total receiving yards (877) through nine games. McArthur leads all Bear receivers in receptions (54), yards (877) and touchdowns (six). Those numbers translate into some impressive averages of 6.0 receptions (4th Pac-10, 27th NCAA), 97.4 yards (3rd Pac-10, 12th NCAA) and 16.2 yards per catch. He caught a career-high 10 passes for 155 yards and one TD in Game 5 on Sept. 20 at Illinois-the most catches by a Cal receiver since Dameane Douglas snared 13 vs. Stanford in 1998-and has hunted down eight passes or more four times this season. He tracked down eight balls for a career-high 169 yards at Kansas State (including a career-best 65-yard TD grab), eight for 130 and two TDs at Utah, his 10-for-155 effort in Illinois, and nine for 128 at UCLA Oct. 18. His 169-yard performance at K-State was the most receiving yards by a Cal player in six years (Bobby Shaw, 11 rec. for 204 yards at Houston, 1997). Interestingly, McArthur was well on his way to a big year in 2002, averaging 6.0 catches and 60 yards per game over his first five contests, but a hamstring injury limited him to one start and six receptions in the final seven games of the season.
Only a Junior, McArthur Moving Up Cal's Career Receiving Charts
Only a junior, wide receiver Geoff McArthur is swiftly climbing the school's all-time lists in receiving. He currently stands tied at No. 9 in career receiving yards (1,699) and tied for No. 10 in career receptions (114).
More McArthur: California Star on Pace to Shatter School's Single Season Record for Receiving Yards
Besides his ascent on Cal's career receiving lists, McArthur is also hot on the trail of the school's single season record for receiving yards. His 97.4 yards-per-game average, if he continues to stay on pace, would project to 1,266 yards through a 13-game season.
Minus Oregon State Debacle, Rodgers Completing 62.7% of Passes in His Rookie Season as Cal's Starting Quarterback
Cal's sophomore quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has started the last five games in his first season of major college football, continues to experience personal growth as the Bears' promising young field general. Last weekend, the game plan called for Cal's running game to dominate the play selection, as the Bears threw a season-low 17 passes in the 42-14 triumph over Arizona. While Rodgers completed 9-of-16 attempts for only 92 yards against the Wildcats, he engineered Cal's widest margin of victory (28 points) this year and the second biggest victory in the two-year Tedford Era (only the 70-22 season-opening win over Baylor last year was greater). While Rodgers has posted a respectable .564 completion percentage (110-of-195) for 1,307 yards, seven TDs and three interceptions in eight games this season, his accuracy has actually been much better. If you subtract his nightmarish performance in the 35-21 loss vs. Oregon State-when he was held to 52 yards on 9-of-34 passing (.265)-the Butte College transfer has completed a more robust .627 percentage (101-161) for 1,255 yards in his other seven games of 2003. Rodgers, who has already gained national kudos for his early-season showings for Tedford's club, has particularly shined in first halves this year. In the UCLA tilt Oct. 18, he threaded 15-of-19 for 150 yards (0 TDs and INTs) in the first half. In the USC game Sept. 27, he battled through multiple injuries (ankle, finger and ribs) to complete 17-of-21 attempts for 203 yards and two touchdowns by intermission, setting the stage for Cal's upset win. And in the Illinois win Sept. 20, Rodgers clicked on 17-of-28 passes for 236 yards in the opening 30 minutes. And providing the Bears with one of the nation's best backup QBs is Reggie Robertson, who started the first four games of 2003 and currently ranks second in the Pac-10 in passing efficiency (155.76). He subbed for the wobbly Rodgers in the USC tilt and proceeded to thread nine of 12 attempts for 109 yards and one TD in the final 22 minutes of regulation and the three overtimes. Despite losing Kyle Boller to the pros (first round, Baltimore Ravens), the Cal passing game under Tedford has thrived, now ranking seventh in the Pac-10 at 234.3 aerial yards per contest. Rodgers, a third team JC All-American last year, has overcome the Oregon State nightmare to post pass for his 1,307 yards. All of his three interceptions have been thrown in his last 97 attempts, after opening his Cal career interception-free in his first 98 passes. Robertson, meanwhile, has connected on 63.3 percent (62-of-98) of his attempts for 797 yards, nine TDs and three interceptions.
