Nov. 19, 1997
California-Stanford Media Notes
100th Big Game Press Conference
CAL TO VISIT STANFORD FOR HISTORIC 100TH BIG GAME The Cal-Stanford game always enjoys a lot of public attention and an array of pre-game activities and functions, but this Saturday's game will increase the hype and the build-up dramatically as the two teams hook up in the historic 100th Big Game. Between luncheons, press conferences, radio and television appearances, donor meetings, auctions and tailgate functions, it will be a miracle if the coaches of both teams can focus their own and their teams' attention to the actual game which is slated to kick off at 12:30 p.m. in Stanford Stadium. The game truly is more of a week-long event than just 60 minutes of football. An indication of the importance of the game in the Bay Area came when it was officially announced the game will be televised live on KGO-TV, after the station was granted an exception to do the game rather than carry the official Pac-10 Game of the Week. In a way to honor the long tradition of the Big Game, both teams will wear "throw-back" jerseys with Cal copying a style the Golden Bears wore in the early 1930s. Cal will also wear a traditional gold Block C on the side of its helmet (this was a style of Cal helmets in the 1960s), instead of the Cal script. In order to accommodate a spectacular halftime show, the two schools have agreed to extend the halftime intermission 10 minutes to 30 minutes, with the gentlemen's agreement that whichever team is penalized for delay of game, the other will decline the penalty.
CAL LOOKING FOR 40TH BIG GAME VICTORY The Bears will be looking for their 40th victory in the long series as the Cardinal holds a 49-39-11 edge in games dating back to 1892. The series ranks 10th in the NCAA record books in total games played between 2 schools. The schools have split the last 4 Big Games, but Stanford is working on a 2-game winning streak. Overall, Stanford holds a 23-18-1 edge in games played at Stanford and has won 5 of the past 6 games in Stanford Stadium. After 99 games, only 89 total points separate the scoring with Stanford having 1,543 compared to Cal's 1,454 points and 46 Big Games have been decided by one touchdown or less. A year ago, Stanford controlled the flow of the game from the opening whistle and withstood a late Cal rally to emerge with a 42-21 victory. Cal was behind 34-7, cut the lead to 34-20 with 12:29 left in the game, but couldn't come any closer. Stanford rushed for 220 yards on the ground, including 127 by Mike Mitchell.
CAL AND STANFORD HAVE PARTICIPATED IN GREATEST NUMBER OF 'CLIFFHANGER' GAMES Cal and Stanford have faced each other in 4 "cliffhanger" games (decided on the last play of the game), more than any other series in college football. The Cal-Stanford dramatic finishes began in 1972 when Vince Ferragamo hit Steve Sweeney with a 7-yard TD pass for a 24-21 Cal victory. The other 3 cliffhangers were in 1974 when Stanford's Mike Langford hit a 50-yard field goal for a 22-20 victory; in 1982 with Cal's amazing 5-lateral kickoff return dubbed "The Play" for a 25-20 win; and in 1990 when Stanford recovered an onsides kick and John Hopkins hit a 39-yard FG for a 27-25 win. The 2 teams would have had another cliffhanger in 1988, but a potential game-winning 19-yard FG by Robbie Keen was blocked by Stanford's Tuan Van Lee. All have been at Memorial Stadium.
CAL YOUTH TO MATCH SKILLS WITH STANFORD EXPERIENCE THIS SATURDAY As it has been with many of the match-ups Cal has faced during the 1997 season, this Saturday's game will feature a young Cal team going up against a much more experienced opponent. A look at both Cal's and Stanford's two-deep depth chart illustrates the point in emphatic fashion. Out of Stanford's 22 starters on offense and defense, the Cardinal features only one sophomore or freshman starter (sophomore nosetackle Willie Howard). Cal, on the other hand, has 10 starters (3 freshmen, 7 sophomores) on offense and defense. The difference is particularly noticeable on defense where Stanford starts 8 seniors compared to just 2 for Cal. In fact, Cal has only 3 seniors on its 22-member defensive two-deep. On offense, Stanford has 12 seniors on its two-deep, compared to 6 on Cal's offensive two-deep.
