WELL I GOT ONE THING RIGHT...
USC did have the better team. Not enough plays from our playmakers = defeat against a very good Trojan team.
Let's send our seniors out in style with a win over the Cardinal, and a bowl victory.
Roll on You Bears, even in defeat.
Is almost here. HT to reader T for forwarding the following email from Still-Youngish Blue Michael Silver
, Sports Illy senior writer and shameless Bear homer:
"Bears... I know I am forgetting a lot of you, so please do me a favor and forward this to all interested parties. We are one game away from ending a 48-year struggle and restoring order. One victory on Saturday and we are Pac-10 champions who will soon take over Pasadena.
"One thrashing of the Trojans and Jerrott Williard's knees will hurt that much less, John Welbourn will be that much less cantankerous, and Mohamed Muqtar will go from being the Mayor of Berkeley to King of the World. You guys all know what's at stake. All I ask now is that you focus and exert the full force of your collective will
toward this all-encompassing mission, and get ready to celebrate in a way we never have before.
"God bless the Golden Bears. @#%$ everyone else. Let's do this."
And, alphabetically speaking, God Bless Irby Augustine, Jim Breech, Reggie Camp, Dante DePaola, Adimchinobe Echemandu, Scott Fujita, Matt Giordano, Gary Hein, Darryl Ingram, Paul Jones, Bob Kampa, Mick Luckhurst, Kevin Moen, Tom Newton, David Ortega, Dave Penhall, Chris Richards, Sekou Sanyika, the late John Tuggle, Iheanyi Uwaezuoke, Paul Von der Mehden, Majett Whiteside, Ray Youngblood, both Zomalt brothers and the hundreds and hundreds more who never smelled the Roses.
Let's do this.
UP ON MONTEZUMA MESA
The Cal Bears go up on the Mesa to play San Diego State on Saturday and face their first real test of the 2006-7 season. The Aztecs enter the game 4-0, though they've struggled on both ends in three of those wins (against St. Mary's, Murray State and Seattle-Pacific). Still, SDSU is expecting to return to the NCAAs for the second consecutive season under Steve Fisher.
: Brandon Heath
(left) is an explosive shooting guard who is as dangerous on the perimeter as he is on dribble drive. A major defensive test for Cal's backcourt - we may feature Ayinde at the two since State is so quick with Heath and Richie Williams
Inside, SDSU is led by Mohamed Abukar
(14.3 ppg), a long and very athletic power forward. I assume Hardin will draw this assignment, as I can't imagine that Anderson can keep up. DeVon must stay out of foul trouble for Cal to be effective (or better yet, get Abukar into foul trouble on either end of the court).
Other starters include sophomore SF Kyle Spain
, who plays much bigger than 6'5", especially on the offensive boards. Sophomore guard/forward Lorrenzo Wade
is a Louisville transfer with lots of athletic ability, but lacks polish in his game. Williams is a returning starter at the point - small (5'9") but very quick and great in transition.
Chris Lamb is a 6'10" big body who Fisher may start to lean on Hardin. Brett Hoerner
could also eat up a couple of fouls. Jon Pastorek
, a 6'8" true freshman from Anaheim Canyon HS, is the only other Aztec to play in each of the team's first four games. Jerome Habel, who was supposed to add depth up front, has been indefinitely suspended by Fisher for violating team rules.
Philosophy: The Aztecs love to run - Heath is among the nation's best at the stop-and-pop off the break. They can struggle in the half court set, and I'm sure Ben will try to take the air out of the basketball as much as possible. In the half court, look for Fisher to take advantage of Cal's lack of depth and pound the ball inside. We'll find out whether Ryan Anderson can play defense.
Prediction: This is a great early-season test for the Bears, but I'm afraid we won't pass it with flying colors. We just don't have enough able bodies to compete with an Aztec team full of big, athletic players who can score inside. The best hope for Cal is to slow the game down and try to get Abukar in foul trouble. That's a tall order away from home.
SDSU 70 California 67
BO SCHEMBECHLER 1929-2006
We're reasonably certain we weren't the last to rip Bo on the Internet
but it still feels a little creepy. (We did wish him a fast recovery, for all the good that did). Two observations:
1. You're a real football program when your coach dies and it's the lead news story on CNN
2. Michigan/OSU just became the biggest college football game ever
RIP to the last of the true Tough Guy college football coaches.
PREVIEW - CALIFORNIA v USC
Earlier this week I encouraged Cal fans to channel 1975
- a year when a Cal team full of offensive stars whacked the favored Trojans 28-14.
I've since changed my mind. Better that you remember 2004. You will recall the chess match - Tedford wanted to keep the ball away from Leinart and Bush. Carroll was content to give up the short passing game, as long as SC prevented long gains.
Both teams were effective in their respective strategies. Cal controlled the ball for 37:11 with a pinpoint short passing game and 116 yards from J.J. Arrington. At one point Aaron Rodgers completed 23 straight passes. SC used the goal line as a 12th defender, and Cal's longest pass play was only twenty yards.
Still, the game was Cal's to win. And they lost.
They lost because SC made just enough big plays to win. Their average starting position was the Cal 49 yard line. Three Trojan fumble recoveries resulted in two field goals - the eventual margin of victory. Reggie Bush had a big kick return (that ultimately led to nothing, as Leinart threw a pick). Steve Smith had a 45-yard reception that set up a Kalil field goal. Another 31-yard pass to Smith set up the 16-yard score to Jarrett for the winning margin.
Cal's strategy came close, but it ultimately fell short. And the same will be true of USC on Saturday night.
For the first time since 1991, Cal has more playmakers than SC. Carroll knows this, and will want to play keep-away - establish the ball-control passing game, mix in the run with Washington and maybe Gable. Keep the ball away from Longshore, Jackson and Lynch.
Can this work? You bet it can. It's exactly what I would do if I woke up in Pete Carroll's shoes tomorrow. Slant, out, screen - bait Cal's corners into press cover and then hit the tight end or try to pop a deep pass. Booty's just the QB for such a gameplan - an accurate guy who doesn't make lots of mistakes. It can work - provided that you don't turn the ball over, and that you deny the other side any big plays.
