Cal's Dry Run Continues in Desert

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TEMPE, Ariz. - The Cal football team's season can essentially be summed up in two plays that occurred in Saturday's 30-10 loss to Arizona State.

Early in the fourth quarter, with the game long decided, the Bears had the ball at their own 19-yard line. Running back Joe Igber popped through a gaping hole in the ASU secondary and had nothing between him and the end zone except a wide-open field.

As Igber streaked across midfield he started looking back to see if the ASU defenders - the nearest one at least 10 yards behind him - were gaining on him. They were.

Igber then broke right in an attempt to shake off the pursuing Sun Devils defenders, and as he neared the end zone he cut back to the left. Out of gas and anticipating a tackle, the sophomore's feet slipped out from underneath him and his knee hit the ground a yard short of pay dirt.

Igber had ran 80 yards to set up a touchdown for someone else.

Or so it seemed.

On first down and goal at the ASU one-yard line, quarterback Kyle Boller handed off to fullback Ryan Stanger, who promptly fumbled the ball before he could get in the end zone. The ball was recovered by Sun Devils cornerback Nijrell Eason, and Cal, as impossible as it seemed, had nothing to show for a 95-yard drive.

"That's our season in a nutshell," said Igber, who had 181 yards rushing on 15 carries. "We get right on the threshold and we can't put it in."

Cal (1-4, 0-2 in the Pac-10) lost a sloppily played contest to the Sun Devils (4-1, 1-1) before a diminishing crowd of 41,113 at Sun Devil Stadium. The Bears had four fumbles and 12 penalties for 102 yards.

Offensively, Cal played the much the same as it has in the previous losses. The Bears were able to sustain drives and control the time of possession, but were unable to put points on the board and come up with big plays.

On the other hand, ASU exploited a depleted and weak Cal secondary. Quarterback Griffin Goodman had the best game of his career, and although he only completed 11 of 28 passes, he threw for 394 yards. The former walk-on had touchdown strikes of 50, 68 and 50 yards to three different ASU receivers.

"We have to regain our mentality back there," defensive coordinator Lyle Setencich said of the secondary. "Maybe we can, maybe we can't."

Minus the play of senior Chidi Iwuoma, the defensive backfield had numerous mental and physical lapses.

Whether it was ASU tight end Todd Heap running over safety Bert Watts after Heap had burned him for a touchdown earlier, or LaShaun Ward and Harold Pearson getting beat by the speedy Sun Devils receivers, the Cal secondary helped Goodman set new records for ASU. Goodman's averages of 35.8 yards per completion and 14.1 per pass attempt were school records.

"We've got to find some way to nail down that second corner," Cal head coach Tom Holmoe said.

The Bears may get some relief next week, as cornerback Jemeel Powell is expected to return from a hip injury.

But the Bears had their share of trouble and on the offensive side of the ball as well.

On Cal's first drive of the game, Igber busted off a 20-yard run and caught a pass for 30 more to get to the ASU 22-yard line.

But the drive wilted in the 95 degree Arizona heat when on third down Boller fumbled the ball while he was being sacked to end the opening scoring threat.

The sophomore quarterback had another rough outing, completing 12 of 27 passes for 127 yards. The combination of many off-target Boller passes and a depleted receiver corps resulted in the first benching of Boller's career.

Back-up Eric Holtfreter entered the game for one series at the end of the third quarter and then came back to close out the game toward the end of the fourth quarter.

"This was a game where it was a good opportunity to bring Eric in," Holmoe said. "We didn't want to concede and we weren't."

After John Klotsche blocked an ASU punt, Holtfreter helped set up Cal's only touchdown with an option rush of 11 yards to the Sun Devils one-yard line. On the next play, tailback Joseph Echema ran the ball in for the touchdown with 6:05 left in the game.

The Bears got their first score with 11 seconds left in the first quarter on a 27-yard field goal by Mark-Christian Jensen.


Numerous Cal players did not make the trip to Tempe or were bruised and battered during the game. What has been a horrific year health-wise for the offensive line got worse when center Marvin Phillip when down with a strained MCL in his knee. Holmoe said he will be out three to four weeks. There was good news for the line with the returns of Brandon Ludwig and David Hays from their respective injuries.

The receiving corps is beginning to rival the offensive line in terms of injuries. Freshman wideout Geoff McArthur (thumb and hip) and junior Charon Arnold (lower leg) did not make the trip, while Chase Lyman (thigh) was only able to play in the first half.

Tailback Saleem Muhammad suffered an ankle injury and Holmoe said his status for next week is questionable. Watts (calf) and Ward (right foot and both legs) were hurting after the game but are not likely to miss Saturday's game.

Punter Nick Harris missed the end of the game due to dehydration but was back to normal after the game.


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