Sept. 3, 1997
California Versus Houston Media Notes
CAL OPENS SEASON WITH ROAD TRIP INDOORS TO HOUSTON ASTRODOME
Cal opens its 1997 football season with a road trip to the University of Houston who the Bears will meet in a nationally televised game in the Astrodome on Saturday. The Bears have never met Houston in a football game, but will see the Cougars return a trip to Berkeley for the 1998 season-opener on Sept. 5. as the counterpart to a 2-year contract. The Bears have won games their last 2 trips to the state of Texas, beating Iowa, 37-3, in the 1993 Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, and defeating Texas A&M, 19-17, in the 1983 season-opener in College Station. Saturday's game in the Astrodome is the third time in Cal history the Bears have played indoors, losing to Minnesota, 32-23, in the Metrodome in 1987, and defeating Iowa in the above-mentioned Alamo Bowl. Overall, Cal is 69-40-5 in season-openers -- but only 10-14 in opening games away from home. Cal's won 7 of its last 10 season-openers.
BEARS HOPE THEY REPEAT Rx FOR THE 90'S -- QUICK STARTS AND BOWL BERTHS
The Cal football team is enjoying one of the more successful eras in school history as the team has earned bowl berths 4 different times during the current decade. In large measure, quick starts out of the blocks have been the norm over the first seven seasons this decade and Cal is hoping to repeat that trend in 1997. Since the start of the '90s, Cal has enjoyed 5 very good starts. Cal was 5-1 en 1990 en route to a 7-4-1 record and a Copper Bowl victory. Cal was 5-0 in 1991 en route to a 10-2 record, a victory in the Citrus Bowl and a No. 7 national ranking. Cal was 3-1 in 1992, although it stumbled down the stretch to a 4-7 record. Cal was 5-0 in 1993 en route to a 9-4 record, a Alamo Bowl win and a No. 25 national ranking. Cal was 3-2 in 1994, before faltering to a 4-7 record. Last season, Cal was 5-0 and earned an Aloha Bowl berth while finishing with a 6-6 record. With a 3-1 record in bowl games during the current decade, no team in the Pac-10 has more bowl victories thus far in the '90s.
CAL & HOUSTON PROGRAMS HAVE MANY SIMILARITIES IN STAFFS, RECRUIT EMPHASIS
The Cal and Houston programs have many similarities as both have proud football traditions, both have coaches who believe in running programs with integrity and an emphasis on academic achievement, and have teams that rely primarily on homegrown talent. Houston's best season in the last 25 years came with a 10-1 record and a national No. 10 ranking in 1990, while Cal's best year in the last quarter century came with a 10-2 record and a national No. 7 ranking in 1991. Each program earned a bowl berth last season and are rated long shots for a return to the post-season this coming season. Both Cal's Tom Holmoe and Houston's Kim Helton are highly regarded in the coaching community for their integrity and a strong commitment to his players' overall welfare on and off the field. Most significantly, both programs due the bulk of their recruiting within their home states. Of the 94 players listed on Cal's roster, 86 of them hail from the school's home state (also 2 from Arizona, 2 from Washington, 2 from Hawaii, 1 from Colorado and 1 from New Zealand). Of the 114 players listed on Houston's roster, 95 come from Texas (also 9 from Florida, 6 from Canada, 2 from Alabama, 1 from Georgia and 1 from California). The lone Californian on the Cougar roster is starting flanker Maurice Bryant from Los Angeles, who transfered from L.A. Valley College and played as a reserve last season.
MASSIVE OFFENSIVE LINE HOPES TO ACCENT CAL OFFENSE IN 1997
Cal will field one of the biggest offensive lines in college football this season as the Bears forward wall starters will average 6-5 1/2 and 302 pounds. The runt of the line would be senior Brian Shields who merely checks in at 6-7 and 295 pounds with all of the other four starters going at 300 pounds or better. Cal's tremendous size doesn't stop with the starting unit either as the second team line averages 6-4 and 301 pounds themselves. In fact, of the 13 offensive linemen listed on Cal's depth chart, 11 of the players are listed at 300 pounds or heavier. Last year, Cal's starting offensive line averaged 6-5 1/4 and 303 pounds, but that included Tarik Glenn who tipped the average with his 6-6, 350-pound frame. At no time in Cal history has Cal had four 300-pound starters on the offensive line. While the size is obviously a positive, experience may be an issue in '97 as only center Jeremy Newberry, who is considered a strong All-America candidate, returns in his same position from last season. Stalwart John Welbourn moves from a guard position to offensive tackle and has had only limited practice duty as he continues to rehabilitate from knee surgery last fall. Offensive tackle Shields has just 3 starts during his career. At the guard positions, juniors Yauger Williams and Kevin Swillis will both be making their first appearance in the starting line-up.