With QB Boller & RB Igber Gone, Cal Offense Still Produces
A year ago, the school's No. 2 all-time passer Kyle Boller and No. 2 career rusher Joe Igber spearheaded Cal's first winning season (7-5) in nine years. While Boller-selected 19th overall (Baltimore Ravens) in the 2003 NFL Draft's first round-and Igber have departed to the pros this fall, Cal has actually experienced a slight increase in total offensive yardage this year. However, this year's club is averaging 7.3 less points per game than 2002 (a figure that encompasses scoring from all three facets of the game-offense, defense and special teams).
With Only 2 Starters Back from 2002, Inexperience of Cal Defense Spells Up-and-Down Year for Pac-10's 9th Ranked Unit
Still a work in progress, California's defense continues to show signs of both growth and inexperience. Featuring nine new starters from last year's unit, the Golden Bears have weathered a choppy season that has seen it allow 399.0 yards (9th, Pac-10) and 25.0 points (6th Pac-10) per outing. However, the Bears' "D" has performed relatively well in six of their nine games this year. They spun a defensive shutout (34-2) against Southern Miss in its Aug. 30 home opener, and held Colorado State and Illinois-both potentially explosive clubs-to 23 and 24 points, respectively. Against the Los Angeles schools, Cal limited USC to 24 points in regulation, some 15 points below their league-leading 39.7 ppg average entering the game, and held UCLA to 228 total yards and 23 points. And last weekend, despite allowing 404 total yards of offense, Cal's defense limited the Wildcats to 14 points.
Cal's Leader in Tackles, Sacks & Tackles for Loss, McCleskey A Bona Fide All-Pac-10 Choice As One of Nation's Top DBs
Cal's Donnie McCleskey has been nothing short of sensational as the sophomore leader of the Bears' defense. McCleskey, the Golden Bears' second-year starter at rover, has posted 77 tackles, 5.5 sacks and 11.0 tackles for losses of 46 yards-all team-leading figures-while emerging as one of the Pac-10's finest players. A former Los Angeles Times San Gabriel Valley Player of the Year who rushed for 2,236 yards and 29 TDs as a senior at Bishop Amat High School last fall, McCleskey has already set the school record for most sacks by a defensive back in a season (eclipsing the three sacks set by CB Nnamdi Asomugha (the Raiders' first-round pick this year) in 2000. Overall in the Pac-10, McCleskey leads all defensive backs in tackles-per-game (8.6, 3rd), sacks per game (0.61, 7th) and tackles for loss per contest (1.22, 5th). He reached double figures in tackles for the fourth time this season in the UCLA game, making 10 stops against the Bruins Oct. 18.
Yo Vinny! Cal's Strang Ranks 3rd in Pac-10 Punt Returns
While he only weighs 150 pounds--up from a playing weight of 137 pounds last season--senior Vince Strang plays much bigger. The senior wide receiver/punt returner has scored three touchdowns this season in part-time work. First filling in for the injured Mixon Sept. 20 at Illinois, Strang returned five punts for 107 yards, including an electrifying, change-of-field 69-yard TD scamper with only 23 seconds left before halftime. Thus far this year, Strang has also caught 14 passes for 171 yards and two TDs in reserve. And his 10.6 yards per punt return (16 for 171 yards) ranks third in the Pac-10 and 38th in the NCAA.
