Young DBs Up to Challenge

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The season is only a game old, but Nnamdi Asomugha is already getting tired of it.

Not the season. Cal's free safety is sick of hearing about the youth in the Bears' secondary.

"I hate when people talk about our inexperience," Asomugha said. "You have to get on the field to prove yourself, but (inexperience) doesn't make a difference for us."

Of the core players in the Bears' defensive backfield, only Chidi Iwuoma has significant starting experience. But against Utah the unit - half of which is sophomores - held its own against the Utes.

Although the sophomores - corners Jameel Powell and LaShaun Ward and Asomugha - had a huge impact on the game, the upperclassmen were just as valuable.

Senior Harold Pearson who hadn't started before Saturday is now the starting left cornerback opposite Iwuoma. Pearson tied for the team lead in tackles against Utah with seven, including one for a loss of nine yards.

Meanwhile, Ward displayed many of the traits that a young, emotional and physically gifted player will exhibit. After a kickoff return in which he cut back from the Cal 15-yard line only to get tackled at the 3, Ward made some key plays down the stretch, including a pass defensed.

Ward explained his-up and-down play as a result of a lack of attention from the opposing team.

"I've got to teach myself that I can't be impatient," Ward said. "I know plays will come for me. (But) I get bored out there when people don't throw the ball, or I'm not seeing action. I know those things are going to come, but I've just got to be patient."

The cornerbacks did their job against Utes, providing excellent man coverage on the potentially lethal duo of Utah receivers Steve Smith and Cliff Russell, limiting their big-play ability.

The safeties also did a sound job helping out in coverage and timing their blitzes. Asomugha had six tackles, including three for a loss. One of those was a quarterback sack.

"We've got a lot of young players now, but that's good for the future" Ward said. "If we get it down now, and make a statement now, then it's going to be great things for years to come."

The secondary will have to be better than great this weekend if it hopes to shut down No. 19 Illinois. The Fighting Illini have averaged 42 points in two games this season, the 13th-best average in the nation.


Cal was dealt a serious blow when the team learned that Marcus Fields, who appeared to suffer a stinger against Utah, has a separated shoulder and will be out four to six weeks.

Fields starts at the H-back position, which was added to the offense this season and was injured in the third quarter Saturday.

"He's our best at the H-back, but we'll still run it," said Cal head coach Tom Holmoe.

The coach said that junior Keala Keanaaina will start in Fields' place against Illinois. Freshman Pana Faumuina will see reps at H-back this week in practice.

Holmoe also noted that there is a possibility that Fields, who is a senior, could redshirt this year if he doesn't come back as soon as expected.


Reed Diehl suffered a pinched nerve in his hip against Utah and is listed as day-to-day. He said he will know by tomorrow if he can play Saturday. . . Offensive lineman Scott Tercero, who has been out with a knee injury since training camp will practice in a third of the plays this week. Holmoe said that he might play in a limited capacity against Illinois. . . Punter Nick Harris suffered a concussion in the game Saturday, but Holmoe said he will play against Illinois. . . Andre Carter, who was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week Monday, played every down against Utah, making it the first time Carter has gone wire-to-wire in his career.


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