Last week the CSU Rams wound up on the wrong side of the win-loss column as they fell to the Colorado Buffalos 42-35 in the season opener for both teams. This week the Rams travel to face a tougher-than-first-expected opponent in the 1-1 California Golden Bears. The Bears victory came last week with a 34-2 victory against the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles. The Kansas State Wildcats, ranked 6th in the USA Today/ESPN polls, defeated the Bears 42-28 two weeks ago. Game time is set for 4 p.m. Mountain time on Saturday.
This weekend’s match-up:
Quarterbacks CMP ATT YDS CMP% TD INT Rating
CAL: Reggie Robertson 25 43 399 58.1 5 1 169.8
CSU: Bradlee Van Pelt 18 38 339 47.4 3 1 143.1
Cal likes to use two quarterbacks during the course of the game, but 6-foot-2-inch junior Reggie Robertson will see the bulk of the snaps. Robertson has looked good at times throwing the ball, but he is prone to overthrowing his receivers.
The Rams will line up senior Bradlee Van Pelt. Van Pelt impressed just about everyone when he threw a career high of 339 yards as well as three touchdowns against CU Saturday. Van Pelt was also able to find the end zone twice running the ball.
“Van Pelt is stronger than any other quarterback I’ve seen run the ball,” said Bears head coach Jeff Tedford. ‘He runs high and strong, he doesn’t even have to put his pads down to bounce off of people. It seems that he gets better as he gets hit. He is a very tough guy. He stands out as being as physical a quarterback as anyone I have ever seen.”
Advantage: Van Pelt gets the nod because of his duel threat of running and throwing the ball. If he keeps throwing the way he has, the Rams offense could put up 30 points a game.
Running Backs CAR YDS YPC TD
CAL: Adimchinobe Echemandu 21 145 6.9 1
J.J. Arrington 20 124 6.2 0
CSU: Marcus Houston 15 104 6.9 0
Bradlee Van Pelt 13 77 5.9 2
Rashaan Sanders 7 44 6.3 0
Echemandu is a 6-foot, 225-pound power back with deceptive speed and quickness. He saw limited carries in the team’s season opener because of a leg injury, but last week he rumbled for 127 yards and a touchdown. Arrington is a junior college transfer and is adapting to the Division-I level pretty well.
The Rams started the game with a three-headed monster last week against CU, but finished feeding the ball to Marcus Houston. Houston, making his CSU debut, eclipsed the 100-yard mark and should this week as well as the Cal defense is suspect against the run and Houston will start this week. The Rams lost redshirt freshman Tristan Walker for the year with a knee injury.
Advantage: CSU has the advantage, but barely. Van Pelt’s ability to run gives the Rams the nod.
Receivers/Tight Ends REC YDS YPR TD
CAL: Geoff McArthur 13 261 20.1 1
Vincent Strang 4 67 16.8 1
Burl Toler 4 43 10.8 0
CSU: Chris Pittman 7 144 20.6 2
David Anderson 4 142 35.5 1
Joel Dreessen 5 42 8.4 0
The Bears’ senior leader Jonathan Makonnen will probably not play again this week due to a toe injury, so the junior trio of Geoff McArthur, Vincent Strang and Burl Toler will be expected to step-up again. Look for a majority of the balls to go to McArthur.
For CSU receivers Chris Pittman, David Anderson and tight end Joel Dreessen put on a show last week. Pittman and Anderson accounted for a total of 286 yards receiving and three touchdowns. Dreessen was there for the short dump-offs and third-down conversions.
Advantage: CSU has a clear advantage here because of the loss of Makonnen. CSU’s receivers should catch their fair share of balls again this week.
Cal’s offensive line is very stable, returning three starters from last year. They looked impressive against Kansas State and Southern Miss and will be looked upon to do the same this week. The only downfall for this unit is the six sacks given up in two games. The defensive line is another story. As Kansas State running back and all-American candidate Darren Sproles showed in Cal’s first game, this unit is a little slow and very inexperienced. The only one who has shown flashes of talent is junior Lorenzo Alexander.
The Ram’s defensive line looked impressive in stopping the CU running attack, but it looked weak in its ability to get to the quarterback. The Rams need to do that this week as Cal has the ability to move the ball downfield when their quarterback has time. The offensive line, coming off a solid showing against the Buffs, was stricken with an injury to senior center Mark Dreyer. Dreyer sustained an injury to his right hand and will try to snap with his left. If Dreyer cannot do so, coach Sonny Lubick said he plans to switch Dreyer from center to guard and move emergency center Albert Bimper over from his normal guard position.
Advantage: CSU holds the advantage on the defensive line, but as for the offensive line, Cal gets the nod because of the injury to Dreyer.
Cal junior Wendell Hunter leads the inexperienced linebacking core of the Bears.
Against Southern Miss, the backers held their ground and showed they can be effective.
The experienced Ram linebackers stopped the run very well last week but were out of place against the pass. Seniors Drew Wood, Eric Pauly and Jeff Flora will now look to take over games.
Advantage: CSU holds a clear-cut advantage against the Bears.
The secondary is another inexperienced spot for the Bears. They rarely have shut teams down through the air. Junior special teams player Mike McGrath has the only interception of the bunch, coming last week against Southern Mississippi. Sophomore rover Donnie McCleskey has emerged as the defense’s physical leader, totaling 14 tackles and two sacks so far this season.
It is no secret that the Rams secondary played poorly last week against the Buffs. The Rams are looking for a replacement to the recently-departed Landon Jones and have hopefully found it in sophomore Adam Hayward, though defensive backs coach James Ward has yet to publicly name a replacement.
“I want the kids to find out first,” Ward said.
Advantage: Cal. Until the Rams stop the air attack, they will be picked on all year.
Cal’s special teams looked horrible against Kansas State, but they rebounded with two blocked punts, one returned for a touchdown last week against Southern Miss. Return man James Bethea is dangerous and can take it all the way.
CSU: Jeff Babcock looked good punting, but had trouble kicking field goals against CU. It looked very similar to last year’s performance and the senior hopes to rebound Saturday. As for return men, Dexter Wynn had a solid performance, but his rebel attitude toward punt returns caused a CSU turnover when the ball hit Eric Hill and CU recovered.
Advantage: Cal holds a slim advantage as Babcock tries to rebuild after last year.
Lubick will need to focus his team for the first road game of the year. He said he was very impressed with the Bears’ victory last week over Southern Miss. The Rams, who were clear favorites a couple of weeks ago, now enter the game as 2 1/2-point underdogs. As for Cal, the Bears look to play well and erase any bad memories of their defeat against Kansas State. Saturday is coach Jeff Tedford’s bobblehead doll day, and the first 10,000 fans will receive a doll. EchoStar satellite company (DISH network) joined two other companies in offering a pay-per-view broadcast of the game. EchoStar customers may order the Fox Sports Net-produced broadcast by calling 1-800-333-3474.
Adelphia cable in Colorado Springs (1-719-633-6616) and DirecTV satellite (1-800-347-3288 residential; 1-888-200-4388 commercial) previously announced they offer the game.