And that's where USC's proposition breaks down for me. The Trojans will have to kick it to college football's most electrifying return man. They'll have to tackle the Pac-10's most explosive back on every down. They'll have to shut down a quarterback who occasionally looks ordinary, but more often looks like a 1st round draft choice. They'll have to protect the football against a defense that has generated 25 takeaways this year. They'll have to play error-free in a secondary that features three first-year starters. No blown coverages...no fumbles...no breakdowns on punt cover...no missed tackles on #10 in space.
USC should win this game. They have the better, more efficient, more consistent team. But Cal has the constant threat of the Big Play, and that's what wins Big Games.
Cal 31 USC 28
CLEANING OUT THE DESK...
Prediction to come later in the day, along with a preview of Cal/SDSU hoops. Busy, busy Saturday!
Ty Willingham is a dick
. Normal human beings who understand human nature don't hang fifth-year seniors out to dry in public
. If their behavior is so bad they don't warrant a fifth year, then cut their asses before you get to Rivalry Week. You know, there's a reason that they hate him so much in Palo Alto and South Bend - he's not a normal human being.
I would have loved to see the tribute to Ryan Francis
last night at the Galen Center - it sounds as though it was appropriately moving and very well-done. I wonder if someone will smuggle this out onto YouTube.
I just can't force myself to care too much about the OSU-Michigan Game of the Six-Year Old Century. Unless it rains. There should be a law that OSU-Michigan games have to be played in freezing rain.
Anyone who thinks that Hayes and Schembechler were truly great coaches needs to explain those Rose Bowl losses. No coaches in history did less with more than those two (and yes, I know Bo is back in the hospital and I hope he gets well even if he fired Ernie Harwell
Three quick impressions from the first week of CBB play: 1) Oregon looks like they may have their heads together at long last (though I still want to see them play some D); 2) Washington State is running
and averaging 76 points in its first three games; 3) Stanford lost to Air Force by 34 points
. At home.
Oh well, there's always women's archery
50 GREATEST GOLDEN BEARS - #28 - JOHNNY OLSZEWSKI
#28 - JOHNNY OLSZEWSKI - BACK (1950-1952)
Johnny O was part of one of the more unusual stories in Cal recruiting history. His entire backfield from Long Beach St. Anthony's HS matriculated to Cal in 1949, though Johnny was the star of the bunch. He exploded onto the scene in 1950 with 1,008 yards rushing as a sophomore, only the second time in school history that a back had exceeded 1,000 yards. Olszewski topped the 100 yard mark in five games that year, including 144 yards in a 35-0 rout of UCLA.
Slowed by injuries in his junior year, Olszewski slipped to 651 yards rushing, though he averaged 7.3 yards per carry. Before the injury, he had hit for his biggest game, a 269-yard effort in a 42-35 shootout victory over Washington State in Pullman. He came back to earn first-team All-American honors as a senior, rushing for 845 yards and 7 touchdowns. Over his Cal career, Olszewski's teams went 24-6-1 and appeared in one Rose Bowl (1951 against Michigan)
Johnny O was drafted in the 1st round of the 1953 draft by the Chicago Cardinals, and appeared in two Pro Bowls over a ten-year career with the Cardinals, Redskins and Lions. He is also linked by family to the Tuiasosopo football clan: Johnny's younger sister Tina married UCLA great Manu Tuiasosopo, making Johnny the uncle of current Raider QB Marques Tuiasosopo.
AN UNHEALTHY OBSESSION
TrojanFan will forever profess his indifference to Cal.
Cal has no tradition...Cal is not a threat...Cal isn't worth our time...
So TrojanFan, please answer me one question.Why
by DeSean Jackson
I mean, SC has probably twenty-five guys on its roster who Cal actively recruited. Cal has one guy who was a priority for you (well, two if you count Andrew Larson).
So what's the big deal? Just curious...
Q&A WITH THE TROJAN BLOGOSPHERE
Our thanks to Displaced Trojan
and DC Trojan
for agreeing to a little pre-game Q&A. They each run interesting SC blogs and are guesting this week on yet another one - Conquest Chronicles
. Look for our responses to their questions on one or all of these sites soon.TH: Two weeks ago this game might have rated been a tossup in Vegas. After the nice win over Oregon and Cal's meltdown in the desert, USC is now favored by 6. How confident is Trojan Nation about this game?
DT/DC: Betting fans know that USC hasn't covered the spread much this year. And, regardless of what happened with Cal in Arizona last week, knowledgeable fans of USC football see this game as a toss-up, with perhaps a slight edge for the Trojans if only because the game is at the Coliseum. At Pete Carroll's press conference Tuesday, he described the coaching "chess match" with Jeff Tedford as being something similar to inter-division games in the NFL, where coaching staffs know each other's tendencies and personalities. Recent history between Carroll and Tedford bears this out, so coaching is a push. Like most close games, Saturday's matchup will probably come down to one or two key plays in the second half. Sounds like a cop out, but that's how close this game looks. Still, USC fans have reason to be confident, given our performance last week and the recent history in November under Pete Carroll.TH: What are the three things SC must do to win on Saturday?
DT/DC: 1) Make Cal's offense one-dimensional. This is a primary tenet of Pete Carroll's defensive philosophy, and it couldn't be more important than in this game. What gives USC hope here are two factors. One, the Trojan defense did a wonderful job last week stopping Oregon's Jonathan Stewart, a big, fast back who compares favorably to Marshawn Lynch. Two, Nate Longshore is not a mobile quarterback. USC has problems with quarterbacks who can move (see Vince Young, and to a lesser extent even Aaron Rogers). So, even though the Trojans did a fine job versus Dennis Dixon last week, a big slow target in the backfield will be a welcome challenge for the USC defensive front. This is especially true if the Trojans can force Cal into obvious passing situations by containing Lynch and Justin Forsett.
