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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Explosive Cal trio lead top scoring offense in Pac-10

    California running back Marshawn Lynch is pulled down by departed Arizona defensive lineman Sean Jones during the second half of Arizonas 28-0 loss against then-No. 12 California in October 2005 at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, Calif. Lynch rushed for 107 yards on 20 carries in that game, and may give the Arizona defense trouble Saturday at Arizona Stadium.
    California running back Marshawn Lynch is pulled down by departed Arizona defensive lineman Sean Jones during the second half of Arizona’s 28-0 loss against then-No. 12 California in October 2005 at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, Calif. Lynch rushed for 107 yards on 20 carries in that game, and may give the Arizona defense trouble Saturday at Arizona Stadium.

    Pick your poison.

    At least that’s the way the top-tier California offense makes opposing defenses feel with its vast array of potent weapons.

    From running back Marshawn Lynch to wideout DeSean Jackson and quarterback Nate Longshore, the Golden Bears will come at Arizona from a multitude of different areas tomorrow.

    “”They have so many weapons,”” said UA head coach Mike Stoops. “”They can strike at virtually any position on the field offensively.””

    It’s an offense that ranks in the top two of every major offensive category in the Pacific 10 Conference, including scoring offense (tied for first, 36.3 points per game) and total offense (second, 439.1 yards per game).

    Simply facing Lynch – who ranks eighth in the nation with 150 all-purpose yards per game, ninth with 8.7 points per game and 11th with 109.8 rushing yards per game – would be a challenge in itself.

    But when you factor in Jackson, who has returned three punts for touchdowns this season, and Longshore (11th nationally in pass efficiency, 18th in yards per game), the task becomes all the more daunting.

    “”We’re going to really need to handle the game well, try to shorten it with our run game, try to limit their possessions,”” Stoops said.

    Jackson is the most explosive of the bunch but perhaps the least renowned, as evidenced by UA safety Michael Johnson’s response when asked about the dynamic punt-returner earlier this week,

    “”Who is DeSean Jackson?”” he asked. “”Who is that? No, I don’t know who that guy is.””

    Jackson’s third punt return for a touchdown during Cal’s 38-24 win over UCLA last week tied a conference record and gave him four in his career, which tied another Pac-10 record.

    “”He’s probably the fastest, most explosive player in the conference – I would say he is just from what I’ve seen,”” Stoops said. “”He hits his hole probably even quicker than – well, as quick as (former Southern California Heisman Trophy-winning returner) Reggie (Bush). I don’t want to say quicker than that, but he has that type of explosiveness.””

    Added Cal head coach Jeff Tedford: “”Any time you have DeSean, who can do the things he can, making people miss and hit things as fast as he does, it creates a huge advantage for you.””

    Jackson will also create a tough matchup in the secondary for the Wildcats. He leads the Bears with 680 yards on 39 catches, including eight touchdowns.

    UA cornerback Wilrey Fontenot called the sophomore a “”very difficult receiver”” who “”has tremendous speed, about 4.2 range, and is just very shifty.””

    But Fontenot likely won’t line up across from Jackson for most of the game. That responsibility falls to cornerback Antoine Cason.

    “”It’s fun, and people talk about it, and of course they’re going to talk about it,”” Cason said of having to cover Jackson. “”It’s real fun to go against good guys in the Pac-10 like that, and I’m excited to play against these guys.””

    Lynch, meanwhile, attracts more fanfare nationally. After an 8.8-yard-per-carry freshman season in 2004, there were whispers of a Heisman hopeful around campus during his sophomore season, when he ran for 1,246 yards and 10 touchdowns in just 10 games.

    Now a junior, Lynch is the focal point of the Golden Bear offense, and an emphasis for the Arizona defense on Saturday.

    “”He’s an incredible back, and we’re all going to have to make up for each other’s mistakes, because he’s going to make big plays,”” linebacker Ronnie Palmer said. “”He’s an excellent running back.””

    Longshore won the starting job after fall camp in 2005 but broke his lower left leg in the second quarter of Cal’s season opener just a few weeks later and missed the rest of the season.

    He got the nod again after Cal’s 2006 camp and has been on a torrid pace ever since, completing 64 percent of his passes for 2,143 yards and 20 touchdowns against just seven interceptions.

    “”When you see some of (Longshore’s) completions down the field, his accuracy and the speed that they can attack you (with) down the middle part of the field is pretty alarming,”” Stoops said of the Bears’ passing attack, which leads the Pac-10 with an average of 268.2 yards per game. “”When they take their shots, they’re very effective.””

    But perhaps the most challenging aspect of all facing the Arizona defense will be to not focus on one particular threat. With talent spread throughout the offense, there’s only one real way to stop the Bears.

    “”We have to …keep them off the field, try to get as many three-and-outs as possible,”” Fontenot said. “”Because that’s the way you keep a great offense from scoring. You keep them off the field.””

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