CAL ESTABLISHING REPUTATION AS A NEVER-SAY-DIE COMEBACK SQUAD IN 1997 When you're facing a tough season and with little hope of a bowl berth down the stretch, many squads wilt under the mental strain and cave in. That's why Cal's ability to withstand adversity and battle back late in games this year -- particularly in the last half of the season -- is such a positive omen for the future. It all started in the chill of Pullman, WA when the Bears found themselves down 55-6 and facing complete destruction. Instead of giving up, Cal scored 31 straight points and had pulled within 19 points with the ball before an interception ended Cal's surprising comeback bid with 2 minutes left in the game. The next week, Cal found itself down 21-3 on the road at UCLA, but twice scored TDs to pull within 11 points in the second half before eventually succumbing to the Bruins, 35-17. After destroying Oregon State, Cal again faced one of the nation's best teams in Arizona State and was down 28-7 in the second half. Instead of being buried, Cal scored a pair of TDs and pulled within 28-21 with just over 4 minutes to go in the contest before losing by that same score. Last week, Cal came back from a 10-point deficit at Arizona and was only one dropped pass from winning the game in regulation, before eventually losing in the second overtime. That resiliency and refusal to quit has the Cal coaching staff optimistic that the Bears can turn the corner next year and emerge as one of the upper echelon teams in the Pac-10.
15 CAL SENIORS PLAY FINAL GAME IN BLUE & GOLD, HOPE TO GO OUT WITH A VICTORY Saturday's game at Stanford will mark the final appearance of 15 California seniors. Among those who will be wearing the Blue and Gold for the final time are 10 fifth-year seniors: Chris Easley, Rasheed Hibler, Kofi Nartey, Drake Parker, André Rhodes, George Roberts, Bobby Shaw, Kursten Sheridan, Brian Shields and Tarik Smith. The only senior who leaves the program as a 4-year starter is defensive tackle Brandon Whiting. Others who are graduating seniors are Evan Hershey, John Rice, Kato Serwanga and Marc Vera.
CAL DEFENSE TAKES SMALL STEP TOWARD RESPECTABILITY, BUT STILL PLAGUED BY BIG PLAYS
It doesn't take a genius to figure out the biggest problem for Cal's youthful defense this season. It's getting burned by the big play. In almost every game this season, Cal has played very well in spurts, only to inevitably give up big plays that have been momentum changers. In 10 games this year, Cal has given up 41 plays of 25 yards or longer, with over half of those (21) resulting in touchdowns. When you consider, Cal has given up 42 touchdowns this season, exactly half of them have come on big plays. Fitting in with that theme is the statistic that shows Cal in the middle of the Pac-10 in first downs allowed (19.5 per game, which ranks 6th in the league), but is 9th in total defense (395.5 yards per game) and is 10th in scoring defense (31.8 points a game). The hope in Berkeley is that Cal will eliminate the mistakes and assignment errors that have led to the defensive breakdowns as it's youth turns to experience next season. Below is a list of the Cal opponent big plays this season.
Cal Opponent Big Plays This Season
Houston (32 p, 25 r)
Oklahoma (54 r TD, 65 int TD, 73 p TD, 33 p TD, 26 p, 27 p, 98 y blocked PAT)
Louisiana Tech (52 p, 27 p, 36 p TD, 39 p, 28 r, 25 p, 42 p TD)
USC (25 p, 33 p TD, 65 p TD)
Washington (43 p TD, 25 p)
Washington State (54 r TD, 72 p TD, 28 r TD, 57 p TD, 55 p TD, 26 r, 43 p Td, 36 r)
UCLA (54 p, 58 p TD, 56 p TD, 28 p)
Oregon State (29 p)
Arizona State (28p, 28p, 67p TD)
Arizona (42p, 28r TD, 62r TD, 28 p TD)
TURNOVERS, SACKS BEGIN TO GO CAL'S WAY
Cal, which entered the UCLA game with just 12 sacks on the season (an average of just 2 per game), has come on the last 4 games to produce much better numbers in that category. Although only recording 3 QB sacks against UCLA's Cade McNown, the Bears did put excellent pressure on him. Cal recorded 5 sacks each against both Oregon State and Arizona State and came back with 4 sacks last week at Arizona. Senior Brandon Whiting has been the most active quarterback hunter as he has 7 sacks on the season, an impressive number for an interior lineman who normally faces double teams. In terms of creating turnovers, Cal has had a roller-coaster season. The Bears ranked as one of the nation's top teams in that category after the first 2 and a half games, having creating 10 turnovers in the first 2 games and the first half of the USC game. However, over the subsequent 16 quarters, the Bears did not create a single turnover. Entering the UCLA game, Cal had 9 turnovers and rated 80th nationally at minus .33 turnovers per game. After good performances at UCLA (3 fumble recoveries), vs. Arizona State (3 fumble recoveries) and at Arizona (1 fumble recovery, 1 interception) along with the Oregon State game when the Bears didn't create (or need ) a turnover, the Bears now are 57th nationally in turnover margin (.00 per game). Cal now has 13 fumble recoveries on the season, exceeding last year's total of 10. Below is a list of Cal's fumble recoveries over the last 12 years.
