This was a textbook lesson in how to beat Cal without DeVon Hardin. The Bears played outstanding offensive basketball in the 1st half, with Ryan Anderson getting a double-double and the Bears moving well without the basketball. They carried a three-point lead into halftime, even though the backcourt was largely absent. In the second half legs grew weary, rotations were a step slow, and the zone became passive and sluggish. DePaul smothered Anderson and dared the other Bears to make shots. They didn't and the Demons outscored Cal 56-27 in the final twenty.
Interesting choice by Ben: he starts the small lineup, and Taylor Harrison only logged eight minutes in relief. We know Harrison isn't quite ready, but the small lineup simply isn't equipped to play forty good minutes on each end against teams with a strong inside presence.
At this point, the key to the team is really Ubaka. When he's out to lunch offensively, as he was today, then Ben really needs to protect Anderson at all costs on the defensive end since he's our only real scoring threat. Wings double down more frequently (with little effect, we'd add) and bigs kick to wide open shooters on the perimeter. With better backcourt production, Ben could perhaps mix Harrison in a little more and let our bigs go it alone inside. If Wilkes or Christopher could supply consistent scoring, that would work as well - but we're skeptical.
It's really a terrible situation, and we can't fault Ben for what promises to be a sub-.500 conference run in the suddenly tough Pac-10. It will be interesting to see how the team responds over the coming weeks; we can and will fault Ben if the team packs it in mentally without their big guy.
Teams can only run the 4-2-5 effectively if the "2" in the middle play well against the run. A&M's linebackers do just that, and Cal's OL and new FB will need an improved effort to control this unit. This battle is one of the keys to the game - if Cal run blocks like it did against Oregon (as opposed to USC or Stanford), then the Bears can force A&M to add a 3rd backer or commit the rover to run support.
Justin Warren (6'3"/242/Senior) is a very physical linebacker who may be the key to the entire game. With Storer out, sophomore FB Will Ta'ufo'ou will often need to block #10, which will be a tall order. Warren has started 37 games for the Aggies and has 275 career tackles; he was named a few All-Big XII teams after the season.
Mark Dodge (6'2"/222) starts at the weak-side spot; he's a 25-year old junior who served four years in the Army before entering junior college in 2004. He was at the Pentagon on 9/11 when Flight 77 crashed. On the field he was twice named Big XII defensive player of the week - once for a 17-tackle performance against Nebraska, and again for making a key interception in A&M's win over Texas. He is the Aggies' best linebacker in pass cover.
Misi Tupe, a talented Juco transfer will also rotate in at WLB; he's a 5'10"/250 bowling ball with surprising quickness for his size. When A&M brings in a third linebacker in run situations, it's often Tupe who gets the call.
RS Freshman Matt Featherstone adds depth off the bench; he had 23 tackles in relief of Warren. Senior Nurahda Manning (6'3"/247) will also see time in the rotation.
#9 - STAN BARNES - CENTER/TACKLE (1918-1921) Stan Barnes was the first of several stars from San Diego who formed the nucleus of the greatest teams in California football history.
Clarence "Nibs" Price (Class of 1912) coached at San Diego High following his graduation from Cal, and taught a sophisticated brand of American football at a time when many California high schools were exclusively playing rugby. He encouraged his brightest players, starting with Barnes, to follow his path to Berkeley and play for Andy Smith. Following a stint in the military during WWI, Barnes followed his coach's advice; like the other San Diegans, he too pledged the Sigma Chi fraternity.
The 6'1", 186-pound Barnes was an All-Coast center his sophomore season, which was virtually unheard of in those days. Despite the admonition of Cal graduate assistant Walter Gordon, who cautioned Barnes against over-confidence, he began to coast and earned a place in Smith's doghouse as a junior.
A position challenge, to tackle, gave Barnes a new challenge and renewed favor with the head coach. With coaching from former All-America Gordon (#43 on our list), he quickly became the premier lineman in the Western United States. Barnes caved in opposing lines and was fast enough to personally escort ball carriers into the end zone. On defense, he was reputed to be a savage tackler who broke opposing blocking wedges with relative ease. In those two years at tackle, Barnes and his teammates were unbeaten, suffering only one tie against Washington and Jefferson in the 1922 Rose Bowl. They outscored their opponents 822-47.
After football, Barnes obtained his law degree from Boalt Hall and entered private practice. In those early years he became involved with the California Republican Assembly, a grassroots political organization, and rose within its ranks to become one of the GOP's power-brokers in California. His friend from Berkeley, Earl Warren, remained a confidant, and Barnes was a constant member of Warren's inner circle through his rise to Governor. For his part, Barnes became a Superior Court Judge in Los Angeles, Assistant Attorney General during the Eisenhower Administration, and eventually Federal Appellate Court Judge and President of the Federal Bar Association. During the Eisenhower years, Barnes paid back his old teammate and coach when he recommended to Vice President Nixon that he appoint Walter Gordon as Governor of the US Virgin Islands.
Barnes was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as part of its second class, in 1954. He was the 2nd Golden Bear player to receive such an honor. He was also an inaugural inductee in the Cal athletic Hall of Fame. Stan Barnes died in Palm Springs on March 5, 1990 at the age of 89.