Toler & Strang Pick Up Slack for Injured WR Makonnen
Junior Burl Toler III and Strang, both of whom entered Cal as walk-on wide receivers, have performed surprisingly well in picking up the slack left by the oft-injured Makonnen, who played in only three games before undergoing season-ending surgery. Toler (32-428, 2 TDs) and Strang (14-171 2 TDs) have shouldered the load, combining for 46 receptions, 599 yards and four scores in ranking second and fourth (tied), respectively, in catches on the team. Toler hunted down four passes for 81 yards (all in the first half) vs. USC Sept. 27 and cracked the century mark for the first time in his career with seven catches for 104 yards at UCLA two weeks ago. He is the son of ex-Cal linebacker great Burl Toler Jr. (another Cal walk-on, now a Bay Area architect) and grandson of former USF football legend and long-time NFL game official Burl Toler Sr.
All-Pacific-10 Conference Candidate Mark Wilson Anchors California's Veteran Offensive Line That Sizzled vs. Arizona
With 44 starts to his credit entering the Arizona State game, senior offensive tackle Mark Wilson ranks first among all Pac-10 offensive linemen and third nationally for most career starts. Wilson, voted All-Pac-10 honorable mention last year, is the quiet leader of a veteran offensive line that shredded Arizona's defensive front Saturday in opening gaping holes for 327 rushing yards to pave the way for the 28-point win. Thus far, Wilson and his fellow starting interior linemen-tackle Chris Murphy, center Nolan Bluntzer, and guards Jonathan Giesel, Ryan O'Callaghan and Aaron Merz-have been the foundation for a Cal offense that has paved the way for 381.8 yards and 28.3 points per game. While admittingly facing some of the nation's best defensive clubs thus far, the Cal O-Line has yielded 22 sacks in the first nine games. However, they have allowed only 12 sacks over their last six games vs. Utah (one), Illinois (two), USC (two), Oregon State (none), UCLA (five) and Arizona (two). Giesel, nursing an ankle injury, returned to his customary left guard spot in the starting lineup Saturday after missing the previous two games vs. Oregon State and UCLA. Merz had started in his place in those two games.
A Win for the Ages: Cal Shocks USC in Pac-10's Biggest Upset This Year, As Bears Win 1st Game over No. 3 Team Since 1951
When Cal scored a 34-31 triple overtime win over nationally No. 3 ranked USC in its Pac-10 opener Sept. 27-severing the nation's second-longest current winning streak (11 games)-it was truly a victory for the ages. Not since 1975-when Joe Roth and Chuck Muncie led the eventual Co-Pacific-8 champion Bears to a 28-14 triumph over then No. 4 ranked Southern Cal-had Cal posted a win over a Top 5 opponent. And it had been 52 years since California had beaten a No. 3 ranked foe (Stanford in the 1951 Big Game, 20-7). In its history, Cal has only beaten a Top 10 team seven times and a Top 5 school on only three occasions.
Fredrickson, 1st Starting Punter-Kicker at Cal Since Longwell, Has Experienced Highs & Lows of College Football in '03
When senior Tyler Fredrickson replaced JC transfer Lucas Everett at punter in the second quarter of the Southern Miss game Aug. 30, it marked the first time in seven years that a Cal player as done double duty as the No. 1 punter and placekicker. From 1994-96, Ryan Longwell handled both chores and still ranks in the school's Top 10 in both punting (5th, 41.9 avg.) and kick scoring (9th, 177 points). Longwell, now the long-time NFL kicker with Green Bay, was brilliant as a Cal senior in '96 with a 45.2-yard punting average and 70 points, including 11-of-16 in field goal attempts. Fredrickson, a film major who has already held summer jobs at George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch and Dreamworks Studio, averaged 39.5 yards per punt last year, including seven punts of 50 yards or better and 19 boots that landed inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Thus far in 2003, Fredrickson has experienced the true highs and lows of college football. He averages 38.9 yards per punt (9th in the Pac-10) while connecting on 29-of-29 PATs and eight-of-18 field goal attempts. He played key roles two recent Cal wins, converting his only field goal try at Illinois-a 32-yarder that lifted Cal into a 31-14 fourth-quarter lead-and a 38-yard FG that sealed Cal's 34-31 triple-overtime victory against No. 3 USC. A footnote to Fredrickson's season: seven of his 10 field goal misses this year have been by the narrowest of margins, with three hitting the goal post upright, four that were blocked, and two that just pulled wide from distances of 54 and 51 yards.
