Players to watch: Isi Sofele, Henna Brown

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Isi Sofele, Cal running back

A 1,300-yard rusher the season before and a presumed competitor for the best back in the conference, Isi Sofele failed to make a dent on last Saturday’s game against Nevada. Sofele only secured five carries all game, as the Cal offense was playing catch-up from the very start. Look for Sofele to establish the Cal run attack early and break out for 100 yards against a weak Southern Utah defense. Head coach Jeff Tedford will surely want to increase his star’s workload, so 20-25 carries is not out of the question. Also look for Sofele to be a featured option in the offensive attack, and for C.J. Anderson to take a breather this week. If the Bears are blowing the Thunderbirds out of the water early, however, Sofele may not play more than one half.

— Michael Rosen

Henna Brown, Southern Utah running back

Henna Brown might be the closest thing the Thunderbirds have to a dual threat. The senior from Utah is listed as running back but was the squad’s second-leading receiver in last week’s loss to Utah State. Brown caught three passes for 24 yards in addition to nine carries for 21 yards, a team high.

As the No. 3 tailback in the rotation a season ago, Brown tallied a modest 118 yards on 27 carries, which averages out to a reasonable 4.4 yards per carry. This season, he’s more of a weapon with the graduation of Southern Utah’s top two running backs.

His stats might not inspire much fear in the Cal defense, but if the Bears dismiss him as a non-factor, Brown could easily slip through for screen — a perennial weakness of Cal’s defense. An improved performance from Brown would be a disappointment for the Bears.

— Jonathan Kuperberg

Jonathan Kuperberg and Michael Rosen cover football. Contact them at [email protected]