Sept. 23, 1997
California-Usc Media Notes
* BEARS RENEW RIVALRY FOR THE 72ND CONSECUTIVE SEASON THIS SATURDAY
One of college football's longest uninterrupted rivalries will resume this Saturday afternoon when Cal hosts USC at 4:00 p.m. in an ABC regionally televised game. The game will mark the 72nd consecutive year the two teams have battled, dating back to 1926. The streak will continue until 2003 when the Pac-10 master calendar has the schools missing each other in consecutive seasons. USC has clearly dominated the series with a 53-26-5 record, but Cal turned the tables on the Trojans last year, defeating USC in Los Angeles for the first time since 1970 (USC held a 10-0-2 advantage in LA from 1970 until last season). The Trojans hold an overall 27-12-2 advantage in games played in Berkeley.
* ROLE REVERSAL FOR CAL, USC TEAMS IN FIRST 2 GAMES
While it's far too early to draw any real conclusions, the results of the first 2 games has both Cal and USC going in much different directions than the pre-season pundits expected. Many predicted Cal would be in a rebuilding phase in 1996, finishing near the Pac-10 cellar, while USC was expected to contend for the Pac-10 title and return to national prominence. With Cal coming into Saturday's game with a 2-0 record and USC getting out of the blocks at 0-2 (and 3 of its next 4 games on the road), the outcome this week will tell a lot about each program. A win by Cal will put the Bears into a strong position to contend for the program's fifth bowl berth of the current decade, while a win by USC will reverse it's early losing trend and catapult the Trojans back into the middle of the Pac-10 race, just a game out of the lead. Only one other time in the 84-game history of the series has an undefeated Cal team matched up against a winless USC team. That came in 1950 when an 0-1-1 SC team hosted a 3-0 Golden Bear squad. Cal ended up winning that game 13-7 in Los Angeles. USC has entered the Cal game only one other time without a win on the ledger, that coming in 1957 when the Trojans visited Cal with an 0-3 record and dropped a 12-0 decision to the Bears (Cal's only win that season). USC has brought a losing record into its game against Cal only 3 times in the last 35 years, dating back to the 1962 season.
* FAST START IS NOT UNFAMILIAR TO CAL PROGRAM IN RECENT YEARS
California is a program which is beginning to establish a reputation as a team that can get out of the blocks in fine fashion. Six times in the last eight seasons during this decade, Cal has begun a season with a flourish, and thus Cal's current 2-0 record has the Bears in familiar territory. Cal has put itself in position to contend for bowl berths with the following starts: 5-2 in 1990, 5-0 in 1991, 3-1 in 1992, 5-0 in 1993, 3-2 in 1994, (1-5 in 1995), 5-0 in 1996. Cal has started the season 2-0 only 4 times in the last 15 years ('91, '93, '96 and '97) and the first 3 times, the Bears rode that momentum to 5-0 starts, national rankings and bowl berths.
* BOBBY SHAW LOOKING LIKE SHOO-IN FOR ALL-AMERICA HONORS
Unless you're Jerry Rice, it's difficult to dominate a football game from the wide receiver position, but that's exactly what Cal's Bobby Shaw has done in helping Cal to wins over Houston and Oklahoma. Shaw ranks No. 1 nationally in both receptions (11.0 catches per game) and receiving yards (181.0 ypg), while he's 6th in all-purpose rushing (203.5 ypg) and tied for 6th in scoring (12.0 ppg). However, even those impressive numbers fail to tell the complete story about how huge his contribution has been to Cal's success. Cal put the Houston game away early with 3 first half touchdowns and all of them were keyed by Shaw catches. His 41-yard reception to the Houston 3-yard-line set up Cal's first TD and then he came back with a pair of first half TD receptions of 30 and 50 yards to help Cal build a 21-3 lead in route to a 35-3 victory. Last week, he came up big both early and late. He scored Cal's first TD on a 16-yard reception, but more importantly he was the main figure in Cal's final game-winning touchdown drive. On a 3rd-and-6 at the Oklahoma 22 with just over 3 minutes to go in the game, Shaw caught a slant pattern for 12 yards and a first down. Three plays later, with Cal facing a 3rd-and-goal from the Sooner 15, Shaw caught a corner route for the winning touchdown. Shaw now has caught 21 touchdown passes in his career, an amazing stat since he's only started 18 games at Cal. He now has tied Wesley Walker's school record with eight 100-yard receiving games. He currently ranks No. 7 on Cal's career receiving list with 127 catches for exactly 2000 yards. USC has a top-notch receiver in his own right in junior Billy Miller, who ranks 4th in the nation with 9.0 receptions per game.