Incoming JC Talent Beginning to Make Impact on '03 Bears
As the need has dictated, Cal's incoming junior college transfers have made a strong impact on the 2003 Golden Bears. No less than eight new JC players have claimed starting jobs or significant playing time. On defense, linebacker Francis Blay-Miezah-who clutched his first sack of the year vs. Oregon State-has started eight games and safety Matt Giordano has four starts. Also, hard-charging end Ryan Riddle has made three starts and leads all linemen with 4.5 sacks (2nd on team overall) this season. Another linebacker, Joe Maningo, who transferred from nearby Foothill College, has impressed with his hyperactive play. He missed four games with a knee injury, but drew his first career start at UCLA Saturday, and has contributed 12 tackles, two tackles for loss and one interception in his five game appearances. He made the play of the game against Arizona Saturday, intercepting a Kris Heavner pass at the Cal eight-yard line and setting up the game's first score with an electrifying 51-yard return. And a fifth JC defender, Ray Tago, who joined the team late, has seen action in five games despite injuries. Giordano (40) and Blay-Miezah (33) currently rank fourth and fifth, respectively, on Cal's tackle list. On offense, three JC transfers are already key contributors-QB Aaron Rodgers and TE Garrett Cross (who equalled the most receptions by a Cal tight end in eight years with seven for 41 yards and one TD vs. USC) and TB J.J. Arrington (283 yards, 56 carries, 5 TDs).
Eight Bear Defenders Have Accounted for Club's 9 Interceptions
With linebacker Joe Maningo and safety Mike McGrath both plucking off a pass Saturday, Cal's defense has now made nine interceptions this season. Interestingly, eight different players have intercepted passes, with McGrath-the second team All-Pac-10 special teams performer last year-the lone Bear to pick off two passes in 2003.
Cal Victimized by 21 Plays of 30 Yards or More in 1st 9 Games
As Cal's young players continue to gain experience, the Bears have been susceptible to giving up the big play in 2003. Through their first nine games, the Bears have allowed opponents to uncork 21 plays of 30 yards or longer. However, seven of those 21 plays came in Cal's very first game against Kansas State, while three occurred in their contests vs. Oregon State and UCLA. Eight of the opponents' big plays this season have measured 50-plus yards or more. The Bears improved last weekend, as they allowed only one big play: a 49-yard run by Arizona running back Michael Bell.
Starters Jonathan Makonnen (Foot), Tim Mixon (Knee) Sidelined With Season-Ending Injuries That Required Surgery
Cal's fortunes took a downward turn in recent weeks when wide receiver Jonathan Makonnen (stress fracture of left foot) and cornerback Tim Mixon (torn ACL in left knee) suffered season-ending injuries. Both have undergone successful surgeries, but their presence is missed. Makonnen, the Bears' leading receiver as a junior in 2002 with 54 catches for 682 yards and seven TDs, was limited to 14 receptions, 209 yards and one TD in three games played this fall. Mixon, who was beginning to resemble last year's Cal freshman of the year, Donnie McCleskey, before the injury was sustained at Utah (Sept. 11), had bagged 14 tackles and one sack, and had broken up a team-high five passes in his first three games this year as a redshirt freshman.