Getting fired up for the ten-mile road trip down the 805 to see our beloved Golden Bears take on TAMU....Q&A with the Aggies coming (maybe over the weekend)....More 50 Greatest....A look at A&M's Captain Queeg, Dennis Franchione....DePaul report card....and this:
Our 10th place pick is 11-1 with convincing wins over Gonzaga and now San Diego State (mixed in with a lot of creampuffs and a weird loss at Utah). Damn, the Pac 10 is tough this year. We'll have a report card on the entire conference before conference play opens next Thursday.
A&M runs a 4-2-5 defense, introduced this year to add another quick defender against the pass (the Aggies ranked last - 117th - in the country last year against the pass). Before the season A&M hoped to generate much more of a pass rush from its front four. The Aggies collected 20 sacks on the season, with 13.5 coming from their defensive line - an OK result, but the Golden Bears OL has handled better units than A&M this year. The defensive line is fairly stout against the run, surrendering 123 yards rushing per game (similar to Cal at 122 ypg). The keys to the game are shutting down Chris Harrington, a resourceful pass rusher off the edge, and avoiding tipped passes at the line. The A&M starters:
DE Chris Harrington (6'5"/267 - Junior) DT Marques Thornton (6'1"/285 - Senior) DT/NG Bryce Reed (6'0"/295 - Senior) DE Jason Jack 6'4"/271 - Junior
Harrington (left) is by far the best of this bunch, a first-team All-Big 12 choice by several newspapers (though oddly, only Honorable Mention from the Big XII coaches). He led the Aggies in solo tackles, sacks (7.5) and TFL. He will represent a nice challenge for Cal's tackles in San Diego.
Thornton started seven games. He's a former walk-on; a very good gap-filler who moves well laterally. Reed recorded only 15 tackles on the season
Jason Jack has 28 career starts at WDE; the former freshman All-America selection struggled a bit with injury this year and recorded 3 TFL.
Kellen Heard, a massive (6'6"/330) RS freshman, sees playing time at both tackle spots, he had 2 sacks this season. Michael Bennett, brother of TE star Martellus had two sacks, 24 tackles and 5.5 TFL coming off the bench.
Red Bryant added depth at tackle, but he is out with a knee injury suffered against Texas.
#10 - J.J. ARRINGTON - RUNNING BACK (2003-2004) J.J. Arrington is the reason we don't pay that much attention to recruiting rankings. Cal and Oregon were the only programs to seriously court Arrington, a two star recruit from College of the Canyons junior college. To his credit, so-called expert Greg Biggins did expect Arrington to have an immediate impact, though he mentioned him after singing the praises of recruits like Devin Stearns, Garrett Tremblay and Sam DeSa. We think it's safe to say that no one - not even Mr. Tedford - expected the kid from North Carolina to someday compile the 10th greatest season by a running back in NCAA history.
But from the beginning, it was clear that Tedford had gotten a steal in J.J.. In his second game, Arrington torched Southern Miss for 114 yards on 16 carries. There was the issue of fumbles, though: Arrington lost three in his first six games, and found his way to Tedford's bench as Adimchinobe Echemandu strengthened his hold on the starting job. JT reinstated Arrington at home against Arizona, and he rewarded his coach with 92 yards, two touchdowns and no fumbles. His breakout game came three weeks later against Washington, when he gained 185 yards on only 14 carries in Cal's 54-7 rout.
Cal fans were understandably anxious to see what Arrington would do carrying the full workload in 2004. What he did was have the greatest season by any player in the history of Cal football. That's right. The greatest season ever.
In each of his 12 games, Arrington hit for at least 100 yards - the only back in America to make that claim. Against Air Force in the opener, he scored three times including an 89-yard run that set a Cal record. 3 more scores against NMSU, and then a couple of off games - 108 yards and a TD v Oregon State and 112 in the heartbreak loss to SC. Then J.J. got serious. UCLA was torched for 205 yards and two scores in the next outing, and then ASU, Oregon, Washington and Stanford all surrendered a touchdown and at least 120 yards to #30.
But J.J. Arrington, to us, defined himself in the rain and mud of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. You recall the scene - the Bears needed a blowout win to impress the human pollsters and vault past Texas into the Rose Bowl. It was not to be, but Arrington moved heaven and earth to make it so, rushing 31 times for 261 yards, the most by a Cal back since 1954.
He ended the year with absurd numbers: 289 carries for 2,018 yards and fifteen touchdowns. A consensus All-American, Arrington also won the Pop Warner Award, given to the top senior on the west coast. J.J. was overlooked in the Heisman voting, and also by the pros in the 2005 NFL draft, falling to the Arizona Cardinals with the 15th pick of the second round. He plays there today, as understudy to Edgerrin James and a kick returner for the Cardinals - a pretty good two-star guy.
The Golden Bears are now safely esconced in Ben Braun's hometownsans DeVon Hardin to face the least predictable team in college basketball - the DePaul Blue Demons.
DePaul, a popular Top 30 pick before the season, has been all over the map in 2006. They opened with a blowout road loss to Bradley (which doesn't look quite as bad now) and then scored 39 points in a loss to Northwestern. After splitting their next four (cupcake wins over Eastern Illinois and Chaminade, and relatively close losses to Kentucky and Purdue) they shocked the CBB world by blowing past Kansas 64-57 at home.
So they're back, right? Wrong - the next time out DePaul loses to a middling UAB squad in Birmingham. But then they bounce back to rout Wake Forest at home, building a 19-point halftime lead. So we have no idea who will show up tomorrow - probably the good Demons, since most of their troubles have occurred away from Chicago.