SHAW AND SMITH HOPE TO UTILIZE EARLY TV EXPOSURE TO BOOST ALL-AMERICA BIDS
It may not be Monday night football, but Cal certainly will get its share of television exposure during the first month of the season. That could pay major dividends for offensive stars Bobby Shaw and Tarik Smith, who seem intent on making a run at All-America honors their senior seasons. After the Houston game is nationally televised by Fox Sports Net (45 million homes), the Bears come back for the same exact exposure for another For Sports Net appearance in Cal's home opener vs. Oklahoma on Sept. 20. The following week ABC will televise Cal's Pac-10 opener against USC in a regional telecast (18 million homes) in the West. Cal's next game at Louisiana Tech will be televised live by SportsChannel throughout Northern California (2 million homes). Those games could be springboard for All-America campaigns for wide receiver Bobby Shaw and tailback Tarik Smith. Shaw is a second team pre-season All-America selection by Football News and a third team pre-season All-America pick by Athlon publications. After leading the Pac-10 with 61 catches last season, he now has 105 career receptions and is just 6 catches short of breaking into Cal's all-time Top 10 in that category (Matt Bouza is currently 10th with 111 grabs from 1978-80). Smith is the player all will have their eyes on as Cal's team hopes will soar if he truly is back in the same physical condition that he displayed during the first two and a half games last year when he ranked as the NCAA's No. 5 rusher, averaging 179 yards per game last season. He's enjoyed a scintillating fall session thus far (he broke a pair of long scoring plays, a 70-yard TD run and a 42-yard swing pass reception for a TD, in the major intra-squad scrimmage of the fall) and seems ready to establish himself as one of the premier running backs in college football.
CAL'S JC RECRUITING CLASS MAY BE HUGE FACTOR IN CAL SUCCESS IN '97
When the Cal coaching staff recorded the school's biggest haul of junior college recruits since 1978 this past off-season, many eyebrows may have raised since that's not the school's traditional path. Cal's group of 12 JC transfers is the most at Cal in nearly 2 decades. In fact, during the past three years, Cal has recruited a cumulative total of only 3 JC athletes the past 3 seasons (1 in 1994, 2 in 1995 and 0 in 1996). This year's group is the biggest since former head coach Roger Theder brought in 13 new JC athletes in 1978 and 15 in '77. Regardless of the past history, it's clear that Tom Holmoe and his coaching staff have a group of transfers who will make an impact this fall. Of the dozen new athletes, 4 players are slated to start against Houston while a pair of other highly touted transfers could make bids for starting assignments once they regain full health from a pair of minor injuries. The focal point of the Cal offense is quarterback Justin Vedder, who last year led Saddleback JC to a co-national championship with an 11-0 record. He has big shoes to fill in replacing the 1996 Pac-10 passing leader in Pat Barnes, but seems up to the task as he completed 67 percent of his passes during spring scrimmages and came back with a 10-for-14 outing for 182 yards , one passing td and one rushing td in the main fall scrimmage. Others who apparently have earned starting duties in their debut seasons are fullback Joshua White, from Snow JC in Utah, inside linebacker Keith Miller from Palomar JC in San Diego and nose tackle James Gibson from Citrus JC near Los Angeles. Others who could make strong bids for starting assignments when they return from injuries in the next few weeks are tight end A.J. Kunkle from Santa Rosa JC and Drae Harris from Mesa JC in Phoenix.
JUSTIN VEDDER BECOMES FIRST JC QUARTERBACK TO START FOR CAL IN 2 DECADES
When Justin Vedder starts this Saturday against Houston, it will mark the first time in 20 years that a JC quarterback has drawn a starting assignment for the Golden Bear football program. The situation this year is almost identical to 1977. Whereas Vedder, from Saddleback JC near Los Angeles, is replacing one of the top quarterbacks in Cal history in Pat Barnes, it was Charlie Young, from Pierce JC In Los Angeles, who was asked to replace the graduated standout QB Joe Roth at the beginning of the 1977 season. Both Vedder now and Young then had a wealth of self-confidence and weren't easily intimidated. Both were relatively undersized with Vedder being 6-0 and Young was a shade under 6-1. And both faced their college debuts in hostile road environments. Young's first game came before 84,421 fans at Tennessee's Neyland Stadium and he responded by leading the Bears to a 27-17 victory. He connected on 11-of-25 passes for 154 yards, including a 58-yard TD pass to Floyd Eddings in the third quarter that broke a 10-10 tie and gave Cal the lead for good.
