With running back Joe Igber on the bench, Saturday’s final spring football scrimmage didn’t figure to be an exhibition in ground gains for the Bears. But the Cal offense proved that Igber isn’t the only dangerous Joe in the backfield, as sophomore Joseph Echema picked up an astounding 119 yards on 13 attempts.
Echema, competing with the Blue side at the intrasquad scrimmage at Oakmont Polo Fields in Santa Rosa, also scored a touchdown to give his side a 43-21 victory over the opposing Gold team, which was made up of Cal’s second-string offense and first-string defense.
“Our running game looked good today,” said Cal head coach Tom Holmoe, who has seen Echema blossom throughout spring workouts after getting only 10 carries as a freshman in 1999. “It was obvious that the offensive line was opening a few holes and Echema looked real good. He’s a slasher, and he’s big and fast. We have superior depth at the tailback position.”
Echema’s afternoon included 45- and 25-yard breakaways that were especially impressive against the notably solid Cal first-team defensive line, which features such athletes as Andre Carter, Jacob Waasdorp and Daniel Nwangwu. Chris Hanks, another sophomore, complemented Echema’s impressive outing with 67 yards of his own, on 12 carries.
Though quarterback Kyle Boller threw just 11 passes, his 88 total yards and two touchdowns were enough to encourage the Cal coaching staff. Tight end Brian Surgener and wideout Sean Currin each found themselves on the
receiving end of mid-length TD passes from Boller.
“I think we finished up the spring very strongly,” Holmoe said after the game. “Our team is in great shape, physically. We’re healthy and strong.”
Igber was kept out of the game due to a knee sprain suffered during Cal’s last scrimmage, two weeks ago. According to the coaches, the injury is minor, and the running back will be rehabilitated well before the start of fall practice.
Fall camp begins Aug. 17 at CSU Stanislaus in the Central Valley.