Pat Bigold

The Way I See It

By Pat Bigold

Tuesday, October 12, 1999

Igber does well in his
first start for Cal

IN case you didn't notice it, Iolani alumnus Joe Igber had his breakthrough game last weekend in Cal's losing effort at BYU.

It took me by surprise. How many running backs from Hawaii gain 100 yards at the college level?And how many do it five weeks into a collegiate career?

Igber, who broke almost every state prep rushing and scoring record here, got his first start at tailback (bumping out junior Marcus Fields) and rushed for 116 yards on 18 carries.

He also scored his first career touchdown on an 11-yard run late in the first half.

"It was pretty amazing," said Igber by phone when I asked him how it felt to score his first TD.

"It was just a simple run to the left and the blocking was there, and actually we audibled into the play."

Igber might have staked a permanent claim to the starting tailback job as a freshman and that has to make you wonder if the aspiring architect really does have a chance to get to the next level.

CAL head coach Tom Holmoe realizes how unfair it is to talk about a freshman that way, but he doesn't hesitate to say he thinks Igber sure looks like he's on his way.

Not too many running backs who are 5-foot-7 can expect to play on Sunday. You have to be exceptional. But Igber has about 3 seasons left to prove he is.

They've been calling him "Little Barry" at the Berkeley campus.

"He'll be one of the bell-ringers for years to come," said Holmoe by phone yesterday. "But he's a very humble kid and we love him to death."

Igber must've made Holmoe feel pretty comfortable about his decision to start him against the Cougars when he exploded on the first play of the game for a 55-yard run to the BYU 25.

The first time he ever carried the ball this season, he went 35 yards against Rutgers.

None of the preseason college football magazines said that Igber would have an impact on Cal's football season.

And maybe you couldn't blame the writers for overlooking the diminutive Nigerian-born honors student who didn't even arrive in California with a swagger.

BEFORE he arrived at the Golden Bears training camp, Holmoe was seriously considering redshirting him.

He started out No. 4 on the depth chart.

"But it was pretty obvious in camp he was a pretty special ball carrier," said Holmoe.

Today, he's the starter for the foreseeable future, averaging 6.7 yards a carry (40 for 243 yards).

But true to his personality, Igber was ready to dwell more on the fumble he lost in the first quarter - one that led to a 14-0 BYU lead.

"It was my third one (of the season)," said Igber\

"I fumbled once against Arizona State and once against Washington State."

Mea culpa, mea culpa.

His coaches make Igber tote the football everywhere he goes during practice while teammates poke at it.

"He just has to learn people come at you harder in college," said Holmoe.

Tenacity is Igber's middle name. I'm betting he'll learn to hang on.

Pat Bigold has covered sports for daily newspapers
in Hawaii and Massachusetts since 1978.

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