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Holmoe hopes “real” Cal shows up

Holmoe hopes ‘real’ Cal shows up

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BERKELEY, Calif. — In his team's season-opener against Illinois, California coach Tom Holmoe couldn't believe what he was seeing.

The Golden Bears coughed up five turnovers (four by the offense), and their highly touted defensive secondary was beaten early and often by Illini receivers, resulting in a 44-17 loss last week.

"It was a stinkin' way to start the season," Holmoe said. "We played terribly flat. I was very surprised and shocked, as were the players. I told them when we came back to work that I still really believe in them. I think it's the best team we've had since I've been here, but we certainly didn't play that way."

Saturday, when Cal hosts BYU (2-0), Holmoe knows what his team is facing in the Cougars, who have scored 122 points this season.

"It's a daunting task," said Holmoe, a former BYU defensive back. "It might be the best thing for our players to be able to stare a wild Cougar in the face with adversity right underneath us. We have a lot of potential, but we have to show it. Nothing would be better than to get well against BYU."

Much of the news coming out of Berkeley prior to the season centered around Cal's new offense. Holmoe hired a new offensive coordinator, Al Borges, away from Pac-10 rival UCLA in January. And there were some bright spots last week for the Bears, who outgained the Illini in total offense, 381-373, marking the second-most yardage gained by the Cal offense in two seasons. Running back Joe Igber collected 116 yards and scored two touchdowns on 21 carries while quarterback Kyle Boller completed 17 of 29 passes for 184 yards. He also had two interceptions.

BYU coach Gary Crowton has had a tough time this week figuring out the Golden Bears. "It's so hard to get a feel for them because of the turnovers," he said. "Those just killed their whole game plan. They're a much better team than the score (against Illinois) indicated because of those turnovers."

Meanwhile, the Bears are known for defense, and last week the defense disappeared, surrendering 297 passing yards to Illini quarterback Kurt Kittner. Not that Crowton reads much into that.

"This will be by far the best defense we will have played," he said.

BYU's first two opponents, Tulane and Nevada, are offensive-oriented teams, while the Bears are defensive-oriented, Crowton explained. "(The Bears) are going to put pressure on us with their front four. They're more ball-controlled on offense and aggressive on defense (than Tulane and Nevada). It's not going to be a big, high-scoring game like the last two."

For Holmoe, there's plenty on the line Saturday — including his job. But he insists his players are not distracted by the off-the-field pressures.

"They're mature players," Holmoe said, "I'm committed to this school and I'm very realistic about what this season means to me. This season isn't really about me, but obviously as a man and the breadwinner of our family I realize that if we don't win this year — and when I say win, it's just going to be measured in wins and losses — I'm realistic about that. I've talked to my players as if they were my kids and said, 'Hey, this is what we're going into. Let's not dwell on what could be or what might possibly be. Let's take each game and play it and coach it to the best of our ability.'"

NOTES: Cal wide receiver Geoff McArthur underwent surgery to repair a torn triceps in his right arm that will put him out of action 3-4 weeks. Holmoe said McArthur suffered the injury when "his arm went through a window" after last week's game. "He was distraught," Holmoe said. "It was not wise and it's something that he'll learn from." . . . Holmoe knows all about BYU's freshman placekicker, Matt Payne. Holmoe recruited him years ago out of Weber High School . . . Cal has two players on its roster from Utah: junior defensive end Josh Gustaveson (Bingham High), a transfer from Snow JC, and junior placekicker Mark-Christian Jensen (Pleasant Grove High). Last season, Jensen led the Bears in scoring with 58 points.

E-MAIL: jeffc@desnews.com