HOLMOE COACHING PHILOSOPHY PUTS FOCUS ON TEAM MEMBERS
While much of the focus will be on Holmoe in his first year as Cal's head coach, his coaching philosophy is one which accents the team, rather than the head coach or the coaching staff. He has insisted since the day he took the job on January 18 that the team members should be accountable to each other, first and foremost, rather than solely to the coaching staff. During spring practices, he installed a policy of making fellow team members get up for 6:00 a.m. runs if one of their teammates was late to practice or failed to fulfill a team obligation. He also has encouraged members of the team to offer suggestions in offensive or defensive philosophy or other team matters. He also would like the real leadership of the team to come from within the team itself, rather than artificially imposed from above. That type of team chemistry worked well during Holmoe's many years as a player and coach with the San Francisco 49ers. Many suggest that the Cal team last season relied so much on the fiery leadership of coach Steve Mariucci that when the team hit a mid-season slump, it looked to the coach to provide a magic solution rather than looking within the team itself. The result was that the Bears lost 6 of their last 7 games after jumping out of the blocks to a 5-0 start. Holmoe and his staff will name game captains each game this season with the team voting on the final official captains of the squad at the end of the year.
ODDS AND ENDS, ET CETERA, MISCELLANEOUS, THREE-DOT DATA
Two of the nation's finest college centers will be on display this Saturday as Cal's Jeremy Newberry is ranked the No. 4 center in the nation by The Sporting News while Houston's Ben Fricke is rated No. 1 by the same publication; Lindy's magazine has Newberry No. 6 while Fricke is listed as No. 10...Cal wide receiver Bruce Pierre is celebrating his 21st birthday on Friday, Sept. 4...Cal offensive coordinator Doug Cosbie remains a highly recognized figure in the state of Texas after his superb 10-year career as a tight end with the Dallas Cowboys; he currently recruits the state for Cal...Among the players who seems to have benefited most from the addition of new Cal strength coach Todd Rice is linebacker Matt Beck, whose strength has improved dramatically and he recently ran an average of 43.72 in the 300-yard shuttle test (five 60-yard dashes) -- which is well below the target time for skill position players, much less linebackers; he also ran a phenomenal 4.08 time in the pro shuttle (5 yards, 10 yards, 5 yards)...The fastest time in the pre-season pro shuttle was turned in by Bobby Shaw, who clocked an amazing 4.02 time...Junior defensive end John McLaughlin, a highly touted transfer from Notre Dame, missed the first 2 weeks of fall camp while fulfilling academic obligations, but returned to practice on Wednesday, August 27 and may play a role in pass-rushing and special team situations in the Houston opener...California hasn't fared particularly well against teams from the state of Texas with a cumulative 3-8 record against opponents from that state (0-2 vs. Rice, 1-0 vs. SMU, 0-4 vs. Texas and 1-1 vs. Texas A&M), however (as noted in a previous note) they have won on their last 2 visits to the state...In Cal's last regular-season trip to the state of Texas coming on Sept. 3, 1983 at College Station, there was some controversy as second-year Cal coach Joe Kapp elected to take a field goal off the board with 1:20 on the clock due to a Texas A&M penalty and negate a possible 20-17 lead; on the next play, Cal fumbled the center-QB exchange and the Aggies recovered; however, All-America linebacker Ron Rivera came through when Aggie coach Jackie Sherrill called a pitch-sweep as he broke through and recorded a safety by tackling Jimmie Hawkins in the endzone and giving Cal a 19-17 victory...Tom Holmoe begins his first year at the helm of the Cal program on the Golden Anniversary of the debut of another head coach at Cal, Pappy Waldorf, who eventually became one of the greatest coaching legends in college football history; he had an immediate impact as he led Cal to a 9-1 record in his first season in 1947 and then took the Bears to three consecutive Rose Bowls with a 10-1 record in 1948, a 10-1 mark in '49 and a 9-1-1 record in 1950.