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Cal starting Levy over Ayoob against Stanford

BERKELEY, Calif. -- Steve Levy was named California's
starting quarterback for the 108th Big Game on Thursday, replacing
struggling Joe Ayoob in the Golden Bears' regular-season finale.

Levy, a junior who played fullback last season, will make his
first career start Saturday when Cal (6-4, 3-4 Pac-10) travels
across the San Francisco Bay to face archrival Stanford.

Coach Jeff Tedford had hinted at the decision since last
weekend, when Ayoob struggled in a 35-10 loss to No. 1 Southern
California. The junior-college transfer had the latest in a series
of poor performances, going 9-for-19 with four interceptions before
getting benched in the fourth quarter.

"Both Steve and Joe Ayoob had a good week of practice and will
be ready to play," Tedford said Thursday. "This change also
allows Joe an opportunity to observe the defense from a different
perspective."

Levy, who hadn't played since throwing a touchdown pass in the
season opener against Sacramento State, went 4-for-4 against the
Trojans and led Cal's only touchdown drive. He was a backup
quarterback before an aborted one-year adventure as a fullback last
season, when playing opportunities were scarce behind Aaron
Rodgers.

Levy and Ayoob weren't available to reporters after Thursday's
practice at Memorial Stadium.

"It's an honor to be able to start in the Big Game, where so
many legends have played," Levy said in a statement. "I'm excited
about the opportunity that's been given to me. Hopefully I can make
something happen."

The Bears were due for some sort of change after losing four of
their last five games to ruin a 5-0 start to the season. But
Tedford's decision to start Levy is an admission of the quarterback
guru's frustration with his inability to reach Ayoob, one of the
nation's top juco passers last season at City College of San
Francisco.

Ever since playing well in a last-minute loss to UCLA, Ayoob has
been tentative and inaccurate. In the last four games, Ayoob is
51-of-119 with 11 interceptions and just five touchdown passes,
four in a come-from-behind victory over Washington State.

Ayoob acknowledged his confidence is shot, and he hasn't dealt
well with booing from Cal's fans at Memorial Stadium. His mechanics
have suffered as well: After an incompletion against USC, an
exasperated Tedford pointed out a fundamental flaw in Ayoob's
footwork on the sideline.

"Of course I would like to start, but I respect Coach Tedford's
decision and what he thinks is best for the team," Ayoob said.
"I'm ready to be out there on the sidelines to support Steve
during the game, and be ready if my number is called."

Ayoob was beaten out by freshman Nate Longshore for the starting
job in training camp, but Longshore broke his ankle in the season
opener against Sacramento State. Ayoob went 0-for-10 after
relieving Longshore in the opener, but recovered for a handful of
decent starts.

The Bears already have qualified for a second-tier bowl game,
but Stanford (5-4, 4-3) must win one of its final games against Cal
or No. 6 Notre Dame to qualify for its first bowl since 2001.