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Published Saturday, September 11, 1999

Bears confident against NU


Last modified at 12:11 a.m. on Saturday, September 11, 1999
 

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   By Darren Ivy
The Independent

LINCOLN -- Even after being beaten 24-3 last year by Nebraska, California players were less than impressed with the No. 3 Cornhuskers.

"They didn't out-muscle us," said Cal senior safety Marquis Smith. "I thought they were going to play a lot harder. It wasn't something that I expected from a defending national championship team, but they beat us."

Smith graduated and was drafted by the pros, but his younger California teammates will get another shot at the No. 5 Cornhuskers today when the Bears travel to Lincoln.

Coach Tom Holmoe and his Cal team will enter Memorial Stadium having won 21-7 last week over Rutgers, a lightly regarded team that actually outgained California 287 yards to 265 yards. Cal's defense, considered one of the best in the Pacific 10 Conference, broke the game open when cornerback Deltha O'Neal returned an interception 75 yards for a touchdown.

It was not a pretty performance, Holmoe said, and much of that reflects back on the offense, which was the worst in its conference last season, and, if the game against the Scarlet Knights is any indication, hasn't improved much.

"I think it's a little better," Holmoe said. "We're young on offense. I think we can be better somewhere in the season if we continue to improve."

Cal has its most inexperience at quarterback position. Samuel Clemons will start again this week against the Huskers, but Boller will likely play, Holmoe said. Last week, Boller came in to spell Clemons after a botched series inside the Rutgers' 10-yard line.

As ineffective as the Cal offense was, its defense is almost the polar opposite. With seven returning starters including of the strongest linebacking crews in the nation in Sekou Sanyika and Matt Beck, the Bears could pose some problems for NU's option attack.

Cal runs a 6-1 defense, which is similar to a 4-3, except the outside linebackers will sometimes line up as defensive ends. It makes it hard for a quarterback or running back to get around the outside corner.

Last year, Cal held up well against the Husker offense, yielding only 24 points -- 10 of which didn't come until the fourth quarter.

"Our defense has to carry the weight right now," Holmoe said. "Until our offense matures to the point where we think they will, the defense will have to carry a little bit of an extra load. They understand what they're getting into."

The Bears faced Eric Crouch and Monte Christo last year, but this year they will also have to contend with Bobby Newcombe.

Preparing to face two separate quarterbacks, Holmoe said, won't be that hard, as Crouch and Newcombe are similar in style. The problem is that they're both good.

"It's difficult in that there's two great players they can alternate," Holmoe said. "With Newcombe and Crouch, they're both going to run the same plays regardless of who's in there. So it's not a matter of having to prepare for two different philosophies on offense."



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