Bear Raid Record Breaking: Portland State and the Mouse Davis Connection

Stephen Lam

Last week, we debuted a weekly series in which we look back at Cal's highest scoring game ever against that week's upcoming opponent and ask whether Sonny Dykes' new Bear Raid can outscore the record. This week, Portland State is the opponent. And since the Bears and Vikings have met only once on the gridiron, we decided to do something a little different with this week's edition of Bear Raid Record Breaking.

This Saturday's game between the Portland State Vikings and the California Golden Bears will mark only the second meeting all time between the two programs. In the only other game ever played between the schools, Cal scored 42 first half points and cruised to a 42-16 win in the 2006 season, the season in which Cal won a share of the Pac-10 championship for the first time since 1975.

If we were faithful to the original intent of this "Bear Raid Record Breaking Series," we would break down the 2006 game between the Bears and Vikings, reminisce a little about the victory and the 2006 season, and speculate as to whether Cal's 99-play-per-game #GOFFENSE! can do better than the 35 offensive points that Marshawn Lynch & company put on the board against Portland State in 2006.

Oh, speaking of Beast Mode...


But we're not going to talk about the 2006 Cal-PSU game. Because, let's face it, after the first half, it was kind of boring. We didn't score in the second half and neither did PSU. We could have just sent the cannon home at halftime as it turned out.

No, there's a better angle to the Cal-PSU matchup. The Bears and Vikings have something in common when it comes to offense and coaching. What is that, you ask?

Darrel "Mouse" Davis.

Who is Mouse Davis, you ask? He is no less than a significant figure in football history. Davis is best known for popularizing the "run and shoot" offense during a coaching career that spanned more than 50 years at the high school, college, and professional levels. Most of his career at the college and pro levels was spent as an assistant coach, including time spent as an offensive coordinator at the college level and professionally in the NFL, USFL, CFL, WLAF, and Arena League. Among his stops as an offensive coordinator was at Cal in 1981, on the staff of head coach Roger Theder. More on that in a minute.

Davis was also the head coach at PSU from 1975 to 1980, where his teams went 42-24 in six seasons. At PSU, Davis was known for having prolific offenses, leading the NCAA in scoring three times in six years. Davis's PSU teams averaged 38 points and over 500 yards of total offense per game. Davis also developed quarterbacks June Jones and Neil Lomax, both of whom would go on to NFL careers. It is believed to be the first time that the "run and shoot" offense was used in college football.

Davis's run-and-shoot, considered gimmicky back in the day, is considered the precursor to the modern "spread" offenses in college football, including the "Bear Raid" attack that Cal now employs under first-year coach Sonny Dykes. In a 2009 article, ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach gave Davis credit for being the godfather of the proliferation of spread offenses in college football--a trend that has continued into today and shows no signs of slowing down.

Nearly 50 years before Florida coach Urban Meyer used the spread offense to guide the Gators to two of the past three BCS national championships -- and long before record-setting quarterbacks Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy, Vince Young and Pat White were even born -- Davis was just beginning to put the finishing touches on his version of the run 'n' shoot offense.

Only now is Davis beginning to realize what kind of impact his offense still has on college football.

"Everyone is either running four- or five-wide, and they're all throwing the crap out of the football," Davis said. "The spread has been phenomenal in football. It's the way you play football now."

Entering the 2009 season, the spread offense has never been more popular in college football. From Florida to Michigan to Texas, coaches are trying to keep defenses off-balance with multiple-receiver sets, myriad motion and fast-paced, no-huddle attacks.

When Davis was implementing his innovative run-and-shoot attack, PSU led the nation in scoring three times and posted some gaudy offensive numbers. In 1975, Jones passed for a Division II record 3,518 yards. Lomax, known best for being a longtime quarterback for the St. Louis/Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals, succeeded Jones as PSU starting quarterback and set NCAA records for career passing yardage (13,220) and touchdown passes (106).

The most famous game of the Mouse Davis era at PSU happened in 1980. On November 8, 1980, led by Lomax, PSU beat Delaware State by the absurd score of 105-0. The game made national news and remains the last time that an NCAA Division I or II team scored 100 points in a game.

On the 30th anniversary of the historic blowout in 2010, a columnist look back at the fourth quarter.