Cal receiver Bobby Shaw will want to go out with a bang in his final game at Cal as he's been relatively quiet over the last few weeks and would like to have an impact this Saturday. The senior has averaged only 4 catches and 40.7 yards a game with only a single touchdown over the last 3 games, after averaging 8.1 receptions and 131.6 yards with 8 touchdowns in the first 7 games this year. He still ranks tied for 8th in NCAA receiving with an average of 6.9 receptions per game and is 12th nationally in receiving yardage (104.3 yards per game). He'll match skills with Stanford receiver Troy Walters who, himself, is having a banner season as his 80 receptions is the second most in Pac-10 history and he ranks 3rd nationally with 8.0 receptions per game, while he's 5th nationally in receiving yards (110.6 yards per game). Shaw has now set 4 Cal receiving records. He owns the Golden Bear marks for most receptions in a career (174), most receiving yards in a career (2681), most receptions in a season (69) and most 100-yard games in a career (11). He figures to add most receiving yards in a season this week as he needs just 28 yards to move past Sean Dawkins record of 1070 yards in 1992. Shaw is also moving well up on several Pac-10 lists. Below is a synopsis of where Shaw ranks on the Pac-10 Top 10 lists.
CAL'S FORGOTTEN RECEIVER DAMEANE DOUGLAS COMING ON STRONG IN LATE SEASON While all the attention has been deservedly showered on Cal senior Bobby Shaw who has put together a monster season, junior receiver Dameane Douglas has quietly come on like gang-busters the last past of the season and his having a super season. His 12-catch performance (143 yards) last week at Arizona ties him for the third-best single-game receiving performance in Cal history. He now has caught 21 passes for 256 yards over the last 3 games, while Shaw has slumped slightly in that period. Douglas now has 42 catches on the season, following on the heels of a 37-catch season as a sophomore. That's a good sign for next season when Douglas will be asked to carry the load as Cal's premier receiver in 1998.
CAL FANS HAVE AN EYE TOWARD NEXT SEASON AS 16 STARTERS RETURN IN 1998 Cal still has plenty to play for this season and wants to finish strongly in the final 2 games, but it must be hard for Golden Bear fans not to look forward to next season when the Bears figure to make a big impact on the Pac-10 with the wealth of experience they'll have returning. A look at this week's two deep shows that 35 of the 44 players on the offensive and defensive two-deep are slated to return in '98. That includes 10 current juniors, 3 sophomores and 4 freshmen on offense and 7 juniors, 7 sophomores and 4 freshmen on defense. The starting units make the point even more dramatically as Cal has just 3 seniors on offense and 2 seniors on defense. Among Cal's 22 starters, there are 6 sophomores, 3 freshmen and 8 juniors. That doesn't take into consideration that starting linebacker Keith Miller, who went down with a knee sprain in the first game and will earn a medical redshirt season, will be back as a junior next year and would also have qualified as a returning starter rather than André Rhodes who currently ranks as a senior starter. Two other players who were recruited a year ago to contend for starting positions, but were shelved in redshirt status due to injuries are cornerbacks junior Drae Harris and soph Harold Pearson, who should return for possible starting duties in '98.
CAL QUARTERBACK JUSTIN VEDDER BEGINNING TO MOVE UP ON CAL SINGLE-SEASON LISTS
For a first-year quarterback who began learning the Cal offense from scratch this past January, junior Justin Vedder has acquitted himself rather nicely in his first season with the Golden Bears. If he throws for 200 yards this week at Stanford, something's he's accomplished in 8 of 10 games this season, he will have thrown for more yards than any other Cal quarterback in his starting debut season in Golden Bear history (Pat Barnes threw for 2685 yards in 1995). His poise and command of the offense has been impressive and last week's performance against Arizona was another case in point. For the first time all season, he did not throw an interception. Plus, he added a career long 23-yard run to set up Cal's first overtime touchdown. More importantly, he pieced together Cal's most impressive offensive drive of the season when he orchestrated an 18-play, 76-yard drive in the final minutes of regulation to set up a game-tying 22-yard field goal. He completed passes of 8 yards to convert a 3rd-and-6 situation and 14 yards to convert a 3rd-and-13 situation on that drive and then hit Dameane Douglas for a 20-yard pass to get the ball to the Arizona 4-yard-line with 28 seconds left in the game. On the next play, he threw an apparent TD pass to tailback Tarik Smith that would have won the game, but Smith dropped the ball and Cal had to settle for a field goal. Overall, Vedder ranks 20th nationally in total offense (249.1 yards per game) while he is 49th in pass efficiency (126.8 rating). With 2486 yards, Vedder currently ranks No. 8 on Cal's all-time single-season passing list. He's 7th on Cal's single-season total offense list. He should move up significantly on both lists in his season finale this week. Below is where Vedder ranks on both Cal lists, plus a look at other Cal quarterback debut seasons.
