Oct. 6, 1997
California vs. Washington Media Notes
* CAL RENEWS CONFERENCE SCHEDULE WITH FIRST WASHINGTON MEETING SINCE '94
California gets back into the thick of the Pac-10 wars this Saturday, hosting Washington in Memorial Stadium at 12:30 p.m. The Bears haven't met Washington the past 2 seasons as part of the Pac-10 master schedule which sees each school missing a particular conference opponent for 2 consecutive seasons. While the overall series record between Cal and Washington is fairly close, with the Huskies leading, 40-32-4, Washington has won 14 straight games. In fact, the Bears haven't claimed a victory over Washington since the 1976 season when Cal shut out the Huskies 7-0 in Seattle. During the current Washington winning streak, Cal has seen several probable victories snatched away during the final minutes. In 1979, Cal had a 417- to 252-yard advantage in total offense, but watched Mark Lee return a punt 64 yards for the winning score with 6:04 left to provide a 28-24 Husky victory. In 1981, Cal jumped to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and had the lead virtually the entire game until Chuck Nelson kicked a 21-yard field goal with 0:11 left in the game to give the Huskies a 27-26 win. In 1988, Cal controlled a game played in Seattle, building a 27-3 lead midway through the third period, before watching Washington score 25 straight points, culminating on a 25-yard John McCallum field goal with 0:02 left on the clock to provide the margin of victory. In 1993, the Huskies handed the Bears their first loss after a 5-0 start with a pair of touchdowns in the final 2:06 to come from a 23-3 third quarter deficit to a 24-23 victory. In games in Berkeley, the series is nearly even with Washington leading 20-18-1, but the Huskies are riding a current 7-game winning streak in Cal's Memorial Stadium.
* AFTER FACING NATION'S NO. 1 PASSING TEAM, BEARS NOW FACE NCAA NO. 1 PASSER
In a classic case of "jumping out of the frying pan into the fire," Cal's pass defense finds itself in the midst of a stretch that would test even Deion Sanders' nerves. Last week, the Cal secondary contended with the nation's most prolific passing attack last week at Louisiana Tech. This Saturday it's the NCAA's top-ranked passer in Washington quarterback Brock Huard. If the Bears are looking for a breather, it isn't just around the corner as next week they'll travel to Washington State where Ryan Leaf, who most project as one of the top 2 NFL quarterback prospects and who is currently ranked No. 10 nationally in pass efficiency, will lead a wide-open Cougar passing attack (currently ranked No. 5 in the nation). The Bears gave up 343 passing yards to Louisiana Tech and several long passing plays, but did hold Bulldog quarterback Tim Rattay to less than a 50 percent completion rate (24-52). Huard may not throw as much, with a solid Husky rushing attack that is averaging 181.3 yards per game, but he is extremely accurate as evidenced by a 60.5 completion percentage. After going head-to-head with the NCAA's No. 1 receiver last week in Louisiana Tech's Troy Edwards, who burned the Bears for 9 catches for 176 yards, Cal faces Washington's Jerome Pathon who ranks third nationally in receiving yards with 149.5 yards per game. He averages just 5.5 receptions per game (ranking 33rd nationally), but obviously makes the most of his catches with an average per reception of 27.2 yards.
* CAL TEAM AT A CROSSROADS AS BEARS TO BE IN UNDERDOG ROLE NEXT 3 WEEKS
The Cal football team harbored some big expectations after getting off to a 2-0 start this year. However, prospects have diminished considerably in the past 2 weeks following consecutive losses to USC and Louisiana Tech. Thus, the Bears find themselves at a crossroads entering the mid-part of their schedule. Over the next 3 weeks, Cal finds itself up against 3 nationally ranked teams that all figure to be major favorites with No. 10 Washington on tap this week, followed by undefeated and No. 12 ranked Washington State on the road and then the nation's second leading scoring offense in No. 18 ranked UCLA in Los Angeles. It's a formidable task for a young Cal team that is struggling to hold things together. With only 4 seniors in the starting line-up (and as many as 10 sophomore starters), Cal hopes the void of experience will be replaced by the promise of improvement as younger players quickly gain experience this season. The Bears have earned bowl berths 4 times in the last 7 years, and the last 3 times Cal has gotten off to 2-0 starts ('96, '93 and '91) as this season, bowl invitations have been garnered in December. However, Cal will have to find a way to pull off some upsets in the next 3 weeks if it plans to be in contention for a bowl bid entering November.