The biggest matchup problem for Cal is Wilson Chandler, a 6'8" PF who leads DePaul in scoring (15.4). Chandler (left) does most of his damage around the basket, though he will pop out for a handful of threes each game. A solid rebounder and shot-blocker, he had 11 in last season's 3-point win over the Bears. Anderson will draw him when the Bears are in man.
Cal figures to mix in a bit more zone without Hardin, unless Sammy Mejia makes them pay. Mejia (below), a 6'6" senior SG, is second to Chandler in scoring and leads DePaul in rebounds with 7 per game. Lorenzo Thompson is a widebody who occupies space and doesn't do much else. He's started at center and logged exactly nine minutes in each the Blue Demons' last two wins. Karron Clarke (8.7/4.8) is a Miami (FL) transfer who starts at the 3; freshman Will Walker will likely start at the point. Walker has only five turnovers on the year and is shooting 48% from the floor. DePaul has five other players averaging double figures in minutes, led by junior SG Draelon Burns and senior forward Marcus Heard. DePaul is a deep team that will press and run and use its numbers to tire out opponents.
The Bears haven't announced their starting five, but chances are that Taylor Harrison will get the starting nod (as opposed to rolling out a small lineup with Robertson at the four). With the exception of Thompson, DePaul's bigs are active and fairly quick, which could present a problem for the freshman. We're hoping that Cal is capable of playing an active zone to keep Ryan Anderson out of foul trouble, but we've not been reassured by the efforts we've seen so far. Even with the Jekyll-and-Hyde nature of DePaul, this looks like an uphill climb for the Bears. To win, they will need a big defensive effort from Harrison, and good offensive games from Ubaka, Wilkes, Robertson and Neo. They also need to stay out of foul trouble, since they'll dress only nine healthy scholarship players. As we said, an uphill climb.
You may well beat us next year, but we no longer fear you, Oregon. You've become soft and shapeless ever since a certain hard-ass offensive coordinator left Eugene. For a while we bought into the hype that Oregon was the Next Dominant Power; that all those Nike-bucks would buy your way into the BCS every other year. A new paradigm, they called it (and they don't know jack).
But then there was the Pornstar's Divorce, and the Uniform Changes, and the Failed Corporate Mascot, and the Fabulous Goodies for Recruits, and what do you have to show for all of it? Not much. You've sold your soul, but for what? No bowl wins. A losing record against the Beavers. Mediocrity. Which is exactly what you had before all of Phil Knight's madness, for less than half the cost.
Spencer Hawes has arrived. Just in time, too, considering how Gonzaga pantsed the Dawgs earlier this month.
Oregon's still unbeaten, though we'll see how well their non-con schedule stacks up. Georgetown was thought to be a measuring stick, but the Hoyas have lost to Old Dominion and look to be something of a disappointment.
Chase Budinger gets the headlines, but Ivan Radenovic is the early MVP for 9-1 Arizona. He had 18 in last night's win over Memphis. Lute is saying nice things in the paper, which spells trouble for the rest of the conference.
Oh, and we haven't mentioned #1 UCLA. How did the Pac 10 get so good so quickly?
Dennis Erickson hired Miami's Rich Olson to be ASU's offensive coordinator. He's a known commodity to DE, but the Hurricanes' offense hasn't shown much in recent years. At least the Devils won't run the spread, unlike...
Arizona, where Sonny Dykes is already installing a version of Mike Leach's Ace Gun, or whatever the hell it's called. Willie Tuitama looks on with a mixture of anticipation and dread.
If you can stomach it, Oregon and their flaming-bile helmets do battle with the LDSers from BYU tonight in the Vegas Bowl. Aside from the aesthetic vulgarity of the new Duck look, think of the message it sends: "Hey guys, you underachieved all year and as a reward, new helmets!" It's the same mentality that rationalizes churning out glossy comic books for every Duck recruit, personal Playstations, and other ego-stroking goodies. Knight and co. have all the fiscal discipline and common sense of MC Hammer on a coke binge, which would be fine if they could win more than seven games in a season.
We're down to the Top 10 in the 50 Greatest Golden Bears countdown. A guest column for the first reader who emails us with the correct #1 and #2 choice - email@example.com
#11 - LES RICHTER - GUARD/LINEBACKER (1949-1951) How good was Les Richter? The Los Angeles Rams traded 11 players to Dallas in 1952 to acquire his services; Richter had yet to play his first professional game.
At Cal Richter played guard and linebacker, and also kicked field goals and extra points. On offense, he was a road grader who paved the way for Johnny Olszewski to set Cal records. But Richter shone brightest on defense, where his combination of strength and lateral pursuit shut down the middle of the field for opposing offenses. Cal went 27-4-1 during Richter's time on the varsity, and it's defenses surrendered an average of 12 points per game. In 1950, Richter's breakout All-American year, the Bears allowed only two opponents to score in double digits - St. Mary's in a 40-25 shootout and Michigan in Cal's 14-6 Rose Bowl defeat.
Richter was twice a consensus choice for All-America honors as a linebacker, and he was named to the all-time Pacific Coast Conference team. Following The Trade, Richter served two years as an Army 1st Lieutenant during the Korean conflict, and then nine more with the Rams, qualifying for eight Pro Bowls in the era of Nitschke, Schmidt and other great NFL linebackers.