2) Keep the ball off the ground. USC's last three losses have all come in games in which the offense fumbled the ball at crucial moments (Hershel Dennis in OT vs. Cal in '03, Reggie Bush's "lateral" vs. Texas last season, Chauncey Washington vs. Oregon State.) With Washington nursing a bruised knee and No. 2 tailback Emanuel Moody out with a bad ankle, USC may be very young and very thin at the running back spot. Yes, this means the Trojans may not be as powerful or explosive (let alone experienced) with C.J. Gable or Stafon Johnson hitting the line, but holding on to the ball will be the primary concern.
3) Disrupt DeSean Jackson. Simply put, Jackson will be the most explosive player on the field. That said, the knee jerk reaction is to pull a Dan Patrick: "You can't stop him, you can only hope to contain him" with zone defenses and cornerbacks playing off with help. Certainly this is true, but it only goes so far. The USC secondary must also get into Jackson's head by jamming him, chipping him, and popping him hard whenever they get a chance. Still, the most effective way to disrupt Jackson may be to frustrate him by denying him the ball with flawless special teams execution (which is asking a lot from the Trojans) and by disrupting Nate Longshore on plays from scrimmage. Either way, Jackson showed USC last year that he has a little Randy Moss in him – both the good and the bad – and USC must work expose the bad as much as possible.TH: The two teams seem to have very different patterns on offense. Cal lives and dies by big plays in all three phases of the game. SC has an efficient, almost surgical offense that seems to eat up yardage in five and seven yard chunks, but hasn't sprung for lots of long scores. Does SC have the ability to play keep-away from Cal, or will Kiffin try to stretch the field and generate some big hitters?
DC/DT: In a lot of ways, the offensive patterns of both teams are reversed compared to USC's last epic match up with Cal in 2004. USC had more of a quick strike offense then, while Cal picked apart a bend-but-don't-break Trojan D that used the end zone as an extra defender. As we know, Aaron Rogers tied an NCAA record that day with 23 consecutive completions, albeit mostly on out patterns and short slants. The key to what USC does offensively this Saturday is its running game, which is as we outlined above is a very iffy proposition at this point.
Still, one subtle change we've seen in USC's offense since the second half of the Oregon State game is what appears to be a pass-to-set-up-the-run approach, which looks more like a classic West Coast offense. USC has moved the ball well this way for 10 consecutive quarters, and we'll have to do the same against Cal. But to answer the question: Yes, conventional wisdom says the Trojans have the ability to play keep away from the Cal offense … and yes, Lane Kiffin will try to stretch the field, but on a very limited basis. But that's the conventional wisdom.TH: It's well known that Nate Longshore is not the most mobile of quarterbacks. Do you anticipate that SC will play a lot of zone and try to generate a pass rush with the 4 man line, or will they blitz and leave their corners on an island?
DC/DT: Even though Taylor Mays and the rest of the secondary are improving, I can't see Carroll leaving them to their own devices with intensive blitzing - the risks are too high. In prior seasons the pass rush has been so fast as to almost count as a blitz anyway, but that has been less true this season.
However, I noticed in the Oregon game that SC was having some success with what was in effect the front 4 plus one, forcing Dixon to scramble but still leaving coverage for him or an outlet receiver... and giving Jackson a chance to go from zero to three sacks on the season in the game. Since Longshore isn't too fast, I suspect that SC will try something similar this weekend to pressure the passer but not risk a big gain from an outlet receiver.TH: Carroll's strategy for limiting DeSean Jackson in the return game: Punt the ball in the stands, or go for it on every 4th down?
DC/DT: The punter has been working on hang time to give the return coverage a chance to get into position, so if SC needs to punt from their territory he should be trying out those new skills. Otherwise, I'd bet on going for it on 4th anywhere inside the Cal 40, especially on short yardage.TH: Your prediction for the game.
DC/DT: We had a slight disagreement here. The consensus is that the margin of victory will be less than a touchdown. DC Trojan says USC wins 28 - 24 in a surprisingly defense-oriented game. Displaced Trojan hopes for 38 - 20 but expects 38 - 31.
One place where we don't match up well
KEY MATCHUPS - CALIFORNIA v USC
Alex Mack and Byron Storer v Rey Maualuga
. Cal's running game hinges on this matchup. Maualuga is a premier run stopper who didn't practice Tuesday because of a sore knee. Mack is a good center who can occasionally struggle with quicker inside backers. Storer is the best blocking fullback in the conference, and he will need to bring his A game Saturday.Our Safeties v Their Wideouts
. When Cal is in zone, Hicks and Hampton must make good reads and provide help where needed on Smith and Jarrett. If these guys can generate one takeaway between them, it's a very good sign. They must also swarm to the football and limit yards after contact on SC's receiver screens and slants.Nu'u Tafisi & Abu Ma'afala v John David Booty
. Booty is very effective on rollouts to this throwing side, but can roll either direction. Our defensive ends must prevent keep him in the pocket and force him to throw more quickly than he'd like.Brandon Mebane v Drew Radovich
. USC wants to play keep away from Cal to limit our big-play threats. I'm assuming they won't throw it 40+ times, so they can only control the football if they run the ball effectively on first or second down. They can only do that if All-American center Ryan Kalil is free to knock Desmond Bishop around. And Kalil will only be free if Radovich can handle Mebane with a minimum of help on running plays inside the tackle. If Mebane can generate penetration and demand a constant double team, then Bishop will be freed up to seek and destroy. SC's fullback of the week won't be able to control our MLB.Pete Carroll v Himself
. Bear with me here. Carroll is a great coach, and I've never developed the antipathy for him that I have for Bellotti or that I had for Dennis Erickson. But Pete's fault - if he has one - is that he can be hyper-aggressive on 4th down. He needs to put more faith in his kicking game on Saturday, because 4th down stops are essentially turnovers that put the ball back into the hands of Cal's playmakers.
Labels: USC Cal football
THE GOLDEN GOOSE
Ayinde Ubaka calls him the Golden Goose. That works for me.
6'10" Freshman Ryan Anderson led the Bears with 20 points and 8 rebounds, and Cal opened things with a 60-47 win over Utah Valley State. If Anderson can provide a legitimate inside/outside threat at the four, it could make Ben Ball a lot more interesting. We shot lousy in the first half last night, but we didn't allow UVSC a point for the first ten minutes of the game.