Tedford Continues QB Tradition at Cal
Since the days of All-American John Meek, who led Cal to an unbeaten season and Rose Bowl title in 1937, the Golden Bears have been a cradle for college quarterbacks. Twelve years later in 1949, Bob Celeri also earned All-American honors after guiding the Bears to a 10-1 mark and Rose Bowl appearance. In the past four decades, Cal has produced an extraordinary list of polished passers. They include such legends as Joe Kapp (1956-58), Craig Morton (1962-64), Steve Bartkowksi (1972-74), Pat Barnes (1993-96), Joe Roth (1975-76), Rich Campbell (1977-80), Gale Gilbert (1980-84), Troy Taylor (1986-89), Mike Pawlawski (1988-91) and Pat Barnes (1993-96). Perhaps, the best is yet to come in Berkeley, thanks to the arrival of head coach Jeff Tedford last year. Tedford, himself a former All-American honorable mention QB at Fresno State, has recruited and/or developed five quarterbacks who have become high first-round draft choices in the NFL. As offensive coordinator at Fresno State, he worked his magic with Trent Dilfer (No. 6 pick by Tampa Bay, 1994) and David Carr (No. 1 by Houston, 2002). As offensive coordinator at Oregon, he transformed Akili Smith (No. 3 by Cincinnati, 1999) and Joey Harrington (No. 3 by Detroit, 2002) into college superstars. And last year at Cal, he inherited senior Kyle Boller, who after three previous seasons of frustration, blossomed into perhaps the nation's most improved quarterback. Boller, who later would become a first-round draft choice of the NFL's Baltimore Ravens, finished his Cal career ranked first in TD passes (64) and second all-time in passing yards (7,980) in school history.
Bears Enjoy One of Their Finest Recruiting Years Ever
Tedford and his Cal coaching staff enjoyed one of the finest recruiting years in school history. The Bears signed 28 players in February, including 11 who received All-American accolades. Virtually every recruiting publication and web site ranked Cal's incoming class among the nation's Top 20. In Rival.com's ranking of the state's Top 100 prep players, the Bears landed 14 from the list (only USC had more among NCAA schools). Cal also boasted six of the country's Top 125 junior college players, according to PrepStar magazine. The recruits came right on time for Cal, which tied for the fewest returning starters (nine) among NCAA Division 1-A schools this year.
Bears Ended 12-Year Drought in Tempe With 2002's 55-38 Win
When Cal journeys to the desert this weekend, it will do so without a 5,000-pound gorilla on its back, thanks to last year's 55-38 victory over the Sun Devils. Prior to that win, the Bears had not tasted victory in Tempe in 12 years-not since they edged Arizona State, 31-24, in 1990. The Sun Devils-who own a robust .742 all-time winning percentage (220-77-3) at Sun Devil Stadium-had reeled off five straight victories over Cal in Tempe during that 12-year span. And those five setbacks were all blowouts, with ASU outscoring California by a combined 189-51 points with the smallest margin of defeat during that stretch being 16 points in 1992 (28-12). Even that 1990 Bear victory at Sun Devil Stadium wasn't easy, as Cal had built a 31-3 third-quarter lead only to stave off a furious Arizona State rally to win, 31-24. Last year's contest continued that edge-of-your-seat trend through three quarters, but the Bears scored 17 unanswered points in the fourth period to beat the No. 25 ranked Sun Devils and halt the 12-year streak.
It Was Milestone Mania in Last Year's Cal-ASU Game
Besides the combined 93 points scored, last year's Cal-Arizona State game featured individual stars galore. Consider the single play and game accomplishments produced by both Golden Bear and Sun Devil players in the 2002 contest:
? Cal's Kyle Boller tied his career high by passing for five touchdowns, completing 16 of 35 attempts for 213 yards.
? Cal's Joe Igber rushed for 144 yards on 30 carries, and caught four passes for 33 yards including a 17-yard TD grab with 7:08 left in the game that gave the Bears a 48-38 lead.
? Cal's Nnamdi Asomugha intercepted an Andrew Walter third-quarter pass and raced 85 yards for a TD that widened the Bears' lead to 35-24. It was the third-longest interception return in school history.
