Cal Readies for Utah Air Attack

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The red and white uniforms might prevent any serious cases of deja vu from breaking out, but the Utah team that takes on Cal tomorrow might look similar to the Bears squad that took the field in the opener a year ago.

The Utes feature a strong defense led by an all-conference linebacker in senior Kautai Olevao. Pac-10 first-teamer Sekou Sanyika was the heart of Cal's conference-best defense in 1999.

Utah (0-1) will feature two players at quarterback tomorrow - T.D. Croshaw and Darnell Arceneaux - as the Bears did when they played Rutgers last year.

Last week in the Utes' sloppy 17-3 loss to Arizona, Utah had no problem moving the ball on offense. Putting points on the board was another question. The Utes outgained the Wildcats 370 yards to 146, but turned the ball over five times and also missed 3-of-4 field-goal attempts. Cal fans don't need to be reminded of the troubles the Bears had getting the ball in the endzone and through the uprights last year.

Utah head coach Ron McBride was not surprisingly upset with his team's performance against Arizona.

"We need to correct our problems on offense," McBride said. "I don't know what (the offense's) mood is, but I know what my mood is."

But the attitude of the Cal team that will take the field at 3:15 p.m. tomorrow at Memorial Stadium is filled with the anticipation that a team playing its first game of the season generally has.

"The tensions are rising," senior defensive end Andre Carter said. "We're ready to play someone. We've been hitting (eachother) since Turlock."

The Bears have a reason why they should be tired of banging each others heads in.

While most teams across the nation played their openers last weekend, Cal had sit through a bye week that came before the season even started.

Utah will try to right itself from the Arizona game and recapture some of last season's success. The Utes are coming off a successful '99 campaign, where they went 9-3 and tied for first place in the Mountain West Conference.

"I think Utah is going to try and come up here and kick our butt," Carter said. "They have a good reputation and were embarrassed last week and they're going to try and get some respect back from us."

Tomorrow's game is shaping up to be a close, low scoring affair. Although Utah put just three points on the board against Arizona, Las Vegas odds-makers have the Utes as a two-point favorite against the Bears.

To keep Utah in check, Cal will have to shut down the Utes' air attack. Against the Wildcats, Croshaw - who will probably start tomorrow - and Arceneaux passed for 310 yards combined, completing 21 of 51 pass attempts. Arceneaux threw two interceptions.

If the quarterback position is shakey, the receiver position is the rock of the Utah offense. The Utes are loaded with small, but lightening-quick pass-catchers, who will provide a good test for Cal's youthful secondary.

Bears cornerbacks Chidi Iwuoma, LaShaun Ward and Harold Pearson will have a busy day containing Steve Smith, Cliff Russel and Chris Christensen. Russel is coming off a huge performance in last week's opener. The 5-foot-11, 177-pound junior caught 10 passes for 141 yards. Russel has also been clocked at 4.25 seconds in an electronically-timed 40-yard dash.

An equally dangerous threat is Smith, a versitile playmaker, who is also the Utah return specialist. After transferring from Santa Monica Junior College last year, Smith caught 43 passes for 860 yards in his first season at Utah. He also had 11 touchdowns, three of them on punt returns.

"(Smith is) a fine player and explosive as a returner," Cal head coach Tom Holmoe said. "We are aware of his prowess, and we'll know where he is at all times and have a plan for him."

Meanwhile, Cal will go after the Utah defense from the ground. Holmoe said the Bears will play three tailbacks, with Joe Igber starting, and Joe Echema and Saleem Muhammad coming off the bench.

"We'll give all three of them a shot," Holmoe said. "But if one of them gets hot we won't hesitate going with the hot hand."

Cal comes into the game relatively healthy, but some key players will miss the game including: wide receivers Chad Heydorff (hamstring) and Derek Swafford (neck/shoulder), offensive linemen Scott Tercero (knee), David Hays (knee) and linebacker Calvin Hosey (foot). Holmoe says the rest of the team is in good health.


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