By Kyle Kensing
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, September 30, 2005
It's not often a team loses its star running back to the NFL and actually improves its ground game the next season.
Such is the case for head coach Jeff Tedford's No. 12 California Golden Bears.
In its first four games of 2005, Cal (4-0) has averaged a Pacific 10 Conference-best 275.3 rushing yards per game - the sixth highest total in the nation - despite losing 2004 All-American J.J. Arrington to the Arizona Cardinals in April.
The scariest part is that California has amassed that total with sophomore star Marshawn Lynch sidelined the last two weeks with a broken finger.
"(Cal) is very multiple in their attack," said Arizona head coach Mike Stoops. "They run at you very well."
Arizona has struggled against the run this season, allowing 202 yards per outing.
Stoops said he expects Cal's offense to show more power compared to the spread-option attacks used by Utah and Purdue in past weeks.
- Last time out:
- Defeated New Mexico State 41-13 Friday
- Players to watch:
- -Joseph Ayoob (quarterback): 676 passing yards, six touchdowns, one interception; three rushing touchdowns
- -Justin Forsett (running back): 62 carries, 511 yards, four touchdowns
"They're more of a lead team. ... They'll come at you from the I-back," he said.
Cal's two-man I formation has caused headaches for its opposition so far, powered by sophomore Justin Forsett and junior Marcus O'Keith.
O'Keith gained 103 yards in relief of Lynch against Washington Sept. 10, while Forsett went for 187 yards Sept. 17 at Illinois and 235 yards last week at New Mexico State.
The duo will share minutes with Lynch, who is making his first appearance since breaking his finger in a 56-17 win against the Huskies.
"It is nice to see him running around out there again, " Tedford said Tuesday at his weekly teleconference. "I think the finger will be fine. I don't think that will be an issue."
Lynch, who averaged 8.8 yards per carry last season playing behind Arrington, broke out with a career-best 147 yards in Cal's season opener Sept. 3 against Sacramento State.
"He's a beast," said Arizona senior safety Darrell Brooks, the Wildcats' top tackler a season ago, of the 5-foot-11, 215-pound Lynch.
Junior quarterback Joe Ayoob has also shown what his feet are capable of, rushing for three touchdowns last week against the Aggies.
"I think we were third-and-20 or
-17, and he broke out of there and ran for a first down in (the New Mexico State) game," Tedford said. "He has done a couple things running."
Another big key to the Golden Bears' running game - figuratively and literally - is 6-foot-7, 360-pound offensive tackle Ryan O'Callaghan.
Coaches and media alike have called O'Callaghan one of the nation's top offensive linemen.
"I think he is one of the best offensive linemen in the league," Tedford said. "There is no question about it."
Arizona's rush defense will get a pair of much-needed boosts just in time for tomorrow's game, televised nationally on TBS.
Senior defensive end Copeland Bryan will see his first action since Sept. 2, when he injured his foot at Utah.
Sophomore linebacker Dane Krogstad, who made a team-high 23 tackles in his first two games, also returns from shoulder tendonitis.