? ASU's Andrew Walter, who completed 29-of-50 passes for 477 yards and four TDs, set the Sun Devils' single season passing record in the game, eclipsing the old mark of 2,878 yards by Danny White.
? ASU's Terrell Suggs broke the Pac-10 and school single-season sack record with his sack of Boller in the second quarter, surpassing the old mark of 19 sacks, held by three players including ASU's Al Harris.
? ASU's Shaun McDonald set the ASU single-season receiving yards mark at 1,207 with six catches for 138 yards vs. Cal.
Cal's Jeff Tedford & ASU's Dick Koetter Masters of Wide-Open Offenses, But 2003 Scoring Averages Down From Last Year
California's Jeff Tedford and Arizona State's Dick Koetter are unquestionably two of the premier offensive minds in college football today. Last season, the Golden Bears churned out 35.6 points per game to rank second in the Pac-10 (behind USC's 35.8 ppg), including scoring outbursts of 70 points vs. Baylor, 55 at Arizona State and 46 vs. New Mexico State. Meanwhile, Koetter's Sun Devils, who rang up such point totals as 65 (Stanford), 46 (Central Florida) and 45 (Oregon) in games last year, ended the 2002 campaign as the conference's fourth-leading offensive team with a 32.3 ppg average. Having lost some key players from last year's teams, both Cal and ASU have tailed off slightly in their scoring prowess this season.
Sack-Happy Bears and Devils Continue to Harass the QB, Despite Losing Some of the Pac-10's Leading Pass Rushers from '02
Last year, the Sun Devils and Golden Bears were two of the leading sack defenses in the Pac-10, ranking second (51) and third (44), respectively. And it was no wonder, considering that the two schools featured three of the top five sack artists in the Pac-10 in 2002. Arizona State's Terrell Suggs, who won a bushel of post-season awards (Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year, Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Lombardi Award, etc.), led the conference with 24 sacks. And Cal's Tully Banta-Cain (13) and Tom Canada (12) ranked second and fifth, respectively, on the conference sack list. While all three defensive ends were seniors last year, the two defenses are ranked near the top of the league again in sacks. The Sun Devils currently are listed fourth in the Pac-10 with 24 sacks in eight games, while the Golden Bears have corralled 23 in nine games to rank fifth. One interesting sidelight of Saturday's game is the fact that Cal's pass rushers will square against an Arizona State offensive line that has allowed the second-fewest sacks (13) in the Pac-10 this year.
Cal's Strang, ASU's Golden Among Pac-10 Punt Return Leaders
Special teams may play a deciding role in Saturday's skirmish. If they do, two of the Pac-10's leading punt returners may figure in the fireworks. Cal's Vincent Strang, who has popped a 68-yard return for a touchdown in the Bears' 31-24 win at Illinois Sept. 20, currently ranks third in the conference with a 10.6-yard average. And Arizona State's Josh Golden, while still looking to convert his first return for a TD this season, is averaging 11.9 yards per attempt to rank second in the Pac-10.
Bears, Sun Devils Both Suffering From Red Zone Woes in 2003
One of the key barometers for a football team is success in the red zone. Entering the back side of the 2003 season, both Cal and Arizona State have struggled when venturing inside their opponents' 20-yard line. The Sun Devils have converted 22-of-29 red zone opportunities-16 touchdowns and six field goals-for a 75.9% success rate to rank fifth in the Pac-10. And the Golden Bears, who led the conference in red zone offense last year through the first eight games (32 of 33) before fading down the stretch, has scored 23 times (17 TDs, 6 FGs) in 31 red zone chances this year to rank sixth in the conference at 74.2 percent.