The century mark was within sight. What happened next is either legendary or maybe embellished, or perhaps a little sad. But reports say that Viking fans in the stands were in a frenzy about getting to 100. One story called them "bloodthirsty." Mouse slowed his offense down to a crawl, but it's still the Run ‘n' Shoot, remember, so there was time for one more pass toward the end zone. One report said that the ambulance drivers employed for the game and stationed behind the end zone were bouncing up and down in celebration when the century mark was surpassed. When Portland State's backup quarterback completed the fateful touchdown pass, the Vikings scored their 15th TD of the game and kicked their 15th straight extra point to make the final 105-0.

The 105 points were not the only ridiculous number posted by PSU during that 1980 season. Davis' Vikings almost hit the century mark two weeks earlier, defeating Cal Poly 93-7. PSU would later close its regular season with a 75-0 win over Weber State.

Davis left PSU after that 1980 season for Berkeley, where he joined Coach Theder's staff as Cal's offensive coordinator. At the time, Theder's job status was uncertain: he had felt the hot seat during a poor 1980 season, but had held onto his job (Old Blues will tell you) because of Cal's upset of Stanford in the 1980 Big Game. Desperate to turn Cal's fortunes around in 1981, Theder hired Davis to implement the run-and-shoot and revolutionize Cal football. Much like Cal fans today hope that Coach Dykes' "Bear Raid" will bring offense, points, and wins, the hope was the same in 1981 when Davis took the reins of Cal's offense.

It didn't turn out that way.

The Bears suffered an early blow when starting quarterback Gale Gilbert was injured in the first half of the season opener (a 29-28 home loss to Texas A&M). Gilbert would be lost for the season and his replacement, the incomparable J Torchio, was ill-suited to run Davis's run-and-shoot attack. Torchio's ill fit, combined perhaps with the lack of ideal personnel that fit Davis's scheme, contributed to a dismal 1-6 start to Cal's 1981 season. As the losses mounted, Cal did not even see the benefit of entertainment value in Davis's run-and-shoot. In contrast to Davis's high scoring teams at PSU, the 1981 Bears failed to score 20 points in four of their first seven games and did not score more than 28.

The 1-6 start made Theder feel the hot seat more than ever. And after Cal's seventh game of the season, Theder made a move that was as much a sign of desperation as hiring Davis was in the first place. After Cal lost at UCLA 34-6 and as Cal prepared to play Oregon State in the Bears' eighth game of the season, Theder informed Davis that he intended to incorporate more of the pro-style offense that the Bears had run the previous season. Faced with that decision, Davis decided to resign, ending his tenure as Cal offensive coordinator after just seven games.

"Mouse said he didn't feel he could accept my decision and it would go against his principles to stay with us under those conditions," Coach Theder said at the time. "I want to emphasize that I did not fire him."

Cal's shift away from the run-and-shoot paid immediate dividends when the Bears hammered Oregon State 45-3 just five days after Davis' resignation. Cal's 45-point explosion against the Beavers, however, proved to be the team's last such outburst, as the Bears ended the season meekly with three straight defeats, including a 42-21 loss in the Big Game to a John Elway-led Stanford team. Theder was fired as Cal coach at the end of the season and replaced by Joe Kapp.

Mouse Davis would go on to become a coach on the professional level during the 1980s, including a stint as offensive coordinator with the USFL's Houston Gamblers (where he coached future Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly), one year as head coach of the USFL's Denver Gold, and three seasons as offensive coordinator for the NFL's Detroit Lions (where his run-and-shoot was dubbed "The Silver Streak" offense). Davis later returned to college coaching as an assistant and was most recently Hawaii's wide receivers coach in 2010 at the age of 78 before his retirement. Davis, who turns 81 today, was inducted as an inaugural member of PSU's Athletics Hall of Fame in 1997.

Bringing it back to present day, there are some parallels between Davis and Dykes. Both run an offense with spread concepts, and Davis' run-and-shoot may even be viewed as an ancestor of Dykes' Bear Raid. And even though there is a proliferation of spread-type, up-tempo offenses in college football these days, there remains a perception among many fans that offenses of the Bear Raid's ilk are "gimmicky" offenses, much in the way that Davis's run-and-shoot offense was viewed. Be that as it may, the relevant question for this "Bear Raid Record Breaking" is this: can Dykes' run-and-shoot break Portland State's scoring record against Portland State?

I think I can safely say that the answer to the question is no. 105 points is a lot to ask, unless you're Mouse Davis against Delaware State. We'd probably be happy if Cal matched or exceeded the 42 points the Bears scored against PSU in 2006!

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