* IF CAL CAN STOP BEATING ITSELF, THINGS COULD GET BETTER IN A HURRY
If Cal can find a way to stop shooting itself in the foot, its fortunes could change dramatically in a hurry. It's been a frustrating season for the Bears as crucial penalties and key mistakes have stood in the way of a much better record. The positive sign is that Cal could develop into a very dangerous team if it can solve some of those issues. Over the first 4 games, Cal has had 4 touchdowns plus a two-point conversion called back due to penalties. That does not even count several other big plays that didn't result in touchdowns, which have also been called back due to penalties. Even with that, Cal ranks 12th in the nation in total offense, averaging 445.3 yards per game and is averaging 31.5 points a game (30th in the current NCAA rankings). Give the Bears those negated scores and they'd be averaging 39.0 points a game and ranked in the Top 10 in that category. It makes one wonder what could be accomplished if the Bears can eliminate some of their mistakes. Cal is averaging 13.5 penalties and 125.3 penalty yards thus far and the Bears obviously need to improve in that department if they hope to bounce back into bowl contention. Last week's 41-34 loss to Louisiana Tech was a perfect example. The Bears rolled up 549 yards of total offense, 28 first downs and had a 35:08 to 24:52 time of possession edge, but still lost as they gave up a touchdown with 0:53 left in the game. With score tied 7-7 in the first quarter, the Cal defense had apparently stopped a Louisiana Tech third down play, but a penalty gave the Bulldogs a first down and allowed them to continue on a TD drive. That TD came on a 4th-and-10 situation from the Cal 36-yard-line. After falling behind 21-7, Cal rallied to take control of the game in the second half, but again mistakes and penalties prevented the Bears from putting the game on ice. After driving to the Bulldog 2-yard-line in the third quarter and the score tied 27-27, Cal missed a scoring opportunity by throwing an interception in the endzone. After taking a 34-27 lead entering the fourth quarter, Cal had a 74-yard TD pass to Deltha O'Neal called back due to a holding penalty down field and eventually had to punt. On the next series, Cal apparently had recovered a Louisiana Tech fumble at the Bulldog 20-yard-line, but it was wiped out by a defensive holding penalty.
* BEARS SUCCESS TIED TO ABILITY TO CREATE PRESSURE & TURNOVERS
Statistics can be overused and misrepresented, but it's virtually impossible to ignore the turnover stat and its influence on Cal's success this season. After creating 3 turnovers in each of the first 2 games (both victories), the Cal defense has not had a single turnover the last 2 weeks (both losses). After ranking 12th nationally in turnover margin following the first 2 games, Cal now has fallen to tied for 77th in that category. Turnovers can be huge momentum changers and the Bears haven't had any such emotional lifts the last 2 weeks. One play from each of the last 2 games is illustrative. In the USC game, Cal threw an interception on its first offensive series which the Trojans took at the Cal 26-yard-line and 2 plays later they scored a touchdown to take early control of the game. Last week, Cal had an apparent fumble recovery in the fourth quarter at the Louisiana Tech 20-yard-line and was hoping to build on a 34-27 lead. However, a holding penalty negated the recovery and the Bulldogs went on to win the game. Many turnovers are created by pressure on opponent quarterbacks and the Bears haven't been able to exert much pressure the last 2 games. Cal did manage 3 sacks against USC's John Fox, but for the most part he could sit in the pocket without being harassed. On the flip side, the Trojans collected 7 sacks against the Bears. Last week, the Bears didn't collect a single sack against Louisiana Tech, despite the fact that there were 52 pass attempts. Below is a list of the game-by-game turnovers and sacks by each team, and it obviously has ramifications in the result column.
Game Takeaways Giveaways +/- Cal Sacks Opp. Sacks Result
Houston 3 1 +2 2 (-14 yds) 2 (-14 yds) Win
Oklahoma 3 2 +1 2 (-10 yds) 1 (-6 yds) Win
USC 0 2 -2 3 (-24 yds) 7 (-47 yds) Loss
Louisiana Tech 0 2 -2 0 (0 yds) 2 (-14 yds) Loss
* CAL'S BOBBY SHAW CONTINUES PURSUIT OF CAL RECEIVING RECORDS
After knocking off one Cal receiving record last week, Cal senior receiver Bobby Shaw is closing in on several other Cal single-season and career marks. With 121 receiving yards at Louisiana Tech, he now has nine 100-yard receiving games in his career (out of 20 career starts), which bests the previous record of eight 100-yard games held by Wesley Walker. He now has moved into a tie with Steve Rivera in fourth place with 138 career receptions, needing only 30 catches the rest of the season (an average of 4.3 receptions in the final 7 games) to break Cal's all-time receiving record held by Brian Treggs. He's also on pace to break Cal's single- season receptions and touchdown catch marks held by Sean Dawkins. Shaw has now caught at least one touchdown pass in 7 consecutive games, dating back to last season. He has caught 24 TD passes (Cal career record is 31, held by Dawkins) over the last 3 seasons, despite the fact he's only started 20 games in that span. He also has 20 receptions of 30 yards or longer in his career, including 6 this season (at least one in every game). He currently ranks No. 3 in NCAA pass receiving (8.25 per game), is 4th in pass receiving yardage (145.3 ypg), 11th in scoring (10.5 ppg) and 18th in all-purpose rushing (158.0 ypg).