Like many of the 50 Greatest, Richter has had a fascinating career after football. In 1959 he had worked with a group that included Bob Hope to purchase the Riverside Raceway, which had fallen into disrepair. Richter's group fixed the track up and started a motor sports revival in Southern California. In retirement, Richter became President of the Raceway, and then went on to serve as Executive Vice President of the California Speedway and a Senior Vice President for NASCAR. Like our previous honoree Sam Chapman, Richter has in some ways gained greater fame in a second sport, but we'll remember him fondly as Cal's greatest linebacker ever and a deserving #11 on the 50 Greatest list.
In our last look at A&M history, we discussed the brief but meteoric career of Bear Bryant and the Aggies' long decline after his departure to Alabama. Even future national champion Gene Stallings couldn't revive the fortunes of his alma mater in the late 60's. By 1972, A&M looked to be a dead-end football program (kind of like Cal in 2002, actually).
Enter Emory Bellard (left) the godfather of the wishbone formation. Bellard was an assistant at Texas (er, t.u.) when he brought HC Darrell Royal the idea of lining three backs behind the quarterback in a V formation. The Longhorns went on to win 30 games in a row with the new triple option formation, and the wishbone was soon the spread offense of its day.
There are lots of eerie parallels between Bellard's arrival in College Station and Jeff Tedford's in Berkeley thirty years later. Just like Tedford, Bellard revived an A&M program that was essentially on life support. After two tough years the Ags broke through with an 8-3 mark in 1974. In 1975, they started the season 10-0 and whipped Texas at Kyle Field, earning their first and only SI cover.
They of course lived up to the jinx, dropping their next game to Arkansas 31-6 and then losing the Liberty Bowl to a mediocre SC team 20-0. The Ags would repeat a 10-2 mark the following year, and achieve a winning record throughout the rest of the decade. The Aggies were good, but they never grabbed the brass ring of an SWC championship.
In 1978, Bellard's team lost back-to-back games, to eventual conference champ Houston and lowly Baylor, who whipped the Aggies 24-6 at Kyle Field. Following that game, Bellard asked A&M President Jarvis Miller for a vote of confidence to quiet the boo-birds surrounding the program. When Miller refused to respond on the spot, Bellard quit. The wishbone was gone, and after a few years so was Bellard's replacement, Tom Wilson.
Jackie Sherrill came to College Station in 1982 from Pitt, where he had struggled to operate in Johnny Majors' shadow. Sherrill created the 12th Man kickoff squad (which debuted against Cal in 1983) and recruited tons of defensive talent to execute the schemes of long-time assistant R.C. Slocum. The combination of huge tackles, head-hunting linebackers and Slocum's 3-4 defensive scheme begat the "Wrecking Crew." A&M won three consecutive SWC championships behind the Crew in the mid-1980s, winning Cotton Bowls over Bo Jackson's Auburn Tigers (left) and Tim Brown's Notre Dame squad.
Sherrill won, but he also sent money in FedEx packages to recruits and got the Aggies on probation. He eventually left for Mississippi State (oddly enough, Bellard's destination after A&M) and the Aggies promoted R.C. Slocum to the top job. It's fair to say, we think, that no coach has ever had a quieter 14-year reign at a winning program than old R.C.. Under Slocum and coordinator Bob Davie the Ags played even better defense than before, behind All-Americans like Sam Adams, Dat Nguyen and Ray Mickens. But the offense was neither good nor exciting, and the Aggies struggled to dominate the expanded Big 12 as they had the SWC, winning only one title in 1998.
Despite a 123-47-2 record, making him the winningest head coach in Aggie history, Slocum was dismissed in 2003. Enter Coach Fran, who we'll dissect in a subsequent post.
That's how long Cal will have to go without the services of center DeVon Hardin, whose sprained ankle turned out to be a stress fracture. File this under "devastating injuries." Taylor Harrison probably never though his freshman year would be this interesting. We'll take a look at the Bears without Hardin tomorrow in our DePaul preview. Get well, big guy.
The offensive line figured to be a strength for A&M, who returned four players who were at least part-time starters in 2005. They have lived up to expectations, leading one of America's most efficient running offenses. The starters are:
QT Yemi Babalola 6'4"/298 (Sophomore) QG Kirk Elder 6'5/298 (Junior - pictured at left) C Cody Wallace 6'4"/294 (Junior - pictured below) SG Grant Dickey 6'5"/315 (Senior) ST Corey Clark 6'6"/317 (Junior)
The Aggies' offensive success starts with Wallace, named 1st team All-Big 12 by the Austin American-Statesman. He has started 23 straight games and is an excellent run blocker. Think Marvin Philip with a bit less lower body strength (it appears). Elder is an excellent pulling guard who was tabbed by the Statesman and the Houston Chronicle for 1st team honors. Babalola was a freshman All-America choice in 2005 and elevated his play this year. Clark has a big frame, good hands and excels in pass protection. Dickey, the one non-returning starter, is perhaps a weak link, though he's good enough to be named Honorable Mention All-Big 12 by the AP.
The Aggies are also quite deep up front. Junior guard/center Chris Yoder and RS freshman guard Michael Shumard could start for any number of Big XII or Pac 10 teams, but they're backups with A&M (though Yoder sees lots of time). Alex Kotzur is a senior backing up Clark at ST.
