Monday, September 03, 2007

San Jose Mercury News: This doesn't compute: Go figure when it comes to Cal's numbers game

John Ryan

Hey, Buzz is all for indulging the whims of 19-year-olds where appropriate. Can't win in college football without a certain amount of coddling. Let 'em dance. Let 'em run out of the tunnel with their helmets off. Let 'em cause all manner of violent and illegal off-field mayhem. (That's for the SEC fans out there.)  But this Cal custom of letting the stars double up on numbers has to stop. Or, put another way: In the pictures above, which one is DeSean Jackson and which one is Worrell Williams? And is Williams just trying to sneak into a Heisman video or what?  (OK, that's Jackson on the left. But you get the point.)

Yes, there's certain indisputable math involved when a team has 99 numbers and 111 players. In addition to the offense/defense split, most schools have redshirts or scrubs double up with starters. Not Cal, which has solid contributors splitting Nos. 1, 2, 4 and 5, at least.  Last year, Marshawn Lynch and Desmond Bishop both wore No. 10, and we always figured there were coaching safeguards to prevent problems. Obviously not: Cal was penalized on the second-half kickoff Saturday night, and ABC noted it was because two players had the same jersey number. No confirmation yet, but we're guessing the mid-game insertion of Jahvid Best - No. 4 - as the return man resulted in the violation because Thomas DeCoud already was on the field. It ended up not making a difference, but how stupid would the Bears have looked had Best broken one only to have it called back?  Sure, there's a 99 percent chance this will never matter. But coaches live in abject, night-sweat terror of that other 1 percent. Here it is, in Cal's case: The Bears are up five, say, at Oregon. The Ducks have one play left from the 50-yard line. Cal plays the eight-men-in-the-end-zone defense and puts its best leaper on the field - DeSean Jackson, who bats down the Hail Mary pass to preserve the victory.  Except . . . five-yard penalty because Worrell Williams is also on the field. Oregon gets a do-over. If you're a Cal fan, do you look forward to the angst and tension of the ensuing 45 seconds?  Or do you want Williams at practice today wearing No. 0 (which is way cooler than No. 1 anyway)?

• Here's hoping ABC's Lisa Salters has come down from Tightwad Hill - and from the contact high she seemed to be describing from up there.



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