As the Cal Bears head into their Pac-10 opener on Saturday, most of the questions concerning the offense haven’t been answered by the team’s first three games. Can Kyle Boller bring the offense together? Will any receivers distinguish themselves as starters? Will the Bears ever make a long-range field goal?
The Bears have been remarkably consistent so far this season. They have played just badly enough to lose two of their three games, and just barely held on to beat winless Utah. The offense has been unable to take advantage of punter Nick Harris’s outstanding season, as nearly half of Cal’s drives have begun on the opponent’s half of the field.
Boller has looked both brilliant and awful, alternately making nice touch passes with firing the ball over and around his receivers. The coaching staff seems to have finally realized that asking a sophomore to make constant adjustments at the line is too much for Boller to bear. The Bears were called for delay of game five times against Fresno State, most of them coming as Boller tried to check to a new play at the line of scrimmage. Head coach Tom Holmoe and offensive coordinator Steve Hagen will implement a simpler plan this week against the Cougars, along with an increased emphasis on the running game, as tailbacks Joe Igber and Joe Echema have established themselves as twin threats out of the backfield.
“We’ve got to get a little bit more, more yardage, more carries, out of those guys and be able to establish a little bit more,” Holmoe said. “I don’t think there’s an identity on offense right now. There’s really not a personality.”
The wideouts have been another story. Chase Lyman has become a favorite target for Boller, and the freshman has earned a starting role for the Washington State game. Fellow freshman Geoff McArthur has also been promoted to starter for the game and has the hands and speed to be an outstanding receiver. but must show a better understanding of the offense to have an impact. McArthur either ran the wrong route or broke off his pattern early several times against Fresno State, one of which resulted in an easy interception that killed a promising drive.
Even on the rare occasions the offense has managed to drive down the field, they’ve struggled to score points. Part of the blame must be laid on kicker Mark Jensen, who has made just two of his five field goal attempts and hasn’t made a kick longer than 29 yards. Holmoe declined to attempt two long field goals against Fresno State, indicating his lack of confidence in Jensen. Look for freshman Tyler Fredrickson to get a shot at the field goal duties this week, as he has looked solid in practice.