A&M's offensive statistics bear out the effectiveness of this veteran unit. The Aggies are ranked 7th nationally in rushing yardage; the OL surrendered only 17 sacks all season, and A&M ranked third in the nation in time of possession, holding the ball for an average of 33:29 per game. They will represent a very difficult matchup for Cal's front seven, especially if the interior of their line can neutralize Brandon Mebane in the run game.
#12 - SAM CHAPMAN - HALFBACK (1935-1937) First off, he's got the best nickname in Cal football history - The "Tiburon Terror." Chapman came to Cal from Tamalpais HS weighing only 140 pounds, and consequently didn't make much of an impact on the JV squad. Between his freshman and sophomore seasons, he worked as a welder on the Golden Gate Bridge (which would open two years later) and added about twenty pounds of muscle to his frame.
With this added bulk, he immediately became a star - running, passing, catching and kicking Stub Allison's Bears to win after win. Two of his most memorable efforts came against USC - as a sophomore his 45 yard touchdown catch and run put the Bears up for good in a 21-7 win, and as a junior he hauled in a 34 yard pass from Vic Bottari late in the game to beat the Trojans in Los Angeles 13-7. Chapman was the primary running threat for the great 1937 Thunder Team that outscored its opponents 201-33 and stifled mighty Alabama in the Rose Bowl 13-0. In recommending him for All-America status, Time Magazine wrote that Chapman "is the best punter in the PCC, a good passer and runner, and a fearless ankle-tackler." Cal entered the Big Game that year needing a victory to secure the Rose Bowl berth, and Chapman almost personally secured it. While statistics are hard to come by, reports show that his running led Cal on both its scoring drives in the Bears' 13-0 win, and that he punted nine times for a 43 yard average - exceptionally high in that era. Given the field conditions in rain-soaked Stanford Stadium, Chapman's kicking presented an insurmountable challenge to the Indians. Following the season, he was named a first-team All-American by virtually every service, and at least one CFB blog out there thinks he should have won the Heisman (he finished ninth in the voting)
But here's the kicker with Sam Chapman - football wasn't his best sport. Following his senior season he traveled directly to Philadelphia to become the Athletics' starting center fielder. Over an 11-year career Chapman hit .266 with 180 home runs and 773 runs batted in - like many major leaguers he lost three seasons in his prime when he served as a Navy pilot in WWII.
Sam Chapman is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, and he is still with us - living in Tiburon at the age of 90.
We got the awful news on Monday that Byron Storer will likely miss the Holiday Bowl with a broken arm suffered in practice. What's just as awful is that some people on a certain message board are chortling that sophomore Will Ta'ufo'ou would be an upgrade over Storer.
It's true - Storer is not Chris Manderino, who was probably the best fullback in the program's history. He's extremely limited athletically, as evidenced by his rushing stat line - eight carries for sixteen yards in twelve games. As a receiver, he's at best a distraction - and we still can't figure out why Longshore sought him out at the end of the Arizona game.
But every winning college football team needs a bunch of guys who do little things, and who lead their teammates by example. Byron Storer is one such guy.
He's a very good run blocker - not quite Manderino, but he displays good technique and works hard to be in the correct position. As a pass blocker, he's one of the best we've seen, picking up stunts and blitzes with great vision and form. On special teams, he was literally the only bright spot in 2005's meltdown, earning 2nd team All-Pac 10 honors and leading the Bears with nine tackles. This year, he helped coach Pete Alamar turn special teams from a deficiency to a team strength, again earning 2nd team all-conference honors.
Oh, and he's also a first team Pac 10 All-Academic choice who graduated this month with a degree in communications.
The most fitting tribute to Storer, the former walk-on who earned his scholarship, is that he was named the 2006 Dink Artal Award winner as the player best exemplifying Cal spirit. Look at the previous winners of that award: Keith Kartz, Tosh Lupoi, Tully Banta-Cain, Burl Toler. All of those guys share something in common with #38 - they were all leaders who inspired their teammates not by what they did, but by how they did it.
Two things. First, it's really good to see Bill Walsh at the Harbaugh presser in good spirits and hopefully good health.
Second, did they hold this thing in a utility closet? Were there even twenty people at this event? You've got Walsh with a typical Furdie in a golf pullover to his left, and then I'm not sure what to his right, and somebody's mom behind him, and a bunch of people in the hallway apparently between meetings.
A&M's top receiver is its tight end, sophomore Martellus Bennett. Bennett (left) was one of the nation's most sought-after recruits coming out of Houston's Allen Taylor HS and chose the Aggies over LSU, Texas and many other interested programs. He has ideal physical tools for the position: at 6'7"/248 he's still athletic enough to play on A&M's excellent basketball team.
Bennett had 37 catches on the year for a 13.3 yard average and three scores, and was named All-Big 12. He's also a very effective edge blocker in the zone read option running game. Bennett will most definitely play on Sundays, and he represents the single biggest matchup challenge for Cal in the Holiday Bowl. Cal shut down All-America Zach Miller in the Bears' 49-21 romp over ASU, but Bennett is an even more difficult test because of his height and superior athleticism. He also has a message board where you can ask him questions.
Now we get to the wideouts. After Lane, Goodson, McGee and Bennett, it's refreshing to analyze a unit that's ordinary in every way. A&M's biggest threat is Chad Schroeder (right) who caught 37 passes and led the Aggies in yards and touchdown catches. Schroeder is a converted high school quarterback, and he lacks elite speed. He is, however, gifted at finding holes in zone packages and he has sure hands.