Cal Career Receiving List
Name (years) No.-Yds-Avg-TD
1. Brian Treggs (1988-91) 167-2335-14.0-15
2. Na'il Benjamin (1993-96) 165-2196-13.3-13
3. Mike Caldwell (1989-93) 139-1999-14.4-13
4. Steve Rivera (1973-75) 138-2085-15.1-9
5. Steve Sweeney (1970-72) 132-2043-15.5-21
6. Sean Dawkins (1990-92) 129-2124-16.5-31
7. Bobby Shaw (1994-97) 127-2000-15.7-21
* CAL SOPHOMORE LINEBACKER DUO OF BECK AND SANYIKA PRODUCING BIG PLAYS
One of the finest sophomore linebackers in college football comes to town this Saturday in USC's Chris Claiborne. However, Cal has its own pair of sophomore linebackers who don't have to take a back seat in terms of productivity. Matt Beck was all over the field against Oklahoma, finishing the day with 6 tackles behind the line of scrimmage for minus 17 yards (included in that total was one-half sack). That is considered an unofficial Cal record as several players have had 5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, but he's the first to nab a half-dozen. He earned honorable mention Pac-10 honors last season and should contend for higher accolades this season. One of the most improved players on Cal's team is fellow soph linebacker Sekou Sanyika, who has been unblockable the first two games. Both Houston and Oklahoma attempted to get their outside running game going, but Sanyika has not allowed either team's vaunted running attacks to get to the perimeter, effectively shutting down that part of their offenses. After recording a pair of tackles behind the line for minus 8 yards against Houston, Sanyika came back last week with 4 more tackles for loss (12 yards) against the Sooners. If he can consistently produce those type of results, he'll be hard to ignore when its time to hand out the post-season honors. One other sophomore on Cal's defense who should also be mentioned is defensive end Jerry DeLoach. He's been very impressive the first 2 games and, along with Beck and Sanyika, will form the nucleus of Cal's defense for years to come. In all, Cal starts 6 sophomores (also: Jeremiah Parker, Mawuko Tugbenyoh, Pete Destefano) and 3 juniors on defense, with just 2 senior starters.
* CAL DEFENSE CONTINUES TO SHOW SIGNS OF MAJOR TURNAROUND FROM LAST YEAR
Everybody assumed Cal would be improved defensively this season under new coordinator Lyle Setencich. The question was whether there would be a significant amount of progress from last year when the Bears were ranked No. 105 out of 111 teams in total defense. After the first 2 games, Cal ranks 13th nationally in total defense, allowing 258.0 ypg, while the Bears are 16th in pass efficiency defense (97.8 rating) and 25th in rushing defense (95.0 ypg). There have been several encouraging signs in the first 2 games. First, Cal's defense has dominated play for long periods in both games. Second, the Bears have managed to hold in check 2 of the nation's finest tailbacks in Houston's Ketric Sanford and Oklahoma's De'Mond Parker. Third, Cal's defense came through when it mattered most in the fourth quarter against Oklahoma after the Sooners had tied the score 34-34 and had all the momentum on their side. In the Houston game, Cal's defense was impenetrable in the second half, allowing the Cougars just 4 first downs and 29 yards of total offense after halftime. Against Oklahoma, Cal gave up an opening touchdown drive and then took control of the game. On Oklahoma's subsequent 9 offensive drives (through midway into the third quarter), Cal gave up only one first down, a total of 41 yards of total offense and created 2 turnovers. Cal faced the NCAA's No. 3 rusher last week in De'Mond Parker (he's currently ranked No. 10) and on the second play of the game, he went 54 yards for a TD. However, after than slip-up, the Bears held Parker to just 27 yards on 18 carries the rest of the way. Against Houston, Sanford (currently ranked No. 25 in NCAA rushing) had one 25-yard run, but other than that play had just 54 yards on 15 carries. When the defense looked like it was going to crumble after allowing several big plays and Oklahoma tied the score at 34, the Bears again came up big. The Sooners had 3 offensive drives in the final 12 minutes of the game (the first 2 with the score tied at 34) and Cal held them to a total of 11 yards in those drives and just a single first down.
