Sept. 20, 1997

California-Oklahoma Pregame Notes


California returns to the friendly confines of Memorial Stadium when it entertains Oklahoma this coming Saturday in a nationally televised 3:30 p.m. game. The game will be televised by Fox Sports Net (Bay TV in the Bay Area). Cal has met Oklahoma twice, losing the 1954 season opener, 27-13, and then losing, 28-17, in the second game of the 1976 season. Both of those games were played in Norman, Okla., and both came during excellent Sooner seasons as Oklahoma finished 10-0 in '54 and was 9-2-1 in 1976. In the '76 game, Cal QB Joe Roth completed a then-school record 27 passes (27-46-284) and the Bears had 29 first downs, but the Sooners rolled up 490 rushing yards to key the victory. Cal will travel to Oklahoma next Sept. 19 to complete a 2-game contract. Cal brings a 61-32-4 record in home openers into Saturday's game and will be looking to continue a trend that has seen the Bears win 26 of the last 39 home game since early in the 1990 season. With last week's win at Houston, Cal has posted a 26-8 record against non-conference foes over the last 7 years.


It didn't take long for new Cal quarterback Justin Vedder to establish his presence as the leader of the Cal offense. While making his debut in the starting line-up, Vedder changed the play at the line of scrimmage on the first 2 plays in the Astrodome against Houston last week. That type of confidence and command of the offense is just what the offensive coaches are looking for at the quarterback position, but it's not a trait you often find in a transfer player who's only been in the program since January. Vedder ended his opener by throwing for 321 yards, the 28th-best single-game performance in Cal history. According to Cal quarterback coach Troy Taylor, Vedder "didn't miss a check all night," saying his control of the game and the offense was excellent. Below is a list of the many of the quarterback debut performances over the years.

Cal Quarterback Debut Performances

Justin Vedder     9/6/97  at Houston      24-31-1-321 yds-2 TD  Won   35-3
Pat Barnes       11/6/93  at Arizona St.  10-33-3-125 yds-0 TD  Lost  41-0
Dave Barr         9/5/92  San Jose St.    18-27-0-175 yds-3 TD  Won  46-16
Mike Pawlawski    9/8/90  at Wisconsin    13-21-0-132 yds-2 TD  Won  28-12
Troy Taylor     10/11/86  Oregon St.      13-22-1-138 yds-0 TD  Lost 14-12
Gale Gilbert     11/8/80  at Arizona St.  11-24-2-192 yds-0 TD  Lost  34-6
Rich Campbell     9/9/78  at Nebraska     16-32-1-271 yds-2 TD  Lost 36-26
Steve Bartkowski  9/9/72  at Colorado     24-49-2-261 yds-1 TD  Lost 20-10
Craig Morton     11/3/62  at UCLA         18-32-1-236 yds-1 TD  Lost 26-16


Bobby Shaw couldn't have asked for a better springboard for his bid for All-America honors this fall in the nationally televised opener at Houston. He was the dominant player on the field as he hauled in 11 passes for 204 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He was named the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts and currently ranks No. 1 on the NCAA receiving list with a one-game average of 11.0 catches per game (he's second on the national receiving yardage list). The 204 yards ranks as the third-best single-game receiving total in Cal history while the 11 catches ties for the 8th-best receiving effort in the school record books. Shaw keyed all 3 of Cal's first half scores as he caught a 41-yard pass to take the ball to the Houston 3-yard-line to set up Cal's first touchdown and then caught TD passes of 30 and 50 yards to help the Bears build a 21-3 lead at the intermission. He now has caught 19 TD passes in his career, an amazing stat in view of the fact he's started only 17 games in his career. A big play receiver, Shaw now has 17 catches of 30 yards or longer since the start of the 1995 season. He now ranks No. 8 on Cal's career receiving list, needing just 5 catches to take sole possession of 7th place. Below is a list of Cal's career receiving list.

Cal Career Receiving List

Name (years)                  No.-Yds- Avg-TD   Name (years)                  No.-Yds- Avg-TD
1. Brian Treggs (1988-91)    167-2335-14.0-15   5. Steve Sweeney (1970-72)   132-2043-15.5-21
2. Na'il Benjamin (1993-96)  165-2196-13.3-13   6. Sean Dawkins (1990-92)    129-2124-16.5-31
3. Mike Caldwell (1989-93)   139-1999-14.4-13   7. Dwight Garner (1982-85)   120-1027- 8.6- 1
4. Steve Rivera (1973-75)    138-2085-15.1- 9   8. Bobby Shaw (1994-97)      116-1842-15.9-19


It's been a good while before a Cal team could boast that its defense ranked among the best in the nation. And, certainly, making that claim this early in the season is a little misleading. However, the stats show that Cal is ranked No. 3 nationally in total defense, allowing just 165.0 ypg and is tied for No. 2 in scoring defense at 3.0 ppg. Both those marks lead the Pac-10. While those rankings may not hold up over the course of the season, Cal certainly seems to be a vastly improved defensive football team. Remember Cal gave up 646 yards in its final game last year. The Bears played solidly early in the game and completely dominated the 2nd half when Houston managed just 4 first downs and only 29 yards of total offense. It was truly a group effort as no Cal player had more than 5 tackles and 3 different players were credited with turnover recoveries (1 interception, 2 fumble recoveries). One of the disappointments in the opener was the loss of starting LB Keith Miller, who went down with a ligament sprain in his knee and is expected to miss the next 4-to-6 weeks. His replacement, Justin Flagg, performed well after that first quarter injury as he recorded 5 tackles and had a fumble recovery. It appears that JC linebacker Albert Dorsey will now move to Miller's position to compete with Flagg for starting duties.