Rushing to Judgment: Cal's Ground Game & ASU's Rush Defense Could Be Key Matchup in Saturday's Skirmish in Tempe
One of the pivotal matchups in Saturday's game figures to be Cal's ground game against Arizona State's rush defense. The Golden Bears, ignited by Comeback Player of the Year candidate Adimchinobe Echemandu, are cranking out 147.4 rushing yards per game to rank fourth in the Pac-10. That statistic may even be misleading, as the Bears have run the ball against such nationally-ranked defenses as Kansas State, USC, Oregon State, UCLA, Southern Miss and Colorado State thus far this season. Echemandu, the conference's second-leading rusher with 881 yards and flashy 5.4 yards-per-carry average, missed the past two years due to academic and medical reasons. In fact, his rehab from knee surgery had progressed to the point that he was slated to make the Arizona State trip last season to possibly play in his first game of 2002, but missed the charter plane to undergo emergency appendectomy surgery the day before the ASU contest. Cal's resurgent rushing game hit its zenith for 2003 last weekend when the Bears spewed out 327 yards on 59 carries against Arizona-the first time Cal has produced a 300-yard rushing game in 11 years. The last time the Bears rushed for more yards was in 1992, when they mowed down San Jose State for 352 yards on the ground. And Cal's six rushing touchdowns Saturday tied for the third most in school history. On the other side of the line, Arizona State has yet to find all the answers against the run. After eight games, the Sun Devils are yielding 144.9 rushing yards per game, the eighth-worst mark in the Pac-10.
Four Sun Devil Players Feature NFL Bloodlines
Four Arizona State players are blood relatives to current or former National Football League standouts. Sophomore cornerback Mike Davis, Jr. is the son of Mike Davis, who played 11 seasons with the Oakland-Los Angeles Raiders, including two Super Bowl teams. Junior safety Greg Gruendyke is the second cousin of Marv Levy, the former Cal and Buffalo Bills head coach, who is also a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Sophomore tailback Hakim Hill is the son of ex-Arizona State and Buffalo Bill All-Pro J.D. Hill. And sophomore offensive tackle Chaz White is the cousin of former ASU All-American and first-round NFL draft pick (Baltimore) Todd Heap.
ASU, Cal Coaches Have Similar Work Backgrounds
While none worked together on the same staffs, some Arizona State and Cal coaches have worked at the same schools in their past. ASU head coach Dick Koetter served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Oregon in 1996-97, the same position that current Cal head coach Jeff Tedford filled from 1998-2001. The Golden Bears' defensive coordinator Bob Gregory, who coached the Ducks' defensive backs from 1998-2000, served in 2001 as defensive coordinator at Boise State-the same school that Koetter held the head coaching post from 1998-2000 before accepting the ASU job in '01. Another Cal coach who joined Oregon's staff just as Koetter left for Boise State was wide receiver coach Eric Kiesau, who was the Ducks' teamwork coordinator. One current member of the ASU staff, assistant head coach/special teams coach Tom Osborne, did serve three years with Tedford on the Oregon staff as special teams and tight end coach from 1998-2000.
11 ASU Players Hail From Northern California
The Arizona State football program certainly has dipped into Northern California to field its 2003 roster, as no less than 11 Northern Californians dot the Sun Devils' media guide. Three of those NorCal products-linebacker Ishmael Thrower, who also attended Sacramento City College, center Grayling Love and offensive lineman Zach Krula-graduated from the same high school, Valley High in Sacramento. The others include guards Gino Benedetti (San Francisco, St. Ignatius College Prep), Drew Hodgdon (Palo Alto HS) and Tim Fa'aita (Daly City, Jefferson HS, San Francisco City College), defensive linemen Shane Jones (Antelope, Center HS, Sacramento City College) and Connor Banks (Richmond, St. Mary's HS), safety Darnel Henderson (Oakland/McClymonds HS), wide receiver Moey Mutz (Livermore, Granada HS) and quarterback Sam Keller (Danville, San Ramon Valley HS).
