Senior QB completes 10 of 11 in annual Spring Game as starters win a 42-0 romp
Next year will be Kyle Boller’s final chance to leave his legacy as a four-year starter at quarterback. If Sunday’s final spring scrimmage was any indication, he might just impress Cal fans after all.
Boller was 10-of-11 passing for 154 yards and two touchdowns during the first half of Cal’s annual Spring Game, with his only incompletion a dropped pass by Chase Lyman on the first play of the game. Boller also ran for a touchdown and looked very comfortable in new head coach Jeff Tedford’s new offense as the first-platoon offense and defense won the game 42-0 in front of a Memorial Stadium crowd of about 1,500.
“I wanted to see the first-team units have some success, and we got that today,” Tedford said. “They’re going to walk away from this feeling pretty good about themselves.”
Tedford also unleashed what figures to be the first of many trick plays in the first half, a halfback pass from Terrell Williams to a diving Burl Toler good for 45 yards. Toler, a sophomore walk-on, was impressive with four catches for 100 yards.
Williams may have liked showing off his arm, but it’s his legs that are suddenly of extreme importance to the Cal offense. Starting tailback Joe Igber has yet to take part in contact drills as he recovers from a broken clavicle suffered last season, and word came down Sunday that backup Adimchinobe Echemaandu (formerly Joe Echema) has a torn ACL and lateral meniscus and will miss the majority of next season. Igber should be ready for next season, but the running back spot is suddenly thinned to the breaking point.
“It’s a big disappointment,” Echemaandu said of his injury, suffered in practice last Wednesday. “But the coaches and players have made me feel better about it. The important thing is that the team keeps going.”
Echemaandu said he will be out somewhere between four and nine months, but he does have a target date for his return: Cal’s Oct. 19 game against UCLA.
Tedford broke from the usual spring game format of the first-team offense against the first-team defense on Sunday, instead sending Boller up against the Bears’ second-string. Boller was impressive nonetheless, showing nice touch on his passes and a more compact throwing motion than last season. Tedford has completely broken down Boller’s mechanics, and the senior-to-be said he is still catching up on things.
“It’s hard to break bad habits,” Boller said. “I work on it in practice, but when I’m in a game I’m just playing out there. I might still get a little windup going when I throw.”
Boller completed two passes to tight end Tom Swoboda on the opening drive, including a five-yard touchdown toss. That’s as many touchdowns as Cal’s tight ends caught all last season, along with only 16 catches overall.
“I like having a tight end going over the middle a lot,” Boller said. “It puts a lot more pressure on the safeties. It’s like an extra benefit.”
The Blue team’s defense pitched a shutout against the combined efforts of sophomore quarterbacks Richard Schwartz and Adam Ernst, with the defensive line recording four of the team’s five sacks. Defensive ends Tom Canada and Tully Banta-Cain looked sharp rushing off the edge, and tackle Daniel Nwangwu broke into the backfield several times. Nwangwu and Canada each tallied a sack, and Tedford said Canada likely earned a starting spot for fall practice with an outstanding spring.
Tedford was pleased with the overall effort in the game, praising his players for their quick acclimation to a new coaching staff.
“I think the guys got a good understanding of the system, of what we expect of them and of our practice tempo,” Tedford said. “We’ve come a long way in a short time towards coming together as a team.”