Bears too much for Cats

The Richard Kovalcheck era began this afternoon as he started his first career game against the formidable 7th ranked Cal Bears. The redshirt freshman did some good things, but in the end the Bears rolled to a 38-0 win.

Arizona Stadium was clearly in support of the new quarterback. Following the National Anthem "Kov-al-check" was being chanted by the crowd. Kovalcheck was the obvious favorite by coaches and fans entering the game today after Kris Heavner had a few shaky outings the first five games of the season.

Kovalcheck had a decent first outing avoiding the sack well by throwing away a number of balls and finding tight end Steve Fleming as an outlet receiver. Fleming led the team along with Ricky Williams for three receptions each. However, Fleming came away with 65 total yards as well as a 48 yard reception.

Despite failing to put points on the board, Kovalcheck showed his obvious skill moving the ball well, completing 13 of 32 passes for 159 yards. Kovalcheck only threw one interception (which was tipped by a receiver) and was only sacked twice. He faced a lot of pressure from a tough Cal pass rush, but showed a lot of poise in the pocket.

"Richard Kovalcheck was okay," said head coach Mike Stoops. "We had a few drops, but our passing game has to improve and we have to protect our QB more."

Cal's first drive was strong, consisting of 11 plays moving the ball 80 yards for a touchdown with 9:20 left on the clock. Cal ran the ball for 12 yards and passed for 67 on its first drive of the game giving them a 7-0.

"They are a terrific team," said free safety Darrell Brooks. "They run very specific plays and execute them perfectly regardless of what you throw at them. Their quarterback was really good and he played well tonight. We didn't play well enough."

Cal began their second drive and appeared to be driving strong until Antoine Cason intercepted the ball and returned it 21 yards to the 47 yard line. Arizona was unable to capitalize however and was forced to punt 3 plays later, only gaining one yard.

Our kids did some good thins but were not consistent on either side of the ball," said Stoops. "Inconsistency really hurts our team."

Cal's next drive resulted in another touchdown with 13:54 left in the second quarter. A 14 yard pass from Aaron Rodgers to Jonathan Makonnen. Following the successful extra point by Tom Schneider made the score 14-0.

At this point it became clear the Cal was for real. They are a team that clearly deserves to be ranked where they are, and the coaching staff noticed it as well.

"They are definitely legit," said Stoops. "They always play hard and have a great team."

Arizona took over and started strong with a 51 yard pass to Steve Fleming to put Arizona on their own 33. Kovalcheck then completed another pass to Ricky Williams for a gain of 8 yards to the 25 yard line. Bell then ran the ball on the next two plays up to the 14 yard line. However a personal foul penalty on Fleming pushed Arizona back to the 29 yard line setting up a 2nd and 21.

"Penalties led to points for them but none for us," explained Stoops.

Arizona moved the ball six yards before being sacked for a loss of six yards and Nick Folk was forced to come in to kick the field goal on fourth down. Unfortunately, Nick Folk's field goal attempt was blocked by Donnie McClesky and Cal took over once again on offense.

Later in the game, Cal began a drive which ended up on the 50 yard line following a 15 yard facemask penalty. Cal opted to go long on the next play but the pass was broken up by Wilrey Fontenot and intercepted by Cason who returned it back to the 40 yard line out of the end zone. A huge block on the return came from Marcus Smith who took out a California player who was injured on the field. Cason ended the game with two interceptions.

"I knew interceptions would be a boost for the offense and defense and it would get the crowd in the game," said Cason.

Cason was clearly one of the best defensive players on the field and Stoops noticed as well. In addition to his two interceptions, Cason also had five tackles on the day.

"Antoine got back in the groove tonight," said Stoops.

Cal moved the ball once again before the end of the half and was able to score off a 21 yard pass from Rodgers to Chris Manderino to make the score 21-0 with 1:38 left in the half.

Arizona would have one more chance at the end zone, however Kovalcheck threw an interception and Cal was able to move the ball strong and score another touchdown with 0:11 left in the half. The touchdown was thrown once again by Rodgers complete to Geoff McArthur. The touchdown made the score 28-0 in favor of California.

Arizona's first drive of the second half was strong with Bell running for 21 yards. In addition, Kovalcheck completed three passes for 37 yards to move the ‘Cats to the 23 yard line. However, three straight tipped passes forced a fourth and 10 from the 23. Rather than going for the field goal, Arizona elected to go for it on fourth and 10. The pass was thrown incomplete in the endzone and Cal took over at the Arizona 23 yard line.

Cal later recovered from a missed field goal earlier and would kick a 23 yard field goal on their ensuing drive to make the score 31-0 with 13:28 left in the game.

Cal later punted however the ball went off the Arizona player and Cal recovered the fumble on the Arizona 10 yard line. Cal made a 5 yard run followed by a 5 yard touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch to make the score 38-0 with 7:30 left in the game.

The score would not change throughout the last 7:30 and Cal went on to win 38-0.

Bell led the Arizona running game. Bell had 17 carries for 99 yards, none for a loss. However, Bell was more concerned about the team and was clearly frustrated following the game.

"We are just so close," said Bell. "It's hard to explain. It's on the tip of my tongue but I can't get it out. We just have to keep believing that it's going to happen."

While Bell ran the ball well, the obvious story of the day was the strong play by Richard Kovalcheck. Kovalcheck did not burn a single timeout and was very good at avoiding the sack at all costs. Bell was very impressed with Kovalcheck's play.

"Rich played really well," said Bell. "I was surprised because he played better than we thought he would. It's tough your first time out, but he handled it well. He made some mistakes but played hard the whole night."

Kovalcheck's play also caught the eye of the coaches once again as he will get the start once again next week against Oregon State.

"No doubt," said Offensive Coordinator Mike Canales. "He'll (Kovalcheck) start against Oregon State next week. There is no doubt. There is no doubt."

Photos by: Carl F. Shifflette III


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