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Barnes Ready for Another Chance to Start : Football: Former Trabuco Hills quarterback will direct the Cal offense against Arizona.

November 05, 1994|JASON REID | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Pat Barnes took a snap early in the first quarter last season against Arizona State and sensed something was wrong. Give the kid credit for good instincts, because before the California freshman quarterback could complete his thought, several large Sun Devil defensive linemen separated Barnes' feet from the Earth.

That encounter smacked the giddiness of collegiate start No. 1 clear out of Barnes, former Trabuco Hills High quarterback. Things held to form thereafter as Barnes spent the afternoon simply trying to remain upright.

One day shy of a year later, Barnes, major Division I football's busiest redshirt quarterback, will start for the second time when Cal plays Arizona at 3:30 p.m. today in a Pacific 10 game at Tucson.

"I'm excited," Barnes said. "This is an opportunity for me to get back on the field, and I want to take the reins and run with it, but I'll be happy as long as we get a 'W' . . . and I don't go 11 for 33 again."

Actually, it was 10 for 33. Hey, but who's counting?

True, Barnes' performance against Arizona State was not one for the scrapbook. He misfired on 23 attempts--but managed three completions to Sun Devil defenders--and finished with only 125 yards. Cal wound up on the wrong end of a 41-0 score.

"It was tough, but I can't look at it as a regret," said Barnes, a 19-year-old who was one of the nation's most coveted high school quarterbacks in 1992. "It was a learning experience. I'll look back to try to take something positive from what happened, but I really have to look ahead."

The guy wasn't exactly working under optimum conditions, to say the least.

Barnes' closest association with live action was supposed to be congratulating starter Dave Barr after touchdowns. However, Barr suffered a shoulder injury and Kerry McGonigal, Barr's backup, couldn't play against Arizona State because of a knee injury.

Enter Barnes. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound quarterback of the Bears' future became their emergency starter of the present. In the process, Cal's plan to redshirt Barnes ended as quickly as his hopes for a Hollywood-type debut.

This year, with the talented Barr back for his senior season and McGonigal, a junior, ready in relief, Cal put the redshirt plan back in action.

But something happened in what was billed as "Year of the Quarterback II" in the Pac-10. Several of last season's record-setting trigger men have been sidelined, making it "Year of the Backup Quarterback I."

Nowhere is the problem more evident than at Cal, which lost Barr to a season-ending injury Oct. 8 when he suffered a broken collarbone in a 26-7 victory over UCLA. McGonigal then suffered a shoulder injury in last week's 26-23 loss to Washington State. Cal's coaches had decided to start Barnes against the Cougars but couldn't because he had a bruised nerve in his shoulder.

How difficult have these injuries made things in Berkeley? Consider: The Bears' coaches were forced to use wide receiver Ziv Gottlieb at quarterback for most of the second half against Washington State.

"It kind of makes you think, 'Is there a jinx on us or what?' " Barnes said. "We've had two unfortunate things happen to our quarterbacks this year."

Last week's loss dropped Cal to 3-5, 2-3 in conference play. It is tied for sixth place with Arizona State.

Luckily for Cal, its medical staff said Barnes is OK to play. Finally, offensive coordinator Denny Schuler can feel optimistic--about anything.

"We'd rather have Dave Barr out there finishing his career, but that's not how things have worked out," said Schuler, also Cal's quarterback coach. "Having Pat out there is our next best shot to win games."

Schuler said Cal's coaches regret again burning a chance to redshirt Barnes. But they feel they have no choice.

"He was willing to do it last year when we had a situation and he was willing again this year," Schuler said. "As much as we wanted to save his year, we couldn't look the players in the face and tell them we're just going to write off the year.

"He's got all the tools to be an excellent quarterback, and this will help him next year when he's the guy."

Playing, if asked, was never in question for Barnes. After the injury to Barr, Cal's coaches decided to ask. Barnes first played two weeks ago in USC's 61-0 victory over Cal. He completed three of five passes for 25 yards.

"It's hard to say no if your coach asked you if you're ready," the sophomore said. "I don't think any guy would turn down a chance to get out there."

Barnes older brother, John, knows about seizing opportunities.

As a walk-on quarterback at UCLA, Barnes rallied the Bruins to a 38-37 victory over USC in 1992. In one of the most emotional games in the series, the unheralded Barnes passed for 385 yards--204 in the fourth quarter--and three touchdowns.

"When you play a team sport and the team needs you, you play," John said. "But they really are throwing him into the fire.

"This isn't San Jose State or Pacific--this is Arizona. Heck, I'd be nervous against those guys."

Pat's a bright guy, so he's not oblivious about his task. Arizona's defense, owner of the popular marketing moniker, Desert Swarm, hasn't been nearly as fierce as it was a year ago. Still, though, it's one of the nation's best.

The Wildcats (6-2, 4-1) lost to Oregon, 10-9, last week, and should be in a foul mood. Playing against a neophyte quarterback might be the thing to bring back some chest thumping in the desert.

Although Barnes realizes he's a target, he said he won't wilt.

"All week, I've been visualizing being successful," Barnes said. "So much of this game is mental. I know that mentally, at least, I'll be ready.

"But I wouldn't mind having some eyes in the back of my head, too."

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