Cal free safety Ryan Gutierrez bagged a season-high 13 tackles in the Arizona gameĽJames Bethea is the Pac-10's sixth-leading kickoff returner at 21.0, while in punt returns, Cal ranks second as a team (12.1) and Strang individually (10.6) is listed third in the conferenceĽCal head man Jeff Tedford has been associated with teams that have carved out a 32-13 record since the start of the 2000 season, as Oregon reeled off 11-1 and 10-2 marks in 2000 and '01 with Tedford serving as offensive coordinator, while Cal posted a 7-5 record in '02 and are 4-5 this yearĽSaturday's 42-14 rout was Cal's first win over Arizona in seven years. The last Bear victory over the Wildcats was a 56-55, four-overtime decision in 1996ĽThe 28-point margin of victory Saturday was the second largest of the Tedford era, only bettered by last year's season opener (70-22 over Baylor)ĽThe 42 points scored Saturday was a season-high, surpassing the 34 tallied in a 34-2 win over Southern Miss in Week TwoĽIn the Arizona game, Adimchinobe Echemandu (201) and J.J. Arrington (11 att., 92 yds., 2 TDs) just missed both rushing for 100 yards in the same game for a second time this year. They turned the trick earlier this year against Southern Miss, with Echemandu gaining 127 yards and Arrington adding 114ĽThe Bears seized a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter Saturday, marking only the second time in the last 10 games (dating back to the 2002 Big Game vs. Stanford) that Cal scored first in a game. The Bears are 5-5 in those 10 tiltsĽCal opponents have returned only 17-of-40 punts this year for a scant 4.3-yard average and a long of only 15 yardsĽThe Bears have now tallied 28 points or more in 14 of the last 21 games under Tedford; prior to Tedford taking over the program last year, the Bears had reached the 28-point plateau only 10 times in their previous 48 contestsĽUnder Tedford, Cal has also now scored 20 points or more in 12 consecutive games for the first time in school historyĽThis Saturday's game is Homecoming Weekend at Arizona StateĽSun Devil Stadium was the site of one of Jeff Tedford's finest moments. As offensive coordinator at Oregon, he concocted a game plan for the 2002 Fiesta Bowl that produced 38 points, as the Ducks dispatched Colorado, 38-16ĽThis weekend's game features three of the Pac-10's top four tacklers: Arizona State's Jason Shivers (9.9 per game, 2nd) and Riccardo Stewart (8.5, 4th), and Cal's Donnie McCleskey (8.6, 3rd)ĽGood news, bad news department: Cal has attempted the second most field goals in the conference with 18 (Washington State is 19-for-21 in FG attempts). However, the Bears have only made eight of those 18 attemptsĽOne area where Cal and ASU have dipped significantly compared to last year is turnovers created. In 2002, ASU caused a Pac-10 high 40 turnovers (18 fumbles, 22 INTs), while Cal tied for second in the conference with USC with 36 turnovers caused. In 2003, however, ASU ranks fifth with 18 TO (5 fumbles, 13 INTs) and Cal-despite playing a conference-high nine games-has forced the second-fewest turnovers in the league with 14 TO (5 fumbles, 9 INTs)ĽASU quarterback Andrew Walter, who ranked third in the Pac-10 in passing efficiency as a sophomore last year, enjoyed the best passing yardage day in NCAA Division 1-A football in 2002 when he carved up Oregon for 536 yardsĽThe all-time ASU-Cal series has been full of lopsided verdicts, as only four of the 23 meetings have been decided by less than a touchdownĽNotable Arizona State alumni: the Giants' Barry Bonds, MLB's single season home run king and a first-ballot Hall of Famer; Warriors' owner Christopher Cohan; baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson; Stephen Knott, former managing partner of Knott's Berry Farm; ABC Monday Night Football broadcaster Al Michaels; Barry Rosenblum, president of Time Warner Cable; comedian/actor of television's "Just Shoot Me" fame, David Spade; and network TV talk show host Jimmy Kimmel.