Cal Quarterback Debut Seasons
CAL CONCENTRATING ON ESTABLISHING A RUSHING THREAT IN THE LATE SEASON Through the first 6 games of the season, Cal was running the football on 52.2 percent of its offensive plays (248 of 475). Since that time, Cal has run the ball 59.8 percent of its total plays the last 4 games (189 of 316). That's even more significant when one realizes that the Bears were behind by 18 and 17 points at halftime in 2 of those 4 games and were behind by 10 points early in the fourth quarter last week at Arizona, meaning the team had to go to the pass more in a catch-up situation. The tone was set in the UCLA game when the Bears ran the ball on its first 16 plays from scrimmage. The first drive only gained 7 yards on 3 plays, the second only 8 yards on 3 plays, but then the pounding began to pay off as Cal moved 55 yards on the ground on 10 running plays before having to settle for a field goal. Cal fell behind and had to go to the passing game more often later in the game, but the Bears did run on 46 of its 75 plays against the Bruins. Three weeks ago, Cal ran on its first 4 plays and on 32 of its 49 first half offensive plays against Oregon State, helping forge a 33-7 halftime lead. Against Arizona Statez, Cal ran the ball on 46 of its 77 plays (59.7 percent of its plays). Last week, Cal ran on 48 of its 87 offensive plays at Arizona.
ODDS AND ENDS, ET CETERA, MISCELLANEOUS, THREE-DOT DATA Cal has scored on 26 of its 30 Red Zone opportunities (at or inside an opponent 20-yard-line), a superb 86.7% conversion rate; even more impressive is the fact he Bears have scored 22 touchdowns on those opportunities, meaning they've converted 73.3 percent of those opportunities into TDs...Cal has really struggled in the pass interception department, ranking last in the Pac-10 with just 5 interceptions. The Bears went 232 passes without an interception until Marquis Smith grabbed an Ortege Jenkins pass on the first Arizona series last week; showing how snakebit the Bears have been, even that interception became a liability as Smith fumbled the ball on his interception return, Arizona recovered and went on to score a touchdown on the ensuing drive...Cal defensive end Mawuko Tugbenyoh is obviously a frustrated running back and is making the most of his opportunities; when he picked up a Jenkins fumble (on a Sekou Sanyika sack) and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown, it was the second time this season he's rambled into the endzone with a fumble recovery (he went 58 yards at Washington State), more than any other player in Cal history...Two weeks ago, Cal announced a new two-game home-and-home series with No. 3 ranked Nebraska beginning next season; the Bears will host the Cornhuskers on Sept. 12 before returning the favor by traveling to Lincoln on Sept. 18, 1999...Of Cal's 7 losses this season, 6 have come at the hands of teams who figure to garner bowl berths. Among those are 3 teams on pace to be playing on New Year's Day (UCLA at 8-2, Washington State at 9-1 and Arizona State at 8-2). Others having impressive seasons are Louisiana Tech at 9-2 and Washington at 7-3 with USC figuring to get a bowl berth with a 6-4 mark...The 26 points Cal scored in the second quarter against Oregon State was the fifth-most points a Cal team has ever scored in a quarter...Cal has faced 4 of the top 12 ranked quarterbacks this season with UCLA's Cade McNown currently ranking No. 1, WSU's Ryan Leaf at No. 3, Washington's Brock Huard at No. 4 and Louisiana State's Tim Rattay at No. 12....Cal freshman punter Nick Harris has a huge leg and has gotten off at least one boomer in each of the first 10 games this season. Now averaging 42.7 yards per punt (35th nationally) which would tie him for the fourth best single-season average in Cal history, he has bests of 48, 53, 52, 49, 48, 53, 52, 56, 63 and 52 yards in each of the 10 games this season.