Beyond Schroeder are a bunch of guys who rotate through the lineup. L'Tydrick Riley is another converted QB who caught 19 balls with a long of 35 yards. He will generally start along with Schroeder in A&M's base offensive sets. Earvin Taylor actually played receiver in high school and will most often be the third receiver in spread sets. Pierre Brown is next - thank goodness, he's also a HS QB. Brown also contributes on the Aggies' kick cover squads.
The Aggies do not throw much to their backs - Goodson averages about one reception per game, and Lane is rarely utilized out of the backfield.
50 GREATEST GOLDEN BEARS - #13 - EDWIN "BABE" HORRELL
#13 - EDWIN "BABE" HORRELL - CENTER (1922-1924) Cal's 13th greatest Golden Bear is also the worst head coach in UCLA history (though he is presently being challenged for that title by a man whose surname, oddly enough, rhymes with the Babe's). Horrell gets demoted a spot or two on this list for his work with the Bruins, but he was a tremendous center, stout defender and leader for Andy Smith's Wonder Teams of the early 1920s.
How can you evaluate the work of a center who played during Prohibition? You read the quotes from contemporaries, starting with his coach. Andy Smith said that "Horrell's ability and skill constitutes 25% of our team." St. Mary's coach Slip Madigan went even further, saying that "Horrell was about 50% of the psychological effect of the Bears. He could get his men together better than any football captain I ever saw. Andy Smith could have stood the loss of five good men better than the graduation of Horrell."
Horrell's teams never lost a game, and tied only three times in 29 tries. He basically beat Stanford by himself in 1923, recovering his own blocked punt for a score and also recording a safety in Cal's 9-0 shutout victory. He was voted to Walter Camp's All-America team in 1924, becoming only the second player from west of the Mississippi to be so honored.
Following his coaching career, Horrell was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1969. He passed away on June 13, 1992 at the age of 89.
An easy win for the Bears was clouded by DeVon Hardin's foot/ankle injury in the 1st half. He left the game and will get an MRI tomorrow. Ryan Anderson was back to form with 23 and 8 and Theo Robertson hit for 16 points. Runs did it again for the Bears - they entered halftime on a 25-7 run and then started the 2nd half 20-6. All in all, it sounded like a nice tuneup for the roadie to Chicago this weekend, provided that DeVon's MRI comes back clean. Fingers are crossed.
A deer caught in the headlights will often squint...
For once the Chronicle correctly frames an issue, in the opening paragraph of its story on the Harbaugh hire:
"Jim Harbaugh is young, energetic and charismatic. He has impressive college and NFL resumes as a player, name recognition and success at running a college football program. Stanford AD Bob Bowlsby is banking that Harbaugh's package of attributes - and not the fact that he has not been a Division 1-A coach - will be the factors that help him turn a Stanford football program stubbornly stuck in the losing column for half a decade."
We don't reject the Harbaugh hire on the grounds that he runs a glorified high school program, or that he lacks D-1A experience (not that those aren't good reasons). We apparently agree with Bowlsby that Harbaugh's lack of experience does not preclude his succeeding on the Farm. The DUI? Not a good indicator, but hardly disqualifying. The hushed rumors about skirt-chasing? Perhaps even more of a concern given Stanford's history in this area, but again not a deal-breaker.
What would trouble us if we were sipping chardonnay in Palo Alto is the fact that Jim Harbaugh has thrown himself at virtually every D-1A coaching vacancy in the past 36 months with no success. Lots of coaches are contacted by search firms and the like in the event of vacancies. Jimbo's taken the middle man out of the process by soliciting opportunities before the print is dry on the press release. It's widely known down here that Harbaugh has shopped himself like an Amsterdam hooker to anyone looking for a good time, er, coach.
And Stanford is the first school to return his embrace.
You expected Alabama and Michigan State to pass. But then Tulane wasn't interested and hired Bob Toledo. OK, you could argue that Toledo makes sense there, even if he is a bit of a retread. Iowa State wasn't interested and hired Gene Chizik. OK, we'll give him that one too - Chizik, despite having no HC experience, is very well regarded. Rice wasn't interested. They hired an assistant from Tulsa who no one had ever heard of (and who has, incidentally, turned out to be a pretty good coach).
North Texas wasn't interested. And they hired a high school coach. We can't explain that one.
And San Diego State wasn't interested. That's the one search we know something about, living as we do in Ron Burgundy's hometown. The Aztec brass returned Harbaugh's calls and had a meeting, but things never became serious and they ultimately hired Oklahoma offensive coordinator Chuck Long.
In fairness, that hire was made when the DUI was fresh news, but it still raises important questions. Why would State - a moribund program desperate to generate student and alumni interest - pass on a former NFL star who had taken the Chargers to the playoffs?
It's not his personality - Harbaugh has twice the charisma of Chuck Long, who is less exciting than a tuna fish sandwich.
It's not the DUI - SDSU offered that job to Mike Price and talked to Dennis Erickson, so it's safe to say they weren't looking for a choirboy.
It's not the lack of experience - Long was 42, had never been a HC, and was about to be run out of town by Sooner fans sick of his predictable schemes.
We don't pretend to know what makes a good D-1A head coach: whatever it is, it's the only quality that Jeff Tedford and Pete Carroll share. And Harbaugh might turn out to be just fine given the low expectations of Stanford alums.
