104th Big Game Preview

Mark has the scoop on the Bad News Bears, with a focus on their cumulative institutional and personnel failures that have contributed to their record-setting misery this season. The prediction? More of the same pain, administered Indian-style!

According to the Chronicle, Cal's football program would be fine and good these days if they had managed to beat one of the worst Stanford teams of the last 20 years back in 1998.

Not quite. Sure the Bears might have sneaked in a bowl with a win that overcast day. But with so much on the line,  the fact that they looked so inept against such a benign Stanford team spoke volumes of what Cal football has become. In the end, it was just another in a series of low-lights for the Bears. And of course their thug student fans just had to rush the field in a violent melee. It was a fitting denouement.

If the 2001 Cal season were a blimp, it would be the Hindenburg. It's automobile equivalent-the Pacer. They're last in the conference in every major category. Six times they've scored 17 points or less. With their 0-9 start (the worst in school history), the Bears are being outscored by an average of 43-17! The winner Their game at Rutgers next week will certainly be dubbed the "lesser of two feebles."

Just maybe, there will be a significant interest in attending the 104th Big Game just to see such ineptitude in action. It seems every year Cal's shortcomings are excused for being either young, or inexperienced. This team is just plain bad.

When Kyle Boller arrived in Berkeley, he was hailed as the savior of the program. That seems like a long time ago. Now nursing an injury, Boller is fast becoming the biggest Easy Bay flop since the California Seals. In his third season as the starter, he is still completing less than 50% of his passes. While his ten touchdowns are decent when compared to his seven interceptions, most of those scores have come in garbage time with his time hopelessly out of reach. Back-ups Eric Holtfreter and Reggie Roberton have each started games in Boller absence.

The running back situation is even sadder. Before the season even started, Cal one tailback to injury and another to academic problems. So what happens to shifty Joe Igber, the Bears' best running back? He gets hurt midway through the season, and is now done for the year. Not that Bears have much of a ground game anyway. They only average about 3.3 yards-per-carry and have a measly six rushing touchdowns.

Due to all the turmoil, true freshman Terrell Williams has been thrust into the starting tailback position. The San Diego product has responded admirably, gaining a team-leading 437 yards. How sorry is the Cal running game? Kyle Boller is tied for third on the team in rushing with 54 net-yards.The Bear backs will run behind a suspect offensive line that has given up 29 sacks.  Two seniors, guard Brandon Ludwig and tackle Langston Walker, will have their last chance to finally defeat Stanford on Saturday.

Cal has had some talented recievers in recent years. You might remember the names Na'il Benjamin, Dameane Douglas, and Bobby Shaw (the little weasel who insisted his '96 team was better than Stanford, even after losing by three touchdowns!!). There are no such all-conference studs in this group, though Charon Arnold does have a resepectable 39 grabs for 462 yards and three scores. The Bears will also throw to fullback Marcus Fields (244-244-1). The deep threat of the group is LaShaun Ward- a senior who has totaled 252 yards receiving on only 10 catches. Former St. Francis star Chase Lyman is in the mix as well.

Of course Cal's offensive is well, offensive. But the defense isn't much better. The Bears are giving up astounding 460-yards of offensive, easily the worst in the conference. Opponenents can't seem to decide whether they like to run (almost 160 yards-per) or pass (22 touchdowns through the air) against this sorry bunch. There are a few bright spots though in the front seven. Defensive end Tully Banta-Cain leads the team with nine tackles for loss. Linebacker Scott Fujita has been a mainstay in his four seasons and should find himself selected in next spring's NFL Draft. Fellow linebacker John Klotsche leads the team with 56 total tackles.

The secondary is, in a word, atrocious. While starting safety Nnamdi Asomugha is the brother of Stanford's own Chijoke, the rest of the DB's aren't so lucky. They have a total of only THREE interceptions for the whole year, and one of those was made by wide receiver LeShaun Ward. Opponents are averaging 303 yards passing for the 2001 season. Pitty corner Atari Callen, a former De La Salle Spartan who has become all too familiar with losing in his third season at Berkeley.

Things of course got so bad for Holmoe that his most excting player of the last couple years was All-American punter Nate Harris, who is now in the NFL. His replacement, Tyler Fredrickson, averages a respectable 39.8 yards-per-boot. Kicker Mark-Christian Jensen is 7-for-11 on field goal attempts.

This has the look of being one of the biggest Big Game mismatches ever. Stanford is looking for a big bowl, while the Bears are fighting to avoid their first winless season since 1897 when they went 0-3-2 (and were smoked 28-0 against Stanford). While the pundits may point to the scenerio surrounding the '86 Big Game as reason for an upset this year, there are some noticeable differences. Back then, Cal had a lame-duck coach that was actually worth playing for (if you were a Cal Bear anyway). The Bears were also at home in 1986 and were facing a gimpy John Paye leading a team that had already accepted a Gator Bowl invitation. History will not repeat itself Saturday: 48-21 Cardinal


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