BERKELEY, Calif. – Spring games tend to be forgettable affairs, so kudos to California for going out of its way to make Saturday’s finale at Edwards Stadium entertaining if unconventional.
There were touchdown passes from the Golden Bears quarterbacks to fans, one a rolling snag from incumbent Zach Maynard that even the redshirt senior had to acknowledge with a chest bump, playcalls by fans resulting in first downs, and a pie eating contest won by center Dominic Galas.
“The kids got excited about it,” Cal head coach Jeff Tedford said. “It was fun for them, a good way to end spring ball. Exciting game coming down the stretch.”
And while the Gold team came away with a 21-20 win over the Blue team when Austin Hinder’s two-point pass was batted down, the main takeaways for the assembled crowd of 8,812 were the continued development of Maynard and the potential of early enrollee quarterback Zach Kline.
Despite being in and out of spring practice because of academics, Maynard looked sharp as he completed 6 of 10 passes for 109 yards with a 29-yard touchdown to his cousin Maurice Harris. Bryce McGovern dropped another score in the end zone, but Maynard gave himself a grade of “eight or nine.”
“I felt comfortable, very comfortable,” said Maynard, who added a 1-yard touchdown run.
More importantly, he expressed no doubts he will be academically eligible to play this fall. Maynard is taking three classes right now and cited commitments outside of lectures for his frequent absences, including missing a couple of sessions this past week.
If Maynard were to miss time because of injury or academics, Allan Bridgford, who was 11-for-21 for 90 yards, remains the backup, Tedford said.
But the real excitement came when Kline stepped on the field. The Danville (Calif.) San Ramon Valley product received an ovation when he was announced, working behind Bridgford on the Gold team.
His first attempt, a throwaway out of bounds, also received plenty of applause.
When Kline threw a perfectly placed pass down the hashes to tight end Spencer Hagan for a 40-yard touchdown, the enthusiastic response might have been enough to have the freshman to be declared king of the East Bay by popular acclamation.
Kline threw for 54 yards, a touchdown and a two-point pass, completing 3 of 5 passes. He also directed another drive that ended in a James Langford 41-yard field goal.
“For a young guy to get in there, and again as spring has gone, feeling the speed of the game and everything he did a pretty good job,” Tedford said.
“He is one of those high caliber type of guys, so he is going to perform quickly and early,” Maynard said. “He looked very good today and that’s a big step forward going into summer camp.”
While Tedford shrugged off a question of whether or not Kline would redshirt this season, the fans made their preference clear as to who is the signal-caller of the future for the Bears.
Other standouts included Harris, who caught seven passes for 95 yard and a score, defensive end Mustafa Jalil, who was a disruptive force creating several tackles for loss and pressuring the quarterback, and running back C.J. Anderson.
Anderson ran for 85 yards on 14 carries, breaking up the middle untouched on a 14-yard touchdown, but his big moments came when he met some of the former Cal players now in the NFL.
“Justin (Forsett), he gave me some love,” Anderson said. “He liked the way I’m running the ball. Then I had a chance to meet Alex Mack for the first time. He is huge.”
It was just that kind of day.
Dan Greenspan is the publisher of Cal Sports Digest and covers the Pac-12 for Fox Sports/Scout.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.