CAL @ UW: A Matter of Seconds

For a second straight season (and a third time overall), California will attempt to beat Washington in Husky Stadium. For a second straight week (and a fifth time overall), Tyrone Willingham will seek to achieve his first-ever head-coaching win in Seattle. And perhaps of more immediate significance - for a second straight week - Cal coach Jeff Tedford must trot out a first-time starter at quarterback.

#16 California (0-0, 1-0) at Washington (0-0, 0-1)
Saturday, September 10 - 12:35 PM (PST) – ABC TV
Series All-time: Washington leads, 45-35-4
Last Meeting: November 13, 2004 - California 42-12
Line: California by 9

After freshman starter Nate Longshore went down with a broken fibula late in the first half of California's 41-3 snoozer over Sacramento State, out trotted much-ballyhooed JC All-American Joe Ayoob, who proceeded to hurl 10 straight lemons into the Memorial Stadium turf. Eventually, he was replaced by third-string junior Steve Levy, who promptly threw an interception on his first attempt.

Later, Levy would throw his first career touchdown pass. But Ayoob, who has taken many more snaps than Levy since fall camp opened, got the call from his head coach late Sunday afternoon that he would be the starter. And Tedford, semi-official QB guru of the PAC-10, insists that he won't be playing ring-around-the-signal-caller this Saturday when Cal and UW open PAC-10 conference play.

"For anyone to get better, they're going to have to go through some adversity," said Tedford. "So it won't be a two-quarterback system."

Now in his fourth season, Tedford - 3-0 all-time against the Huskies - is preaching patience when it comes to readying another new QB for the big top. "We've become spoiled with expectations watching Kyle (Boller) and Aaron (Rogers) throwing BBs all over the field. It doesn't happen overnight. I think the experience that (Ayoob) had in junior college will be beneficial, but it's just so different ... in junior college, they could yell the plays at him from the sidelines and he could hear them. Here they can't do that."

"It's so intense, so loud, so fast, and he's being asked to do so much. Patience is the key word here with our quarterback situation."

Considering that Tedford has won 26 games in his short tenure and has set the Berkeley faithful on its collective ear, it figures that he and his newest starter will get all the patience they need the Bear faithful.

So it will be up to the Huskies, impatient themselves to put an end to a long and bitter losing streak lasting almost a year, to impress on the Bears that patience won't be a virtue -- at least this Saturday afternoon.

2005 STATS:  41.0 points, 395.0 yards 
             (212.0 rush, 183.0 pass)

RUSHING:     Marshawn Lynch 24-147-1TD (6.1), 
             long 21
             Marcus O'Keith 2-69-0 TD (34.5),      
             long 52
PASSING:     Steve Levy 2-7-1 (.286), 52 yards,       
             1 TD          
             Joe Ayoob 0-10-0 (.000), 0 yards, 
             0 TD 
RECEIVING:   Noah Smith 3-72-1 TD (24.0), 
             long 46 (INJ)
             DeSean Jackson 2-37-1 TD (18.5), 
             long 31             
             David Gray 2-27-0 TD (13.5), 
             long 18 

Though Longshore beat out Ayoob for the starting job, and had some efficient numbers going, it wasn't exactly a juggernaut he was leading against the 1-AA Hornets -- the Bears were only up 10-3 at the half. And though the score ended up lopsided as it should have been, California still turned the ball over four times and put it on the ground another three. Three of Cal's scoring drives were less than 25 yards, mostly due to some stellar special teams play.

It will be Ayoob getting the call on Saturday and - based on his CCSF numbers - if he can get an early "good" to happen he could easily get as hot as he was cold a week ago. And while the less-experienced Levy (who voluntarily moved to fullback last season) will no doubt be readied just in case, Ayoob was brought to Berkeley with the idea of taking over, and will be given every opportunity to succeed. Later in the season, if necessary, Oakland (McClymonds) freshman Kyle Reed could also be called upon to give up his redshirt.

Similarly, the Bears are inexperienced at wide receiver, but they have a ton of upside. DeSean Jackson already looks freshman All-American material, having scored twice in his debut last Saturday –- once on his first career reception, and once his first career punt return. Jackson was the Southern California HS player of the year last season at Long Beach Poly. Cal did lose Noah Smith to a broken fibula late in the Sac State contest, but sophomore Lavelle Hawkins becomes eligible this week via the "one calendar year" transfer rule. Hawkins, with 23 receptions, was Ayoob's primary target at CCSF. Sophomore Robert Jordan (29 catches in 2004) also returns after having served a team-mandated suspension for his role in a traffic arrest last February.

It's much stronger situation at tailback, where sophomore Marshawn Lynch rules the roost –- though there is other firepower in sophomore Justin Forsett and junior Marcus O'Keith. Combined, they tore Sacramento State for 232 rushing yards on 30 carries, with Lynch collecting a career-best 147 of those. The mercurial Lynch - averaging eight yards per carry for his career - ran for 121 in Seattle in last year's win over the Huskies, including a 70-yard scoring jaunt.

All of them will be running behind one of the biggest and most experienced front walls in the country, led by 360-pound tackles Ryan O'Callaghan and Andrew Cameron. Averaging 334 pounds per man, California figures to do a whole lot of pounding while the quarterback situation gets itself sorted out. Senior all-conference center Marvin Philip is rated the top returning snapper in the nation by The Sporting News.