Clearly, Tarik Smith is the headliner among Cal running backs in 1997 as he has the type of ability that could make him a first round NFL draft choice. However, the Houston opener proved that this is no one-trick pony as Smith was only Cal's fourth-leading rusher with 29 yards. He did manage to break a 15-yarder in the first quarter and had an 18-yard reception to set up Cal's second touchdown, but for the most part, was contained in his '97 debut. There's little doubt in the Cal camp that Smith will eventually put up big numbers, but it was nevertheless encouraging to see that there are a lot more flavors to offer in the offensive backfield. Fullback Joshua White was the most impressive of the backs as the 245-pound tank was practically unstoppable. He ended the day with 48 yards on 9 carries, including a 5-yard TD run. The Cal coaches called upon him 4 different times in third down-and-short situations and he responded with a first down run each time. The most impressive was when he went 12 yards with as many as four Houston players draped all over him while he continued to churn his legs. Fellow fullback Marc Vera had just one carry for 6 yards, but did catch 4 passes for 21 yards. Reserve tailback Brandon Willis had 37 yards on 5 carries, including a long of 18, freshman Marcus Fields had 35 yards on 7 carries, including a long of 12 yards and a 3-yard TD run, and soph Deltha O'Neal had 25 yards on 4 carries, including a long of 11 yards.


Cal's offensive and defensive line coaches, Tom Cable and Mike Waufle, were generally pleased with the play of their respective units in the opening rout of Houston. They were particularly happy to be able to provide playing time to several of their reserves, which should pay dividends down the road this season. Cable had eight different linemen participate in 10 or more plays while Waufle used 9 different players along the defensive side of the football. Both coaches indicated that the top performer on each side was an All-America candidate -- center Jeremy Newberry on offense and tackle Brandon Whiting on defense. Newberry was in on 84 plays and graded out highest among the linemen with an 88 percent grade in the film evaluations. Whiting recorded his first sack of the season and dominated play on the line of scrimmage. Cable also singled out tackle John Welbourn, who was in for 58 plays in his first action after last year's knee injury. Guards Yauger Williams and Kevin Swillis were in for 74 plays, tackle Brian Shields for 70 plays, tackle Kursten Sheridan for 40 plays, guard John Romero for 12 plays and guard Tate McCallister for 10 plays. Defensively, Cal got a solid outing from the starting unit of Whiting, Jerry DeLoach, James Gibson and Mawuko Tugbenyoh, while reserves John McLaughlin, Andre Carter, Jeremiah Parker, Jacob Waasdorp and George Roberts all saw a good amount of playing time.


It's may be unreasonable to draw many conclusions fromone game, but Cal's offensive coaches had to be pleased with the team's efficiency in third down and red zone situations in the Houston opener. Cal converted 9-of-15 third down situations (along with one fourth down coversion). The balance was excellent as 5 of the third down conversions came via the run while 4 were through the passing game. If you take away three extremely long third down opportunities (3rd-and-15, 3rd-and-19 and 3rd-and-21), cal was 9-of-12 in other third down situations. A year ago, Cal converted 43.2 percent of its third-down situations to rank No. 3 in the conference in that category. Cal was also efficient once inside Houston's 20-yard-line as the Bears converted each opportunity into a touchdown. Last year, Cal converted 38 of 52 redzone opportunties (73.1 percent), although only 32 of those opportunties evolved into touchdowns (61.5 percent).


The Cal coaching staff has indicated that it plans to redshirt highly regarded freshman quarterback Samuel Clemons with Ryan Tollner moving into the main reserve spot behind Justin Vedder; Tollner played the final series against Houston, but did not throw a pass; Wesley Dalton is third on the depth chart....Current NFL rosters show that Cal has five players from last year's club who have made the grade with another on a practice squad: draft picks Tony Gonzalez and Pat Barnes are with Kansas City, first-rounder Tarik Glenn is with Indianapolis; free agent Ryan Longwell is with the Green Bay Packers; Kevin Devine is with the Carolina Panthers; offensive tackle Todd Stewart is on the Carolina practice squad...Oklahoma has 3 players on its roster from the state of California -- a pair of offensive linemen from Santa Monica JC (Tim Conley and Harold Powers) and a freshman DB from Bakersfield in Tim Mantighi; Cal has nobody on its roster from Oklahoma...since the beginning of the 1990 season, Cal is 34-6-1 in games in which it has rushed for 150 or more yards (including a 6-0 mark last season; the Bears were 0-6 last season when they failed to reach the 150-yard mark)...Cal hopes a bye week will speed the return of 2 players who figure to immediately play an important role at the tight end position: junior A.J. Kunkle, who began practicing last week following rehab of a knee cap injury, and freshman Corey Smith, who returns this week from an ankle injury suffered in fall camp in Turlock; Cal did not attempt a pass to the tight end position in the Houston opener, but it figures to be an integral part of the passing offense before long...reserve linebacker Nate Geldermann is scheduled to undergo knee surgery this week and is slated to redshirt this season...reserve offensive lineman Caleb Brown has a broken bone in his hand and will not return for the next 2-3 games...reserve offensive tackle Kevin Doherty has a sprained knee and is expected to return to practice in approximately 2 weeks.