Loaded for Bear?

California plays their final home game of the season when they entertain the Washington Huskies on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. The Bears (5-6) know that they need to win their final two games of the year to wind up with a winning record and become bowl eligible.

Washington (3-3, 5-5) at California (3-3, 5-6)
Saturday, November 15 - 12:30 PM (PST) – No live TV
Memorial Stadium – Berkeley, CA (capacity 73,347)
Series All-time: Washington leads, 45-33-4
Last Meeting: October 5, 2002 - Washington 27, California 34
Line: California by 5-1/2

Cal is coming off of a tough loss in Eugene to the Ducks, as Oregon came from behind to score two touchdowns in the final 5 minutes to escape with a 21-17 win. Cal Coach Jeff Tedford, former offensive coordinator at Oregon, had his former boss beaten but couldn't hold on in the fourth quarter.

Washington, at 5-5, probably needs this win just as bad. After this final road game of the season the Huskies return home to face a very good Washington State Cougar team who will be looking to avenge last season's 3 OT loss in Pullman.

Strawberry Canyon is one of the prettiest venues to watch a football game, particularly if you are in the upper seats. You can see all the way out to the Bay and see some amazing sunsets.

Washington hopes to not see the sun set on their fledgling football season. Up until last year, the Dawgs had owned the Bears. The Dawgs lead the all-time series, which dates back to 1904, 45-33-4. UW had won 19 straight over the Bears before Cal's 34-27 victory in Seattle last fall. In that game, Cal QB Kyle Boller threw five touchdown passes against the 12th-ranked Huskies, as the Bears built a 34-18 advantage early in the fourth quarter.

The Bears, though, have not defeated Washington at Memorial Stadium since claiming a 27-24 decision in 1975, back when Don James was a rookie coach at Washington, Gerald R. Ford was The President, and star jeans were fashionable.

But that was then, and this is now.

TEAM STATS:       29.4 points per game, 388 yards per game
                  (151 rush, 237 pass)

RUSHING LEADER:   A. Echemandu 1110 yards, 5.1 yards per carry,
                  97 yards per game, 11 TDs

PASSING LEADER:   A. Rodgers 142-244, 1802 yards, 11 TD, 4 INT

RECEIVING LEADER: G. McArthur 63 rec. 1079 yards,
                  17.1 yards per catch, 7 TDs

The Bears have owned the 2nd quarter this year, outscoring their opponents 127-52. Once Cal gets the first quarter jitters out of the way, Jeff Tedford takes the reigns off of his offense and they score in droves. Echemandu has been outstanding in his final season as a Bear, carrying the load on the ground. However he is dinged up and may not be at full speed on Saturday. There is ample talent behind him as well, as JC transfer JJ Arrington has racked up 353 yards and four touchdowns in his backup role. Echemandu blew up against Arizona State, where he went for over 200 yards. The Huskies will have their hands full stopping him, as he is very adept at cutting in the hole and making people miss, something that Arizona's Mike Bell was able to do all to many times against Washington. If Echemandu cannot go, Arrington is big and fast, someone that can run through an arm tackle with ease (and Husky fans are tired of seeing that).

If the Husky safeties take poor angles on Saturday, they'll experience a similar fate as last weekend's fiasco.

Bear QB Aaron Rodgers boasts a 131 efficiency rating, and is mobile enough to evade pass rush. Rodgers isn't asked to make the tough throws, but rather not make mistakes, and he is having a solid year, averaging just over 180 yards per game and connecting on 58.2 percent of his throws.

When he does throw it, Geoff McArthur has been the guy that's made the most of his opportunities. McArthur is fast, has great hands, and will torch single coverages. Echemandu has also been a viable threat as a receiver out of the backfield, averaging 8 yards per catch, but McArthur has 26 more receptions than the next closest Bear, Burl Toler, who has 37 catches and a lofty 14+ yards per catch average.

Cal has a very able backup in Reggie Robertson, who was key in sparking Cal's multiple OT upset of USC. He is more mobile than Rodgers but not as accurate. However, mobile quarterbacks give the Huskies fits, so don't' be surprised if Tedford puts in Robertson to loosen up the Dawgs' linebackers.

Cal ranks #4 in the Pac-10 in scoring, behind USC, Oregon State, and Washington State. They are the number two team in the conference in rushing, trailing only Southern Cal. Expect them to run the ball right at Washington's defensive end, whether it is Brandon Ala or Ty Eriks.

TEAM STATS:      24.5 points against per game (6th)

LEADING TACKLER: Donnie McCleskey (92 tackles, 12 tfl)

LEADING SACKER:  Donnie McCleskey (5.5)

INTERCEPTIONS:   Joe Maningo (2), Donnie McCleskey (2),
                 Mike McGrath (2)

Giving up just over 24 points per contest, the Bears rank 6th in the conference, just behind Washington, who ranks 5th in that category.

Cornerback Donnie McCleskey has done it all for the Bears. The sophomore from Bishop Amat high school leads the Bears in just about every meaningful category on defense. In addition to his 5.5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, and two interceptions, he has also broken up nine passes. He is probably a shoe-in to be all-conference at the end of the season.

Linebacker Wendell Hunter (6-1 230 Jr) has also been active on defense, piling up 76 tackles, 6 behind the line of scrimmage. Junior Safety Ryan Gutierrez is a physical presence, with 63 tackles, five for loss, and five sacks. The force inside has been Tom Svercheck, who has 32 stops, six of those in the backfield.

