Keenan Allen's debut album at Cal made sweet music at Memorial Stadium.
After the Golden Bears fumbled on the opening drive, Cal's offense steamrolled their northern UC counterparts for 35 unanswered first half points and coasted to a 49 point victory over the Aggies. Much of that was due to Allen's big plays, utilizing his size and athleticism to simply speed past overwhelmed Aggie defenders. He had one big touch on each of the first four scoring drives, racking up 99 yards and a touchdown on two rushes and receptions.
Kevin Riley completed his first nine passes and finished with three touchdown throws on 14 completions, and Shane Vereen notched up three touchdowns in a modest performance (14 carries for 67 yards, 2 receptions for 28 yards). The Cal defense dominated the line of scrimmage, allowing only 14 rushing yards on 19 carries, 81 yards overall on 45 offensive plays, and four first downs.
Congratulations are in order for Jeff Tedford, who becomes Cal's third winningest coach with 68 victories, passing Pappy Waldorf. He trails only Andy Smith and James Schaeffer, but could pass both this season with seven more wins.
More details after the jump. (Also, keep on filling out the CGB Report Card.)
Let's start with the defense, because we'll ignore them otherwise. But the defensive line looked absolutely solid. On one play, Deandre Coleman literally barrelled the offensive lineman backward that he ran into the running back and brought him down for a loss. Coleman finished with four tackles to lead the linemen. And he's only on the second unit. Cameron Jordan, Kendrick Payne, Ernest Owusu started, but Aaron Tipoti, Coleman and Trevor Guyton all got plenty of time up front..
Cal's linebacking corps showed marked improvement in both run stoppage and pass coverage. D.J. Holt was particularly impressive, breaking up two passes and making some good open field tackles. Keith Browner got a sack off the edge. Mike Mohamed again led the team in tackles with seven. The Aggies got a first down on the first play from scrimmage. They didn't get another one until the third quarter. Cal's front seven dominating UC Davis's offensive line wasn't exactly a huge surprise, but it was a nice sign. Good start for Clancy Pendergast's unit.
On special teams, Giorgio Tavecchio showed remarkable improvement on his kickoffs, and the Bears kickoff coverage was much improved. Other than one possession where UC Davis took advantage of a celebration penalty and a kickoff from the 20, UC Davis started their first possession on average on their own 21 yard line. Encouraging signs for those looking for kicking improvement under Jeff Genyk.
Riley looked much improved in his footwork, and showed off some nice throws. He showed off his improved short inside throws by firing a couple slant routes to Marvin Jones, including one for his second passing touchdown. He still made a few mistakes (overthrowing to the sidelines on an out route to Allen). Jones had another strong performance, with 5 catches, 81 yards and a touchdown. He found Vereen on what looked like a similar play to the USC 2008 tying-touchdown-that-never-happened-because-of-mysterious-penalty (fake the screen, find the running back in the corner).
Cal's offensive line remains an enigma--although the Bears got 242 rushing yards, they needed 47 carries to get there. Vereen averaged an average 4.8 yards per carry, although he did get two goal-line scores and manage to bounce off of first contact pretty easily. Isi Sofele had a few more dynamic carries with 52 yards and a big 17 yard scamper on Cal's first drive, where he literally rebounded off of Aggie tacklers and kept his feet moving for more yards. But all the shifting and shaking on the line after Matt Summers-Gavin's departure did seem to cause some problems because I never felt the offensive line dominated the run game like they used to.
But the story on offense was Allen. KA21 started out with a 17 yard run where he burst through the Davis linebackers. On the next drive Allen caught a short pass at the line of scrimmage, then scorched his way for 19 yards. He would catch two simple slant routes from Riley and turn them into 45 and 49 yard footraces respectively (the second a touchdown).
And the play of the game was where Allen rolled right on what looked like a designed wide receiver throw, but then he saw plenty of blanket coverage back. Seeing this, he tucked it in and cut it back the other way to the other side of the field, running diagonally to the end zone and barely being touched along the way. Allen had 4 catches for 120 yards, and I'd say 90 to 100 of those yards came after the catch. It's been a long two years without YAC, and it's nice to see it back.
Beau Sweeney was a little bit shakier dropping back to pass. He did complete 6 of 8 passes but for only 29 yards, often choosing the safe option (although I'm guessing Tedford and Andy Ludwig emphasized no turnovers). What was most impressive was his running ability, where he rolled out on 4th down and goal, faked out the defender, did a few stutters near the goal-line, and then dived to the end zone to make it 49-3. He had a few more runs on his final offensive drive, rushing for thirteen yards on two consecutive plays and again made plenty of defenders miss on the way.
Other than a fumbled center-to-quarterback exchange between Chris Guarnero and Riley, the bizarro celebration penalty on Allen (high-fiving fans in the stands is apparently an egregious offense) that ended up leading to the Aggies only points, and Riley and Allen failing to connect on one or two completable pass patterns, it was a solid victory for the Bears.
Just remember: The victory was against UC Davis. So at best, it's just a dress rehearsal for the rest of the season. Unless UC Davis was a budding juggernaut that wins the rest of its games by a combined 500 points, we've learned very little about our team.
Well, outside that Keenan Allen is as good as advertised.