San Diego State on Saturday - we'll have something up tomorrow on what should be a much better measuring stick for the Bears.
Labels: basketball, Cal
ON SATURDAY, REMEMBER THIS MAN
Just look at this man, perhaps the Greatest of all Golden Bears. This man misses his tequila. He misses it so much. Why deny him that small pleasure?
50 GREATEST GOLDEN BEARS - #29 - AARON RODGERS
#29 - AARON RODGERS - QUARTERBACK (2003-2004)
While Jeff Tedford did great things with Kyle Boller during their only season together, the Coach may always be associated with Aaron Rodgers - the overlooked kid who Tedford found by accident at Butte JC.
Tedford was recruiting Rodgers' teammate Garrett Cross when he noticed the crisp release and sound fundamentals of the young man delivering Cross the football. Within months, Rodgers was backing up Reggie Robertson as Cal's QB. A few weeks later, he had the starting job and would go on to record the best season by a sophomore QB in conference history. For the year Rodgers completed 215 of 349 passes for 2903 yards and 19 touchdowns against only five interceptions. His 3113 yards of total offense that year ranks second only to Pat Barnes (1996) in Cal history. In Cal's 52-49 Insight Bowl victory over Virginia Tech, Rodgers threw for two scores and ran for two more.
In 2004 Rodgers earned first-team All-Pac 10 Conference honors in leading Cal to its best regular season record (10-1) since 1950. Aaron led the conference with a 154.35 passing efficiency rating and threw for 2566 yards and 24 touchdowns. He tied an NCAA Division 1 single-game record for consecutive completions, connecting on his first 23 attempts against USC. My favorite Aaron Rodgers memory is from that season, when he laid out a Stanford DB
on Marshawn Lynch's 55-yard TD run.
Rodgers was drafted as the #23 overall selection by the Green Bay Packers in 2005, and is the heir apparent to Brett Favre at quarterback.
MEET THE TROJANS
While USC may lack the big-play threats and explosive running game that have defined its program in the Carroll era, they are still loaded with talent throughout their two-deep. This is the most athletic team Cal will play all year, especially on defense. SC's talent is young, though, particularly in the secondary.
QB - John David Booty
is the real deal, period: the most efficient QB in the conference. It sounds odd, but he should be getting a lot more national recognition for his play. What happened to SC's vaunted SID? Heralded freshman Mark Sanchez
is the backup.
RB - Chauncey Washington
carries the burden of history as SC's tailback, which means he's in an impossible situation. He is averaging more than 5 yards a carry, though, and has shown signs of life in the last two games (119 yards, 3 TDs v Oregon) after a relatively slow start marked by ball security issues. Washington sprained his knee in the Oregon game and did not practice Tuesday, but he expects to play on Saturday. Backup Emmanuel Moody
is out for the game with a badly sprained ankle. Explosive true freshman C.J. Gable
, who handles kick returns for the Trojans, will see time on Saturday in the tailback rotation.
Fullback has been the Bermuda Triangle for USC all year - injuries have left them without a scholarship player at the position.
WR - USC has the best one-two punch in the nation with Dwayne Jarrett
(42 catches, 12.1 average) and Steve Smith (49 catches, 16.0 average). They're both fairly healthy for the first time this year, which is a scary thing. The 3rd receiver is 6'5" sophomore Patrick Turner
(26 catches), who has great speed and size but is still learning. Chris McFoy
backs up Jarrett (10 catches). True freshman Vidal Hazelton
could eventually be terrific, but not this year. SC doesn't throw to their backs very much.
TE - Fred Davis
has 24 catches through 9 games, and is a particularly effective receiver in the red zone, with three TD receptions.
OL - A real strength - this one of the best pass-blocking lines in the conference and the second-best run blocking line (behind Oregon). Their strength starts in the middle with Ryan Kalil
, a three-year starter and the best center in the conference. Kalil will slide to help on Mebane in the pass game; he is a very effective run blocker and will present a challenge for Desmond Bishop all day. Sam Baker
is the other returning starter, at left tackle. He could be all-conference as well, and is a tremendous pass blocker who shuts down opposing D-Ends. The other starters include Drew Radovich
at LG, Chilo Rachal
at RG and Kyle Williams
at RT. The Trojans are a little thin, as highly-regarded but perpetually-injured C/G Jeff Byers
is out for the year. Rachal has battled some ankle problems.
DE - Lawrence Jackson
is the Trojans' best player on the line - at 6'5"/265 he is a stout run defender who can penetrate and disrupt an offense's timing. The weakside end is Brian Cushing
, a talented sophomore linebacker who runs extremely well though he gives up lots in size (only 235 pounds). They will drop Cushing to weakside backer and shift to a 3-4 on occasion.
DT - Sedrick Ellis
is a returning starter, and Fili Moala
will see most of the snaps at the other tackle spot. Ellis is the better player, and can be very tough to handle in the pass game with one blocker. Given that Jackson plays on the same side, Malele/De La Puente will need to step up. Ellis slides to the nose when SC drops a fourth linebacker.
LB - The Trojans' linebacking crew is on a par with Cal in terms of raw athleticism. In addition to Cushing, USC features sophomore MLB Rey Maualuga
, who hits like a ton of bricks and runs a 4.5 forty. Blocking Maualaga will be the single biggest challenge this year for the interior of Cal's OL. Returning starters Dallas Sartz
(strongside) and Keith Rivers
(weakside) round out the corps. While this is a solid group, they have had their issues in allowing YAC (much like the Bears). Oscar Lua
, a redshirt senior, is a very nice backup to Maualuga at MLB.
CB - Junior Terrell Thomas is their best cover corner and will likely shadow Jackson. Sophomore Cary Harris
starts at the other corner - think of him as SC's version of Syd'Quan - super talented but needs frequent help, and SC will play a fair amount of zone to help hide him (just like Cal - lots of similarities between the defenses). Mozique McCurtis
rotates at corner as well as safety.
