Let's not kid ourselves here. Saturday afternoon's result was a foregone conclusion. You know it. I know it. The Presbyterian College Blue Hose probably knew it. And so did Cal coach Jeff Tedford, too. There was no genuine question that Cal would defeat Presbyterian in the Bears' home opener at AT&T Park in San Francisco on Saturday. The real intrigue of the game was how Cal would look, how much improvement Cal would show from last week, and what we would see from some of Cal's backups whom we don't normally see.
So the fact that Cal beat Presbyterian 63-12 on Saturday was not all that noteworthy, much less surprising. But still: it is nice to be 3-0. And it is even nicer to recognize a milestone: the win was Tedford's 75th as Cal coach (75-42 in 9+ seasons), making him the winningest football coach in school history, surpassing the great Andy Smith (74-16-7 in 10 seasons).
Smith, of course, famously coached Cal's "Wonder Teams" of the 1920s, when Cal went five years without losing a game and went to two Rose Bowls (winning one and tying one). And even though Tedford has passed Smith in career wins at Cal, Avinash perhaps said it best in his postgame recap on SBN Bay Area: "Tedford has a long way to go if he wants his Golden Bears playing like those Wonder Bears."
That's not to say that the Bears didn't have impressive numbers to point to. Indeed, the 63 points scored by the Bears were the most since Cal throttled Washington State 66-3 in 2008. And the final statistics were downright silly looking:
Team Totals PC CAL FIRST DOWNS 3 27 Rushing 1 11 Passing 1 13 Penalty 1 3 NET YARDS RUSHING 20 285 Rushing Attempts 26 52 Average Per Rush 0.8 5.5 Rushing Touchdowns 0 5 Yards Gained Rushing 53 285 Yards Lost Rushing 33 0 NET YARDS PASSING 28 296 Completions-Attempts-Int 6-20-2 20-37-1 Average Per Attempt 1.4 8.0 Average Per Completion 4.7 14.8 Passing Touchdowns 0 3 TOTAL OFFENSE YARDS 48 581 Total offense plays 46 89 Average Gain Per Play 1.0 6.5
Yes, you're reading that right. Cal outgained Presbyterian 581 yards to 48 yards in total offense. Presbyterian ran only 46 plays, averaging a measly one yard per snap. At halftime, Presbyterian had more points (12) than total yards (8). The Cal offense, meanwhile, was balanced -- 285 yards rushing and 296 yards passing -- and suffered no negative rushing plays against the Blue Hose defense.
Cal had some noteworthy individual performances as well. Marvin Jones (7 catches, 123 yards) went over 100 yards receiving for the second time in three games and hauled in a 51-yard touchdown pass from Zach Maynard. Maynard completed 15 of 25 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns. Isi Sofele was the Bears' leading rusher, piling up a career high 105 yards on 17 carries and scoring two touchdown. The Bears also spread the wealth: nine different receivers caught passes (Jones, Keenan Allen, Mike Calvin, Anthony Miller, Spencer Hagan, Will Kapp, Brendan Bigelow, Bryce McGovern, and Quinn Tedford) and eight different running backs carried the ball (Sofele, C.J. Anderson, Brendan Bigelow, Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson, Will Kapp, Dasarte Yarnway, Mike Manuel, and Nico Dumont).
As good as the raw numbers looked, however, the offense had its head scratching moments. After penalties stalled Cal's opening drive, Cal scored on its next four possessions to take a 28-0 lead. But then the offense sputtered in two straight possessions, leading to two straight punts. The second of those punts was blocked, and Presbyterian's Justin Bethel returned it 17 yards for touchdown to ensure that there would be no shutout. Cal appeared to restore order by answering back with a quick four-play scoring drive, capped by a 16-yard touchdown pass from Maynard to Hagan. But Maynard then gave Presbyterian six more points on Cal's next possession, throwing a bad interception when he misread the coverage. Bethel returned the pick 29 yards for a touchdown.
The Bears did manage to take a 42-12 lead at halftime after Maynard found his brother, Allen, for a 21-yard touchdown pass with 1:22 left in the first half. But as 42-point first halves go, this one wasn't the most satisfying one there ever was. (And I'm not playing the role of Dougie Downer here -- anyone who heard Coach Tedford's interview with sideline reporter Todd McKim at the end of the first half could hear the dissatisfaction in his voice.) Besides giving the Presbyterians an offering of 12 points, the Bears also committed 9 first-half penalties, dropped a couple of catchable passes, and self-destructed on three of their first-half possessions. It was a productive first half, but far from the crisp half of offensive football that Coach Tedford was looking for.
But while special teams and offense had their lapses, the defense didn't. The Blue Hose had no answer for the Bears. And Cal fans got to see many of the Bears' young, but talented, players get significant playing time -- Mustafa Jalil, Viliami "Tiny" Moala, Chris McCain, Cecil Whiteside, and Stefan McClure, just to name a few. And, as Avinash describes it, the overall defensive performance was dominant.
Hardly any complaints can be registered against the Cal defense, which rebounded from a horrid performance against Colorado and overwhelmed their opponents early. Presbyterian managed only one first down in the first half off a Cal penalty. The Cal defense was dominant against an overwhelmed Presbyterian side, holding the Blue Hose offense to 48 total yards on 46 plays and no third down conversions until the final play of the game.
Ryan Singer was 4 for 14 for 23 yards. In relief, Brandon Miley completed only two of his six throws for five yards. Singer was sacked four times, as Ernest Owusu and Cecil Whiteside registered solo sacks and C.J. Moncrease, Deandre Coleman, Mustafa Jalil, David Wilkerson and Steve Williams contributed on sack assists. Singer also threw two interceptions to Sean Cattouse. One was right to the Cal safety playing the inside zone which Cattouse returned 20 yards, and another to the far right side of the field on a fade route that Cattouse leaped up and grabbed as the help safety. Cal registered four pass breakups--one each by D.J. Holt, J.P. Hurrell, Steve Williams and Josh Hill. Still, the pass defense wasn't really tested like it was last week; Keith Price, Darron Thomas and Matt Barkley await, so we'll know if they've learned from their Colorado adventures soon enough.
The second half was mostly a time for Cal (and Presbyterian, for that matter) to run out the clock and get out of AT&T Park without anyone getting hurt. But there were some things in the second half that Cal fans were interested to see. All week long, Cal fans were excited at the prospect of seeing freshman Brendan Bigelow on the field. And Bigelow did not disappoint: inserted on special teams as a kickoff returner, Bigelow returned the second half kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown. To Cal's credit, the return was well blocked. But once Bigelow got into the clear, Cal fans got a glimpse of the speed we have heard so much about.
The second half also gave Cal fans a chance to see Allan Bridgford take some snaps at quarterback. Bridgford completed 4 of 10 passes for 76 yards, the highlight being a pretty 33-yard pass play to Jones in the third quarter to set up DeBoskie-Johnson's 6-yard touchdown run.
So with Saturday's win, the Bears' non-conference season is complete. On to Pac-12 play, where there are no Presbyterians to offer provide forgiveness for inconsistent play. Though it is nice to be 3-0, Cal will no doubt have to step up its game beginning next week in Seattle against the Washington Huskies in the Pac-12 opener.