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Bears look to revive offense against injury-riddled Sun Devils

By Jared Green Daily Planet Staff
Friday October 06, 2000

The Cal Bears head into this weekend’s matchup in Tempe, Ariz. looking for a new identity. Following a loss to the weakest team in the Pac-10 last weekend, the Bears need to pull out of their offensive funk against a Sun Devil team that prides itself on playing tough defense. 

The Golden Bear defense should have a field day against an Arizona State offense that is missing its top two quarterbacks, along with its top two tailbacks. The offense will be in the hands of former walk-on Griffin Goodman, a senior who had attempted just 46 passes before this season. 

True freshman Mike Williams has filled in admirably at tailback after Delvon Flowers went down before the season and Devaren Hightower suffered a leg injury in the Sun Devils’ opener. Williams has gained 334 yards on 69 carries, including a 143-yard effort against Utah State, so look for the Bears to stack seven or eight men on the line of scrimmage to stop the running game. The Bear defense needs to come up with some big plays, as the offense has shown no signs of coming to life since the first game against Utah. 

“I wouldn’t say there’s a lot of pressure, but we know the hat’s on our head and we have to wear it,” said defensive end Andre Carter. “Every time we get on the field, we know we’ve got to find a way to make big plays, find a way to score, cause turnovers.” 

Defensive coordinator Lyle Setencich had success against the Washington State offense last week blitzing linebackers from the inside. Linebacker Chris Ball in particular has a good game, racking up a sack that drove the Cougars out of field goal range on one drive and making two other tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Setencich should be able to continue his attacking style of defense with the inexperience Griffin under center for the Sun Devils. 

“Our attitude is, we need to come out and shut teams out, because if they don’t score they can’t win and that’s the bottom line,” Ball said. 

Cal’s offense is another story. The Bears have gotten more conservative with each successive game, to the point where offensive coordinator Steve Hagen seemed hesistant to call long passing plays last week. Sophomore quarterback Kyle Boller has regressed to last year, when he completed just 36 percent of his passes. 

“I think if we can expand the yardage and the completions that we get with the pass game, then that will open up the offense,” Holmoe said. “We’ve got to expand now and open it up in the secondary, and if we can do that, it will complement the run game.” 

With the passing game in a funk, Hagen has turned to tailbacks Joe Igber, Joe Echema and Saleem Muhammed to move the ball and eat up the clock. The trio has responded well, racking up a season-high 149 yards on the ground last week. But with yet another injury on the offensive line, this time left tackle Langston Hughes, the Bears might have a rough time creating holes. Senior center Reed Diehl will have to work hard to keep the patchwork line together. 

“I look to my left and see brand new faces, and now we have Chris Chick who’s coming in at left tackle,” Diehl said. “We’ve got guys who can play, they just haven’t had the chance.” 

Diehl said that the depth on the offensive line is better than on most teams, and credited offensive line coach Ed White with keeping the backup players ready to go. 

“It could limit what we do if we didn’t have a coach who gives reps to second-string players during the year. They’ve been getting reps all season, they’ll just step it up,” he said. 

Boller should get a chance to throw the ball down the field, as Arizona State ranks last in the Pac-10 in passing defense. But if he can’t improve his accuracy, the Sun Devils will get more daring as the game goes on. They lead the conference in sacks with 17, including five by defensive end Terrell Suggs and three by linebacker Adam Archuleta. Hagen will have to establish both the run and the pass to be successful in Tempe. 

“You’ve got to be able to do both phases, to complete passes and run the football,” Hagen said. “We ran the ball decently last week, but you’ve got to be able to do it all.” 

If the Bears can avoid the special teams mistakes that have plagued them this season, they have a good chance to pull out a victory against a depleted Arizona State squad. It will probably be their best chance at a win before the Big Game against Stanford, as every one of the opponents in between is ranked in this week’s national polls.