S - Redshirt freshman Kevin Ellison
starts at SS and true freshman Taylor Mays
starts at free. Don't get too excited, though - each play well beyond their years and are terrific in run support (they rank fourth and fifth respectively in tackles). Mays has the chance to put together a Ronnie Lott-type career at USC before he's done. In addition to McCurtis, true freshman Antwine Perez
has seen limited reps, mostly at the free. SC ran a fair amount of zone against Oregon, and both safeties played well in limiting big plays for the Ducks.
ST - Gable is a very capable kick returner, averaging 27.2 yards per attempt. Carroll is searching for an answer in the punt return game, and may replace Desmond Reed
with Turner to try to generate something. PK Mario Danelo
is efficient (10-11), but has limited range. P Greg Woidneck
is OK, and the Trojans are good in punt cover.
Song Girls - Are still smoking hot
HEY, WE'RE PLAYING A BASKETBALL GAME
Tonight Cal finally plays a basketball game that counts, against the Utah Valley State College Wolverines at Haas Pavillion. Which raises a good question - exactly who are these guys?
They hail from Orem, Utah, which according to CNN is the 38th best place to live in the US. In related news, these best places to live surveys are complete nonsense.
They've only been playing at the D-1 level since 2003-4 . Prior to that UVSC was a true community college, and participated at the NJCAA level.
They no longer have Ronnie Price. Price, the best player in school history, finished 3rd in the country in scoring in 2004-5 and is now a second-year guard for the Sacramento Kings.
They have a coach you might recognize. Dick Hunsaker was Rick Majerus' top assistant at Utah, and took over the program when Majerus was sidelined by health issues. Prior to that, he led Ball State to the Sweet 16 in 1990. He left Ball State after the school reported multiple violations of NCAA rules, including the payment of unauthorized benefits to players.
They're small. UVSC's tallest starter is 6'8". DeVon Hardin, the dinner bell's ringing. Time to eat.
They shoot the 3 - reserve SG Ryan Toolson went 5-6 from beyond the arc in the Wolverines' 74-57 upset of Montana, a tourney team last year.
Their name is just awful. You want to add more words: Utah Valley State College...Penitentiary...Women's Prison....Solid Waste Facility.
They were the subject of a pretty good documentary...named This Divided State. The indie film chronicles the controversy surrounding the 2004 visit of filmmaker Michael Moore to the UVSC campus, and ensuing efforts by local LDSers to lynch him.
They are one of the fastest growing colleges in America. The 8th fastest, according to some, with more than 24,000 students.
Prediction: Cal 78 UVSC 60. UVSC has blown out a couple of Big Sky teams (Montana St., Montana) en route to a 4-0 start. However, they lack the athleticism to compete with Cal. Their height disadvantage should enable Hardin to feast inside, and Ubaka should have his way on the perimeter and on penetration. It will be interesting to see how Ben shuffles the lineup in the first game since Jordan Wilkes' season-ending knee injury. Bottom line - if we don't beat this team by 10+ points, we may want to re-think even our modest expectations for the 2006-7 campaign.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: CALIFORNIA v USC
USC is frighteningly effective inside the 20: in 45 trips they've scored 40 times, with 32 touchdowns. Booty is a very efficient QB, they have big receivers, and Carroll is uber-aggressive on 4th down.
On the other hand, it's pretty amazing they've been inside the twenty 45 times
in only nine games. This tells me two things: USC is a good offense but, unlike years past, they are not a big-play offense. On the season, the Trojans have only five touchdowns that did not
originate from an offensive snap in the red zone. To compare, Cal has made only 31 red zone trips (21 TDs) in 10 games - but the Bears have scored 45 touchdowns overall.Lane Kiffin Loves to Throw
Cal is supposedly the pass-happy school, but USC is averaging 34 pass attempts per game (compared with 32 for Cal). Trojan fans have grumbled about this, particularly Kiffin's tendency to throw on first down. SC is averaging 11.9 yards per reception - a pretty low figure given the ridiculous talent they have at wideout (even allowing for the injuries). Opponents have been obsessed with shutting down the slants and bubble screens to Jarrett and Smith, and SC's inability to control games on the ground allows the back seven to think pass first. John David Booty is Pretty Darn Good
He's the most efficient QB in the conference by a mile - highest percentage (62.7%) and best TD/interception ration (20/6). Those are Leinart numbers, and the primary reason USC is #3 in the country. Return Game
For the first time in recent memory, SC has a mediocre return game. Kick returns average 22.4 yards, which is OK, but their punt return game is dreadful (5.5 yards per return). The resulting field position problem is magnified because SC has struggled to generate big scoring plays, and is most often forced to make long drives for scores.Turnovers
SC is only +1 in turnover margin for the year, including an awful -4 in the loss to Oregon State. USC was an unbelievable +100
over the first 66 games of the Pete Carroll era (this has to be some sort of record - anyone know?
). It's not so much a question of ball security - they've only coughed it up 14 times - as it is their puzzling inability to generate takeaways.
50 GREATEST GOLDEN BEARS - #30 - HARDY NICKERSON
#30 - HARDY NICKERSON - LINEBACKER (1983-1986)
OK, a personal story. I was there, on the field in '86 after Cal beat a Stanford team they had no business beating. I remember two things from that drunken escapade. First, while I'm a reasonably big guy I was terrified of Doug Riesenberg, who nearly flattened me in the chaos. Second, I remember Hardy Nickerson climbing the chair and conducting the Cal band with an expression of sheer joy on his face.
Nickerson was a big-time player on teams that didn't have many. He made 501 tackles in his four years, including a 167-tackle season in 1985 that is still the all-time single season mark at Berkeley. He also tallied 141 tackles as a sophomore in 1984 and 132 in his senior season. Somehow Nickerson was only voted to one All-Pac 10 team, in 1985. His value to his teams was better measured by the fact that he is one of only two Bears to be named Team MVP in three different seasons (a cookie to the reader who can name the other one).