* CAL IS HITTING PAYDIRT OFTEN, BUT STILL HASN'T PUT EVERYTHING TOGETHER
After 2 games, Cal ranks 13th in the nation in averaging 37.5 points a game. That's a very impressive stat considering Cal has already had 3 touchdowns called back due to penalties in the first 2 games. One wonders how explosive the Bears can become once they clean up some of those issues. In the Houston opener, a 46-yard TD pass to Dameane Douglas was called back due to a holding penalty. Last week, Cal had a long punt return for a TD by Deltha O'Neal called back by due to an illegal block in the back and a short TD run by Tarik Smith negated by a holding penalty. The Bears rank 14th nationally in total offense, averaging 460.5 yards a game. Again, Cal's productivity has been hurt by penalties as the Bears have had several long plays called back due to penalties. In the Houston opener, Cal had a 40-yard pass to Tarik Smith negated and last week a 25-yard run by Smith was called back due to a holding penalty. After tying the school record with 21 penalties against Houston, the Bears improved some last week with 13 penalties, but obviously there's more work to be done in that category.
* CAL TAILBACK DEPTH REMINDS MANY OF THE TROJANS OF OLD
In a strange contrast from the old days, it appears that Cal has the edge in terms of rushing prowess and depth at the tailback position over USC, the traditional king in that category. In fact, while Cal ranks 37th nationally in rushing offense, averaging 173.5 yards a game, USC is dead last among 112 Division IA schools in rushing offense, averaging only 28.0 ypg. Cal is now 35-6-1 in games it has rushed for 150 or more yards over the last seven years, including 6-0 last season and 2-0 this year. Cal has superior tailback depth with 4 different players who could fill the starting role with very little drop-off in productivity. The headliner is senior Tarik Smith, who appears fully recovered from knee surgery last October. After playing the Houston opener with a knee brace, he went without the brace last week vs. Oklahoma. While his stats haven't been that impressive thus far, he's had a pair of long plays (a 40-yard screen pass at Houston and a 25-yard run vs. Oklahoma) called back due to penalties. He also seemed to have a breakthrough in the second half last week vs. Oklahoma as he had long runs (23, 20 and 10 yards) and finished the half with 13 carries for 82 yards (after gaining just 8 yards in the first half). True freshman Marcus Fields looks like he'll be a star in the next few years and he played a big role in Cal's second touchdown drive vs. Oklahoma, rushing 8 times on Cal's 73-yard scoring drive, including the final 4 yards for a TD. Weighing 202 pounds now, he has the frame to carry 215 pounds next year to go along with his 4.45 speed. Soph Deltha O'Neal is a multi-dimensional threat, who is averaging just 4 carries a game, but ranks 17th nationally in kickoff returns, thanks to a 53-yard return last week. He also would rank among the national leaders in punt returns had his 86-yard punt return for a TD vs. Oklahoma been called back due to a penalty. Junior Brandon Willis is averaging over 7 yards a carry thus far, but is finding it hard to get much playing time in a crowded tailback rotation as he had just a single carry vs. Oklahoma after carrying 5 times in the Houston opener.
* CAL SUCCEEDS IN RED ZONE OPPORTUNITIES
So far this season, Cal's offense is taking full advantage of its red zone opportunities, scoring nine of 10 times inside the opponent's 20-yard line. The Bears were a perfect 3-for-3 (all touchdowns) in the opener at Houston, then went 6-for-7 (4 TDs, 2 FG) against Oklahoma. The only unsuccessful red zone appearance came when Cal ran out the clock against OU, kneeling down with the ball twice at the end of the game. On the flip side, Cal's defense has allowed only one red zone opportunity in two games (resulting in a touchdown for Oklahoma).
* ODDS AND ENDS....MISCELLANEOUS NOTES...THREE-DOT DATA
Cal is ranked No. 31 in the current Associated Press poll while the Bears are No. 32 in this week's USA Today/CNN Coaches poll...USC offensive coordinator Hue Jackson served in the same capacity last year for the Golden Bears under Steve Mariucci; he left to accept John Robinson's offer to join the Trojan staff the last week of December -- before Mariucci ended up leaving Cal for the San Francisco 49er head coaching job...In the first 2 games, opponents are averaging just 12.5 first downs per game against the Cal defense...Cal quarterback Justin Vedder has become the first quarterback at Cal to win his first 2 games as a starting quarterback since Gale Gilbert in 1982; the last to win his first 3 games was Joe Roth in 1975 when he moved into the starting line-up in game 4 against San Jose State and won the next 3 games...Vedder currently ranks 16th nationally with a 152.5 pass efficiency rating while he's 14th in total offense with 281.0 yards per game...Cal's opening game crowd of 48,000 against Oklahoma was the program's best opening crowd since the Bears drew 56,000 against San Jose State in 1992 (coming off a 10-2 season in '91).