GAME OUTLOOK: It could be plenty of Lynch left, Lynch right – it shouldn't be surprising if the Bears decide to pull a week-one Washington and take it a bit slower in Ayoob's first start, even though the Husky defensive backfield is decidedly thin. If ever-o-ever the Huskies wanted to find a seemingly years-lost pass rush now is the time, as neither Ayoob nor Levy has taken a game snap on the road.

TEAM STATS:     3.0 points, 189.0 yards 
                (68.0 rush, 121.0 pass)

TACKLES/TFL:    Desmond Bishop 7/0.0 
                Ryan Foltz 6/0.0
                Zack Follett 4/1.0    
PASSES DEF/INT: Randy Bundy 2/0  
                Desmond Bishop 1/0
                Wale Forrester 1/0
SACKS:          Brandon Mebane 1.0

Eight new starters dot defensive coordinator Bob Gregory's unit. While there's little doubt Washington will represent an upgrade from what Sacramento State offered them, it's still good scheduling fortune that these young Bears have a couple of games against less-than-stellar offenses to get their paws wet.

Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane is the lone returning starter to the Cal front line. The 290-pound junior made all-conference honorable mention a year ago, though he didn't start until mid-season. Senior Tosh Lupoi was a starter in 2003 who is back for a medical-redshirt sixth season after a broken foot sidelined him last year. DE Nu'u Tafisi enrolled early from Mt. Sac, and is being counted on to provide immediate dividends.

One JuCo arrival that has already shown his mettle is junior MLB Desmond Bishop. The CCSF All-American was a one-man wrecking crew against Sac State with seven tackles, a forced fumble, and a pass breakup. OLB Ryan Foltz is the Bears' most experienced ‘backer with 25 stops a year ago. O'Dea freshman Anthony Felder had one solo tackle in his Cal debut, backing up starter Greg Van Hoesen.

Where the most experience lies is in the defensive backfield. Senior Donnie McCleskey may be the PAC-10's best strong safety, while free safety Harrison Smith and corners Tim Mixon and Daymeion Hughes have six career interceptions between them. Smith set a school record last year with 18 passes defensed.

GAME OUTLOOK: Athletically, Sacramento State didn't represent a good measure of where this unit might be headed. Still, Washington's offense was quite vanilla against Air Force, and the Bear defense is sure to run out better athletes than did the Falcons. It will be interesting to see if more of the playbook will be spoon-fed to Isaiah and crew – Tedford implied at his press conference that he expects Stanback to be more of a running threat on Saturday. He may have to be, as the California defense has held opponents to under 100 yards rushing in five straight games dating back to last season.

PLACEKICKING:  Tom Schneider 2-2 FG (long 49), 
               5-5 XP
PUNTING:       David Lonie 7-40.4 (long 51), 
                .714 inside the 20
KICK RETURNS:  Justin Forsett 2-13.5 (long 19),           
               0 TD
               Daymeion Hughes 0-0  
PUNT RETURNS:  Tim Mixon 2-27.0 (long 39), 
               0 TD
               DeSean Jackson 1-49.0 (long 49),           
               1 TD

If not for the Cal special teams, the Sac State score might have been a lot closer. Sophomore place-kicker Tom Schneider crushed a career-long 49-yarder last Saturday after only going 9-for-16 in 2004, while senior punter David Lonie is the conference's best at putting the ball inside the 20 (almost 50 percent last season). Schneider may be hard-pressed to repeat his school-record 56 PATs from a year ago.

Long punt returns by Tim Mixon and DeSean Jackson, plus a pair of punt blocks, enabled California to score on three short drives. Mixon averaged 11 yards per punt return in 2004. Sophomore TB Justin Forsett and junior CB Daymeion Hughes are the deep backs for kickoffs.

GAME OUTLOOK: Take away the kickoff fair-catching adventures of Darrion Jones and some slow punt snaps, and Washington had a fairly decent day with special teams last Saturday. Most likely, they'll have to elevate against a Cal unit that has speedy returners plus a penchant for blocking kicks – two last Saturday and four in 2004 (while giving up none).


Like coach Willingham, Tedford is not big on playing conference games so early. "I'm not a big fan of it," he said, "but it's that way for both teams so I suppose there isn't an advantage or disadvantage". The victor gets to lay claim to first place in the PAC-10 for the next three weeks ... California has won their last six PAC-10 games. Washington has dropped their last eight ... Amazingly, the Bears might have drawn more fans for their game with Sacramento State (65,938) than they will at Husky Stadium on Saturday. It set a Memorial Stadium opening game record by more than 7,000 ... Cal has had a 100-yard rusher in 13 straight games ... Keith Jackson and Dan Fouts will call the action for ABC ... Yes, it's only after the first week. Still, it's amazing to see that the PAC-10 leader in turnover margin at plus-two is the Washington Huskies (who were last in the entire COUNTRY a year ago) ... Under Jeff Tedford, California is 11-3 when entering a game ranked in the Top-25 ... Cal's 35.6 team completion percentage last week was the second worst Division 1-A performance in the country, ahead of only SMU ...
Rick Samek can be reached at RSAMEK1@COMCAST.NET Top Stories