Underrated throughout his college career, Nickerson was drafted in the 5th round by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1987. In a career that spanned 17 years Nickerson was named to five Pro Bowls and recorded nearly 2,000 tackles for the Steelers, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville and Green Bay. He received the 1997 NFL Whizzer White award for his many off-field contributions, especially in the area of youth scholarship.
YEAH, WE'RE PICKING CAL TO FINISH SIXTH
Because this guy is playing in Boston.
We had the Bears sixth even before the school announced yesterday that Jordan Wilkes was done for the year
with a tear in his patella. We'll save the full Golden Bears preview for the bye week in football.
BREAK OUT THE BELL BOTTOMS
In our review of Cal victories over the Trojans, we were struck by the eerie similarities between this week's game and the 1975 contest between the two schools. In 1975:
- Cal was led by a highly-regarded QB in his first year as the starter (Joe Roth)
Cal featured a dominant running back who received Heisman attention (Chuck Muncie)
Cal was an offense-first, big-play team with a suspect defense
The Bears were led by a young, innovative coach who had come to Berkeley from an assistant job with a conference rival (Mike White - Stanford)
Cal was coming off a disappointing road loss in the prior game (UCLA)
Cal had lost its season opener to a non-conference power (Colorado)
USC was a three-time defending conference champion
The Trojans were led by a head coach who had won multiple national championships, and was the subject of constant rumors that he was heading for the pros (John McKay)
USC was rated in the Top 5 (#4), but had been somewhat inconsistent in its play
Despite that inconsistency, SC was coming off a big, reassuring victory (at Notre Dame)
USC was the clear favorite in the game
(just for fun) Ohio State was the consensus #1 team in the nation, and a Buckeye was the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman Trophy (Archie Griffin)
We could go on - Tom Newton is Byron Storer, Wesley Walker is DeSean, but you get the point. So while many Old Blues are reaching back to 1958 - the last year Cal made it to a Rose Bowl - we'll be channelling 1975 this week and we encourage you to do the same. For iPod users so inclined, here's a playlist of music that was on somebody's 8-track in November 1975:
Tangled Up in Blue - Bob Dylan/Lively Up Yourself - Bob Marley/Thunder Road - Bruce Springsteen/Young Americans - David Bowie/Black Friday - Steely Dan/Instant Karma - John Lennon/Tonight's the Night - Neil Young/Kashmir - Led Zeppelin/Gloria - Patti Smith/Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen/Personality Crisis - New York Dolls/That's The Way of the World - Earth, Wind & Fire/Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd/Rhiannon - Fleetwood Mac/Fight the Power Pt. 1 - Isley Brothers/Toys in the Attic - Aerosmith/The Revolution Will Not Be Televised - Gil Scott Heron/Tears of Rage - The Band
Now this is an alternate jersey I could support
50 GREATEST GOLDEN BEARS - #31 - STEVE RIVERA
#31 - STEVE RIVERA - WIDE RECEIVER (1973-1975)
Steve Rivera held Cal's all-time leading receiving mark with 138 receptions for sixteen years (until the record was broken by Brian Treggs in 1991) and was the first Golden Bear to earn consensus All-America honors at wide receiver.
In his senior year, Rivera hauled in 57 catches, at that time the most ever by a Cal player in a single-season. Rivera and teammate Wesley Walker were perfect complements: While Rivera lacked Walker's blazing speed he more than made up for it with sticky fingers and an elusive quality in the open field. Over his career Rivera had five games of more than 100 yards receiving, and he averaged 15.1 yards per reception.
Rivera's biggest day as a Bear came in his junior season against Stanford, when he totaled 205 yards receiving, including a 26-yard touchdown in the closing seconds that appeared to salt the game away for Cal. Stanford of course came back to win that game on a 50-yard field goal, but Rivera was named first team all-Pac 8 at receiver.
Rivera went on to spend two years in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers and the Chicago Bears.
FOCUSED BUCKEYE INSANITY
We'd like to thank the uber-blog Deadspin for introducing us to Jim Stricker
. Mr. Stricker makes us look relatively well-adjusted, because he devoted 2000 hours of his life to create this:
A 37-pound replica of Ohio Stadium, made completely from Legos.
God bless you, Jim Stricker.
(INSERT BEAVER JOKE HERE) - OREGON ST. BASKETBALL
Oregon State, once one of the leading programs in the conference, has struggled of late. After an NIT appearance in 2004-5, the Beavs fell back last year and finished 13-18. The school has confidence in Jay John, but can Cool Hand Lute's former assistant bring the Beavers back to the postseason?Good News
: Josh Tarver
(right) is back. The redshirt freshman missed all of last year with a broken foot, and OSU never developed a suitable replacement. He's healt
hy, and will be a good scoring option from the point. The Beavers also return their entire front court, led by PF Sasa Cuic
(left - 13.5 ppg) who led the Pac-10 in 3-point shooting at 49.3%. Together the Beavers' front court returnees (Cuic, C Kyle Jeffers
and SF Marcel Jones
) combined for 29.0 points per game and 15.4 rebounds per game.Bad News
: OSU is searching for an answer at the off-guard spot, where Josh's little brother Seth Tarver
- a true freshman - is one of several options. Wesley Washington
may be the starter based on experience, but he's pretty ordinary. While Josh Tarver was highly heralded coming out of Portland Jesuit, he has not been tested over a full season. Depth is not great once you get past the starters, especially in the frontcourt. That's bad news for a team whose starters have a history of injury troubles. OSU's frontline is experienced, but a bit soft inside with the exception of Jeffers.New Faces
: Serb Vojin Svilar
will back up Tarver at the point; C/F Roeland Schaftenaar
(Netherlands) could contribute depth in the frontcourt.Prediction: 7th place
. The Beavers have enough up front to have an outside shot at a postseason berth, provided they stay healthy and the Tarver brothers can protect the basketball and provide some scoring punch. An NIT bid wouldn't exactly bring back memories of Ralph Miller
and his never-ending pack of More cigarettes, but it would represent progress.