Cal Career Receiving List Cal Single Season Receiving List
Name (years) No.-Yds-Avg-TD Name (year) No.-Yds-Avg-TD
1. Brian Treggs (1988-91) 167-2335-14.0-15 1. Sean Dawkins (92) 65-1070-16.5-14
2. Na'il Benjamin (1993-96) 165-2196-13.3-13 2. Bobby Shaw (96) 58-888-15.3-9
3. Mike Caldwell (1989-93) 139-1999-14.4-13 3. Steve Rivera (75) 57-790-13.9-4
4. Bobby Shaw (1994-97) 138-2219-16.1-24 4. Iheanyi Uwaezuoke (94) 56-716-12.8-5
4. Steve Rivera (1973-75) 138-2085-15.1-9 Bobby Shaw (97) 33-581-17.6-7
* CAL COACHES HAVE A LOT OF CHOICES AT THE TAILBACK POSITION
It's uncommon in the era of scholarship limitations to have a lot of depth at any one position, but the Cal coaches have a wealth of talent at the tailback position. In fact, the fifth leading returning rusher in the Pac-10 from a year ago, Cal's Brandon Willis currently is the team's fourth team tailback who can't find any playing time and has only 6 carries all season. His lack of playing time is because Cal needs to get the ball into the hands of senior Tarik Smith, sophomore Deltha O'Neal or true-freshman Marcus Fields. Smith sat out last week's game at Louisiana Tech, due partly to a disciplinary situation and partly due to a sore hip. His absence wasn't felt because O'Neal and Smith combined to account for 198 yards on 31 carries (an average of 6.4 yards per carry). O'Neal is a big play artist who went 66 yards for a touchdown on his first carry from scrimmage against Louisiana Tech en route to his second 100-yard game of his career. He currently ranks 38th nationally in all-purpose rushing (135.0 yards per game), but has been victimized by a pair of penalties that have negated 2 long plays that would have pushed him well into the national Top 10. He had an 86-yard punt return for a TD called back against Oklahoma and he had a 74-yard TD reception on a screen pass called back last week against Louisiana Tech. O'Neal is ranked 22nd nationally in kickoff returns with a 25.2 yards per return average. Fields is perhaps Cal's most explosive tailback to the line of scrimmage and he had a load of work last week, accounting for 90 yards on the ground on 19 carries, including a 5-yard TD run. Cal's offensive line play was dominant last week as the Bears rushed for 235 yards. It marked the first time in the last two seasons that Cal has lost a game in which it has rushed for 150 or more yards. Since the start of the 1990 season, Cal is 35-7-1 in games it's rushed for 150 or more yards.
* JUSTIN VEDDER PERFORMING UP TO STANDARDS OF CAL QUARTERBACK GREATS
Through the first 4 games of the season, Cal's offense hasn't missed a beat from last year's performance that saw the Bears rank No. 13 nationally in total offense with an average of 457.6 yards per game. This season, Cal is averaging 446.3 yards per contest to rank 12th thus far in the NCAA. The Bears are also 12th in passing offense, averaging 293.0 passing yards a game. The man at the controls is Justin Vedder and he has shown a true command of the complex Cal offense. He currently is ranked No. 25 in NCAA passing efficiency with a 144.4 rating, while he's tied for 13th in total offense with an average of 286.8 yards per game. An elusive southpaw, Vedder offers a threat that Cal hasn't had at the quarterback position in many years with his ability to scramble out of the pocket. His 21-yard run last week at Louisiana Tech was the longest run by a Cal quarterback since Dave Barr also went 21 yards in 1993.
* ODDS AND ENDS, ET CETERA, MISCELLANEOUS, THREE-DOT DATA
Washington running back coach Wayne Moses came to Seattle after spending last season on the Cal staff under Steve Mariucci...Saturday's game against Washington is the first time in 5 games this year that the Bears aren't on live television; the game will be telecast on a tape-delayed basis in both Seattle and the Bay Area on Sunday night...Cal junior linebacker Albert Dorsey got his first start of the season last week at Louisiana Tech, in place of Justin Flagg.