But those folks in the red shirts must be racking their brains tonight, trying to answer the following question: What does Bob Bowlsby see in Jim Harbaugh that everyone else over the past three years has apparently missed?
We chaired you through the market-place, Man and boy stood cheering by, And home we brought you shoulder-high.
Today, the road all runners come, Shoulder-high we bring you home, And set you at your threshold down, Townsman of a stiller town.
Smart lad, to slip betimes away From fields were glory does not stay And early though the laurel grows It withers quicker than the rose
Eyes the shady night has shut Cannot see the record cut, And silence sounds no worse than cheers After earth has stopped the ears.
Now you will not swell the rout Of lads that wore their honours out, Runners whom renown outran And the name died before the man.
So set, before its echoes fade, The fleet foot on the sill of shade, And hold to the low lintel up The still-defended challenge-cup
And round that early-laurelled head Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead, And find unwithered on its curls The garland brief than a girl's.
A.E. Housman, "To An Athlete Dying Young"
I remember reading in the newspaper that Joe Roth, Cal's All-American quarterback, had died. There was a big article in the Oakland Tribune and a black-and-white version of the above picture with his squinting smile and shaggy brown hair. I remembered that he had just played in some all-star games a month earlier. It didn't make sense. I was old enough to know that 21 was a very young age to die. Like any little kid, I wondered if I would die that young.
In mid-February 1977, Joe Roth lay dying in his Berkeley apartment. His family asked a priest to go and comfort Joe. The following is excerpted from "Joe: His Fight for Life" by Joe's mother Lena Roth:
"While Father Hunt sat with Joe that night, he had a short but serious, private talk with him. In the past when he had been with the dying, Father Hunt had found that they usually wanted to straighten something out -- a feud with someone, a lie they had told, or something they had stolen. He asked Joe if he had anything he wanted to straighten out. Joe said "no." He asked Joe if there was anyone who had not come that he would like to see. Joe said, "No, they've all been here." Father Hunt could see that Joe did not want to die, but he was not afraid."
Joe Roth died at 3:55 pm on Saturday, February 19, 1977, exactly thirty days after he honored his invitation to play in the Japan Bowl. He had played knowing that he was very sick, and would likely die. He had known this for his entire senior season. The tests at UCSF that confirmed his mortality the week after the Big Game were just a formality.
Athletic Director Dave Maggard delivered the news of Joe's passing to fans who had packed Harmon Gym for that night's Cal-Washington basketball game. The stunned crowd observed a moment of silence that, according to those who were there, lasted an eternity - broken only by the occasional sound of sobbing. Forty miles away, the crowd at Maples Pavillion also stood in silence to honor Joe's memory.
Three days later he was laid to rest. The Newman Center could not accommodate the throngs of mourners, who stood outside and strained to hear the speeches and blessings.
Today, every Golden Bear passes Joe's locker, which has been preserved as he left it, and hears how Joe faced death as he faced life - with head held high, always thinking of others. And hopefully they leave the locker room as better people, if not better players.
Cal takes on Furman tonight at Haas in a tuneup for Saturday's much bigger challenge against the DePaul Blue Demons in Chicago. Finals are over, and now the Bears can focus on regaining some semblance of consistency on both ends of the floor.
Furman shouldn't pose much of a problem (but then again, USD should have been a W). Saturday night they hung with USD in San Diego for a half, but then wilted and lost by 11. They come in at 5-5 against mediocre competition, and don't figure to challenge for a post-season bid. In their only competition with a major, they made a good showing but lost at 11-0 Clemson by nine points.
The Paladins are neither deep nor big; their tallest starter is 6'9" sophomore center Stanley Jones, and no one is averaging more than 4 ppg off their bench. Guard-driven, their top scorers are senior PG Eric Webb and senior SG Robby Bostain. Bostain actually presents something of a matchup problem at 6'6", and he leads the Paladins in rebounding at 7.6 a game. PF Moussa Diagne adds some scoring punch up front.
Furman has problems taking care of the basketball; they average nearly 16 turnovers a game. To us, this game is a test of the Golden Bears' defensive reputation. Cal should beat Furman, but we want to see them suffocate the Paladins and generate ~20 turnovers. Under Braun, Cal has a well-deserved reputation for defensive efficiency, but this year's team has occasionally coasted. Their efforts against USD, Marshall and Chicago State have been notable for their lack of intensity and poor communication.
Offensively, we'll look for Hardin and Anderson to establish a consistent post presence off of motion, and for our guards to find them with clean entry passes. This is a game for Cal to reclaim those basic fundamentals that have eluded them against beatable teams this year. DePaul is another matter, and we'll have a preview of the Blue Demons up later in the week.
Over the next week or so, TH will take a closer look at Texas A&M's personnel - kind of an expanded version of our regular "key matchups" feature. We'll start with the very best unit on the A&M team - the offensive backfield. As we discussed earlier, A&M is fond of two base option sets - the I-formation, which resembles Nebraska's legendary attack under Osborne, and a more hip zone read option, which looks a bit like a run-centric version of Oregon's spread. In either of these and other formations, the trigger man for the Ags is quarterback Stephen McGee (right).