PETE CARROLL DOESN'T CARE IF YOU CAN READ HIS LIPS
Pete takes exception to Mike Bellotti's stalling tactics late in SC's butt-kicking of the Ducks. I'd have a problem with this if it was cuddly Mike Riley, or Grandpa Bill Doba. But this is The Pornstar - the Grand Moff Tarkin to Phil Knight's Darth Vader. And he was
being a dick.
THE FALL OF TROY THROUGHOUT THE YEARS
During Rose Bowl Week, we'll be selectively reviewing some of the great contests between the Golden Bears and Trojans. Our list is selective - it has to be since USC owns a 58-30-4 advantage in the series, which stretches back to 1915 and has been played each year since 1926. We're not about to introduce bad karma by reviewing any of those 58 losses. Yes, 2004 was an epic contest, I was there - but it still counted as a loss. Enjoy:1937 - California 20 USC 6
Stub Allison's 1937 version of the Golden Bears was known as the Thunder Team, and they won 10 games including a shutout victory over Alabama in the Rose Bowl. The Bears carried a #1 ranking in the polls into its October 23 contest with USC, which was ranked 11th under its legendary coach Howard Jones. The prior year, Stub Allison's club had upset USC in the Coliseum on an unusual lateral play in which center Bob Herwig carried the ball into the end zone for the winning score. SC craved revenge in '37, but the Bears would not have it. Cal dominated the first half 20-0 and would win 20-6, having rolled up 418 yards of offense (an enormous sum in those more conservative days).1948 - California 13 USC 7
Cal football waned during the war years, and USC ascended, shutting the Bears out in four consecutive years from 1943-1946. For these and other reasons, Cal lured Northwestern coach Lynn "Pappy" Waldorf to restore the program's fortunes. Think of him as the Tedford of his day, with greater success. In his first year, Pappy took the Bears to a 10-1 mark, but the one loss was a 39-14 pasting by the Trojans, who would go on to yet another Rose Bowl.
In 1948, the tables finally turned. Cal visited the Coliseum to face a Trojan team that had already lost to Ohio State and Oregon. Cal had won all six of its games, three by shutout. Junior RB Jackie Jensen took the game's opening kickoff down to the USC 32, which set a pattern for the entire game. Jensen carried 27 times for 132 yards, and Cal kept the ball away from the USC offense. The final score was 13-7 - Cal had the monkey off its back and would go on to qualify for the first of three consecutive Rose Bowls under Waldorf.1958 - California 14 USC 12
The previous year, Joe Kapp had led the Bears to a 12-0 upset of USC in Berkeley, the Bears' only victory in coach Pete Elliott's first season after taking over for Waldorf. Despite the poor record, Cal lost five of those games by a total of 18 points, giving Bear fans some reason for optimism. In 1959 the rematch was in Los Angeles, and Kapp again led the way with his running and occasional passing. USC handed this one to the Bears, though, with sloppy ball-handling that led to several turnovers. The final score was 14-12, proving that the Bears were finally winning the close ones. They would go on to win four more, including nail-biters against UCLA and Stanford, to qualify for Cal's first Rose Bowl in eight years.1970 - California 13 USC 10
Once John McKay established USC's second (post-Howard Jones) dynasty, Cal victories were hard to come by. 1970 was the exception. Cal was stocked with talent on both sides of the ball with Sherman White at DT and Ray Youngblood prowling the secondary. Dave Penhall was a more than capable QB, and Isaac Curtis - a future pro star with the Cincinnati Bengals - averaged more than 25 yards per kick return. Like so many notable Cal-SC games, this one was a defensive struggle, ended by Ray Wersching's 46 yard field goal with less than five minutes remaining that broke a 10-10 tie.1975 - California 28 USC 14
In a game with eerie parallels to this year's contest, Cal met #4 USC before a national TV audience in 1975. While the Bears had the nation's most explosive offense led by QB Joe Roth and RB Chuck Muncie, they were coming off a difficult loss to UCLA and most experts predicted a Trojan victory. A rare sellout crowd at Memorial watched in delighted shock as the Bears controlled the game from the middle of the first quarter on. Muncie had 143 yards on the ground, but it was FB Tom Newton who had the game's most memorable score on a 10-yard blast up the middle. Cal would go on to share the conference championship with UCLA.1977 - California 17 USC 14
A lifetime had truly passed before USC visited Berkeley again on October 29, 1977. Joe Roth, the All-American QB who engineered that 1975 victory, died of cancer in February of that year. His death shocked Berkeley and the college football world, who were unaware that Roth had played the 1976 season while quite ill with the disease. In a fitting tribute, Cal dedicated the '77 USC game in Joe's memory, and planned to retire his jersey at halftime. The Bears played an inspired game, capped by Anthony Green's interception return for touchdown in the 3rd quarter that gave them the 17-14 advantage.1991 - California 52 USC 30
Trojans fans had gotten a rare chance to look down their noses when Russell White - the most decorated prep in California history - signed with Cal in 1989. It is true that White did not qualify academically for USC - Cal at that time accepted Prop 48 students and SC did not. The Trojans' woofing, though, ignored the fact that White was an undiagnosed dyslexic who simply couldn't read at a college level. Russell took advantage of Cal's academic bridge program, received special tutoring, and graduated in four years with a B average in social welfare. Oh, and he played extra hard against SC, racking up 229 rushing yards in the 1991 blowout of the Trojans. The 52 points Cal scored that day is the most ever surrendered by USC.2003 - California 34 USC 31
After a near-miss in 2002, Jeff Tedford had his Bears ready to face the undefeated, #3-ranked Trojans. Cal shot to a 21-7 first half lead behind Aaron Rodgers' oustanding QB play and a surprisingly stingy defense. Just before the half, though, Rodgers was hit hard on a quarterback keeper, and then threw an interception to miss the chance to go up three TDs on the favored Trojans.
The second half was a nightmare - Matt Leinart drove USC quickly down the field for a score to make it 21-14, and then Rodgers was picked by Lofa Tatupu, who returned the ball 27 yards for the tying score. Rodgers yielded to backup Reggie Robertson, and all seemed lost. Cal's defense rose to the occasion, though, shutting down the powerful Trojan offense throughout the third and fourth quarter. Tyler Fredrickson's 51 yard field goal put the Bears up by 3, but his second attempt of the 4th quarter was blocked, and Ryan Killeen booted a 33 yard field goal with 0:16 left to send the game to overtime tied at 24.