Washington has had the most success when they can grind out rushing yards, and that is what they'll try to do against Cal's base 4-3 front seven alignment. Blocking Sverchek and DT Lorenzo Alexander will be crucial for Washington to have any success, as Kenny James does his best work between the tackles.

When the Huskies go with Shelton Sampson, the speedster who likes to do his work outside, the Bears will counter with two smallish defensive ends, as Ryan Riddle and Tosh Lupoi both are less than 250 pounds.

When the Dawg tailbacks get past the line, the linebacker that they'll have to avoid will be Joe Maningo, a JC transfer that is undersized but packs a wallop and runs sideline to sideline as well as any in the conference. He is good in coverage (2 INTs) and Pickett will need to look him off before dumping anything lazily into the middle or flat.

PK:      Tyler Frederickson 12-22, long of 53 yards, 4 blocked

PUNTING: Frederickson 47 punts, 39.7 avg, long 58.

KOR:     James Bethea 29 returns, 19.9 avg, long 62

PR:      Vincent Strang 20 returns, 8.8 avg, long 68 (TD) 

Cal has been pretty mediocre on special teams this year, ranking 7th in kick off returns and 6th in punting in the conference. However Washington has been even worse on returning kicks, so there is no edge here. The Huskies do punt slightly better, however.

California does rank #2 in the conference in returning punts, ,but the Huskies are number one, so again there isn't much to choose from as far as an advantage.
How do we match-up against the CALIFORNIA Golden Bears ?
Category CALIFORNIA Golden Bears UW HuskiesNational LeaderPac-10 Leader
151.36 61 2 132.2 80 6 MINN 303.91 USC 167.33
236.73 43 7 279.4 21 3 TEXTECH 508.7 OSU 294.44
388.09 54 7 411.6 34 3 TEXTECH 612.9 USC 443.22
29.36 45 4 27.8 52 5 OKLA 48.3 USC 40.22
146.18 54 8 129.1 37 7 OHIOST 45 USC 68.22
Pass Eff.
131.16 83 9 122.54 59 6 NEB 80.47 WSU 96.5
387.27 71 8 358.7 49 5 OKLA 226.2 OSU 306.89
24.45 58 6 24.3 57 5 LSU 9.56 WSU 19.1
36.74 47 6 38.79 20 4 CAL 43.24 USC 43.24
10.7 36 2 11.43 31 1 TOL 19.2 UW 11.43
19.28 79 7 18.86 85 8 UTAH 28.5 ASU 22.79
0.18 53 3 -0.3 76 6 NEB 1.9 USC 1.44
241.09 89 5 229.6 70 3 OKLA 133.2 UCLA 197.2
137.87 29 2 123.73 69 5 OKLA 178.96 USC 154.18
Source: NCAA.org

KIBBLES AND BITS For the first time in eight years, Keith Gilbertson will roam the sidelines of California's Memorial Stadium as a head football coach this week. Gilbertson was the former Golden Bears' head coach from 1992-95, until angry alums and a mouthy coordinator spelled Gilbertson's doom in the Bay area.

California is one of the most disciplined teams in the Pac-10, only averaging 47.6 yards of penalty yardage per game. That is tops in the conference. Washington's opponents have been penalized the most, interestingly enough, to the tune of over 86 yards per game. Something has to give here.

The area where the Bears have made the most honey this year has been at accumulating first downs. With 90 on the ground, 123 through the air, and 23 via the flag, California's 236 first downs are also best in the conference. BUT, they have played one more game than Washington, who ranks second in the conference with 226 first downs (74 rush, 120 pass, 32 penalty). The chains should be moving a lot on Saturday.

If Cal can beat Washington, it will mark the first time in 12 seasons that the Bears will have pulled off back-to-back winning seasons. Bruce Snyder posted 7-4 and 10-2 records in 1990 and 1991. Conversely if Washington loses their final two games, it will mark their first losing season since 1976, Don James' second season at the school when his Huskies went 5-6. Fans were clamoring for his head. It's a good thing the internet wasn't around then.

These two schools own some very impressive records in terms of consecutive wins. The Golden Bears once reeled off an unbeaten string of 50 straight games, spanning the years of 1920-25. It included 46 victories and four ties, and is the third longest in NCAA Division I-A history. Meanwhile, Washington continues to own the longest unbeaten streak in NCAA Division I-A annals, having reeled off 63 consecutive games (59 wins, 4 ties) without a loss from 1907-17. The Huskies' incredible ride came to an end on Nov. 3, 1917, when ironically, a football team from Cal defeated Washington in Berkeley by a 27-0 count.

If you are looking for the team that hurt Washington the most in recruiting last year, look no further than Cal. They won recruiting battles for three very talented defensive linemen, Matt Malele, Leon Drummer, and Brandon Mebane. Do you think defensive line might be an area of need at Montlake? Also, WR Junior Brignac wound up at Cal after spending just two days on campus last summer at Washington. Brignac didn't feel he'd play much at Washington so he chose to return home to the Berkeley area. He signed a LOI with the Huskies seven years ago before opting to play minor league baseball. He is now a 25-year old redshirt-freshman in Jeff Tedford's program.

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