McGee took over for a gimpy Reggie McNeal in the last two games of 2005 and stunned eventual national champion Texas with 108 yards on the ground in the Aggies' 40-29 loss. He is big (6'3"/208) and fast enough to have run the 400 meters in high school. A review of A&M game tape shows that he's tough as well, and can take punishment with the best of them. For his age (RS sophomore) he is exceptional with ball fakes and he seems to read his blockers very well - a must in the zone read option. He has a tendency to take on tacklers, which could eventually get him into trouble with shoulder and arm injuries.
In the passing game McGee broke an A&M record this year with a 61.7 completion percentage; he threw for 11 scores and only turned the ball over twice with interceptions. He can throw the deep ball, though it's not his strength. Very mobile, he has the ability to move the pocket horizontally though too often he tucks the ball under and runs.
A&M's running backs are the best that Cal has faced this year by a long shot. No team in the Pac brings two talents like Jorvorskie Lane and Michael Goodson to bear on opposing defenses. Lane is a 6'0", 274 pound sophomore/man-mountain who looks a little like the late great Craig Heyward. Like Heyward and fellow FatBack Jerome Bettis, Lane has great feet and good balance for his size. He is 26-29 on 4th down conversions in 2006, and scored 19 touchdowns this year - most from short yardage situations. He can also block a little:
You watch Lane, and you wonder how he doesn't get more attention. And then you realize he's sharing time with Goodson (below), who may well turn out to be the most talented back to appear in this year's Holiday Bowl. Goodson, a 6'0"/192 true freshman, averaged 6.9 yards per attempt and made many Aggies (and me) wonder why he only had 114 carries in 12 games. He did have some issues with ball security, coughing two fumbles up in the opening win v the Citadel. Goodson is fast, but also possesses excellent instincts for a freshman. He's a different style back than Marshawn as a freshman (much more of an upright glider than a slasher) but the production is awfully similar.
The forgotten man in the mix is Courtney Lewis, a senior who led A&M in rushing last year. This year he has only 46 carries for a 4.7 yard average, though he's one of the best third-string tailbacks in the nation. The fullback when A&M goes from the I is Chris Alexander, who was voted All Big 12 despite carrying the ball 11 times in 12 games. He is a devastating lead blocker whose talents are best utilized when A&M runs a traditional I-formation offense.
The Comical ran a nice love letter to the Cal program here, pointing out that 83% of the players in Tedford's first recruiting class are on track to graduate within five years. We're generally not big fans of the NCAA's academic barometers, because they can be terribly misleading given the short shelf lives of CFB coaches. While it's nice that Cal is second in the Pac 10 in Academic Progress Rate with a 94.5, it doesn't tell the whole story (just as Arizona's 88.2% doesn't totally condemn Mike Stoops. OK, that's a bad example). What is clear is that Tedford has cleaned up Tom Holmoe's mess and returned Cal to where it should be in the classroom as well as the field. Kudos to him.
Oregon is unveiling the ugliest helmet since, well, the ugliest helmet ever. You know, if a recruit actually chooses Oregon over Cal or some other school because the Ducks have more fashion options, then that is the definition of addition by subtraction.
Rumors swirl that Bob Bowlsby has put down the bottle and is ready to hire Bobby Hauck as Stanford's coach. Let's see - young coach, disciple of a more famous and controversial HC (Neuheisel), reputation as a crackerjack recruiter.....where have we heard that before? We love the smell of surrender in the morning.
DeSean won the Golden Glock - sets him up nicely for a Heisman run next year, perhaps?
#15 - MARSHAWN LYNCH - RUNNING BACK (2004-2006) I imagine this pick might generate some debate among Golden Bear fans, because Marshawn Lynch has somehow become a controversial topic. A goodly number of Old Blues have come to the conclusion that his career at Berkeley is something of a disappointment. That reminds us a bit of what people thought about Russell White, who was merely a great back after rewriting the California high school record book.
It's a mistake to focus on what Marshawn didn't accomplish at Cal: no Heisman run, no conference championship, no senior season (which looks like a done deal). What he did accomplish was remarkable - three productive seasons in which he averaged at least six yards a carry...33 touchdowns...the most exciting highlight reel of any running back in California history.
People forget what a force Lynch was on Cal's 10-2 team in 2004. He averaged 8.8 yards per carry as a change-of-pace to J.J. Arrington and scored ten touchdowns. As a sophomore, Lynch became the main man and racked up 1,246 yards (though it's worth noting that Justin Forsett ate up 1,000 yards as well). This year, two bad ankles conspired to deny Marshawn a run at the Heisman. He still managed to earn Pac 10 Offensive POY, behind 1,245 yards and 13 touchdowns.
But Lynch was much more than his statistics. Go back and watch the second half of this year's cliffhanger with Washington - specifically, watch Cal's first drive of that half. 1st down: Marshawn bursts through right tackle for 16 yards. Next play, Longshore hits Lynch with a short pass and he takes it 26 yards to the Washington twenty. After another four yard gain, the Bears call for the halfback option. Nothing's there, but rather than run out of bounds Marshawn dances, jukes, and reverses field to bring the ball down to the two. Two plays later, Cal has tied the score and regained the momentum.
We hope that Marshawn puts it all together against the Aggies in two weeks, because we don't want to remember him sitting on the bench, sullen and confused after being pulled against LSJU. He deserves to go out as a champion, befitting the heart he showed over three memorable seasons in Berkeley.
An ongoing discussion of California Golden Bears football and basketball...Other college football and basketball news filtered through a west coast bias...Like the actual Tightwad Hill, a bit messy and disorganized, but free!