Cal had a chance to win it following a Herschel Dennis fumble in the first overtime, but Fredrickson was again blocked. After both teams traded touchdowns in the 2nd OT, Killeen missed from 39 yards to open the 3rd period. Fredrickson grabbed his chance at redemption, hitting a 38-yarder that introduced Tedford's Bears to the country, and denied USC a spot in the Sugar Bowl.
ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE
Look, Golden Bears - a lot of good things happened last week. Just look:
Stanford won a football game
. Anyone with a healthy appreciation for Big Game mojo
was rooting hard for Walt Harris and the Funky Couch Bunch
to get over at least once before coming to Berkeley. Our prayers are answered!Washington has given up
. You just don't lose 20-3 to a winless team with a bowl berth on the line. Domers cluck their tongues, smile. Bears realize that this is the standard formula from Mr. No Intensity's teams. UW - enjoy your one Rose Bowl run each decade - you've earned it!
Who's lower than HuskyFan? The faithful in Westwood
, that's who. Not only did Dorrell ensure an encore year with a surprise thumping of the Beavers, but Butch Davis just inked a deal
to go to that other school that wears powder blue. Brilliant!
Dirk Koetter, the Gimp to our Zed
, is safe in Tempe now that ASU has won 3 of its last 4 games
The Northwest schools went 0-4 on Saturday. Hey, we recruit the Northwest - that's terrific! Sorry, Bellotti
- no five-stars for you!
50 GREATEST GOLDEN BEARS - #32 - TODD STEUSSIE
#32 - TODD STEUSSIE - OFFENSIVE GUARD/TACKLE - (1990-1993)
Steussie started 47 consecutive games, a Cal record (since broken by Mark Wilson), and during his tenure at guard and tackle the Bears averaged more than 30 points per game.
Steussie came to Cal as a defensive lineman, and won the team's Clint Evans trophy for most intense freshman competitor during his blueshirt year of 1989. Bruce Snyder switched him to guard in 1990, and he emerged as a 2nd team All-Pac 10 choice at guard during his sophomore season of 1991, in which the Bears finished 10-2 with a Top 10 national ranking.
Cal shifted Steussie to tackle following the graduation of Troy Auzenne, and he quickly became the conference's dominant lineman. An All-Pac 10 first team choice in both his junior and senior years, Steussie became the first Golden Bear to win the Morris Trophy, given annually to the Pac-10’s best offensive lineman, in 1993. He was also named a first-team Kodak All America selection following his senior season.
Steussie was taken by the Minnesota Vikings as the 19th overall selection in the 1994 NFL Draft, and has been a fixture in the league ever since, starting in two Pro Bowls and one Super Bowl game (Panthers, 2004)
REPORT CARD - ARIZONA 24 CALIFORNIA 20
Quarterback Play - D Nate Longshore
is a sophomore, and he reminded us of that yesterday. The quarterback who dissected UCLA's secondary a week ago was MIA against Arizona. Nate rarely made his full progression, and Arizona's secondary made relatively simple reads and big play after big play. He lacked accuracy, too, often delivering timing routes on the receiver's back hip. We were 3-13 in 3rd down efficiency, which is the most telling stat of the afternoon.Receiver Play - C- Robert Jordan
and Lavelle Hawkins
were absent in the first half. DeSean
did wonderful things with the ball once he got it, but struggled at times to get open. Craig Stevens
had a bad game, with three early drops.Pass Protection - B+
This is one area where the Bears performed pretty well yesterday. Longshore was not sacked, and he was flushed out of the pocket on only a few occasions. Our blitz pickup was terrific - best of the year. Louis Holmes was hardly heard from, which is a big credit to Andrew Cameron
.Running Backs - D+ Lynch
disappeared after his long run in the first half. He also fumbled, though Cal retained possession. Not much from the other Bears.Run Blocking - D
Another lackluster performance by Cal's OL in the run game. We never controlled first down, and as a result Longshore was forced into long-yardage situations. The microcosm of the entire game was our first-and-goal series from Arizona's one, where we lost yardage on successive attempts with Lynch. Credit should go here to Mark Stoops, who called a very good game for Arizona. His run blitzes were extremely effective in the second half. Cal averaged 4.6 yards per carry largely due to Lynch's long run in the 1st half.Pass Defense - D+
Tuitama helped us by playing very poorly in the 1st half. He had far too many receivers open, especially in the middle of the field. We didn't cover the tight end all day. Hughes had his first less-than-stellar performance.Pass Rush - B-
Cal recorded two sacks (Bishop, Mebane) and put pressure on Tuitama for most of the game. We did get a little gassed in the 4th quarter, but in general this was a fairly solid performance, albeit against a subpar line.Run Defense - B+
Arizona never established the run game and finished with only 60 yards on the ground. Brandon Mebane
played his best game of the year. Tackling was greatly improved from a week ago.Special Teams - A-
It can now be said - DJax is the best collegiate kick returner since Rocket Ismail. I only dock this unit a bit for the truly awful contain on Steptoe's punt return in the 4th quarter.Coaching - D
We weren't prepared emotionally to play four quarters against anyone, let alone an inspired Arizona team. Play calling was a bit of a mystery - the reverse to Jordan was poorly conceived (why Jordan? Jackson had the hot hand, why not use him more on lateral passes and running plays?). On Longshore's pick he was throwing to Byron S
torer on an intermediate route - Why? Storer is a blocker and dump receiver if no one else is open. Cal made lots and lots of mistakes - Hawkins' blocking penalties being the most obvious - which reflects back to coaching.Overall - D+
Cal is still the most explosive team in the nation. But all of our offensive firepower matters naught when we lose the turnover battle, play without intensity, and get seriously substandard quarterback play. Still, we could have won this game if any one of five or six plays had gone the other way. In a word, frustrating.