While I was relatively confident that the Golden Bears would defeat the plain old Bears from Baylor, never in my wildest dreams did I envision a massacre like what transpired on Saturday. After all, the teams' 2001 results were dismal, with both finishing 0-8 in their respective conferences and both pretty much getting obliterated every week (the average loss margins were 23 for Cal and 28 for BU). The difference in the overall 2001 records was negligible considering that we got creamed by two tough out-of-conference squads (Illinois & BYU) and won vs. our one cupcake (Rutgers) while they played and beat three weak N/C opponents (Arkansas State, New Mexico, & Southern Illinois). Baylor's three-year composite record of 6-27 under Coach Steele was on par with our 8-25 under Coach Unmentionable. In the 2002 preseason forecasts, Lindy's ranked us at #82 and Baylor at #85, Sports Illustrated pegged us at #85 and Baylor at #88, and The Sporting News placed us at #80 and Baylor at #85. Even our home-field advantage seemed negated by our eight-game losing streak at Memorial and the shrinking fan base (Saturday's game only drew 27,000, though the attendance seemed higher than the announced figure). On paper, at least, there didn't seem to be that large of a gap between the two Bear programs, who surely both circled August 31 as a day for redemption for 2001.
But now we have Coach Tedford.
Before we get carried away, it's useful to restate the fact that every Cal coach since Joe Kapp has won his first game, and quite handily at that (Kapp 31-17 @ Colorado, Snyder 42-0 vs. UOP, Gilbertson 46-16 vs. SJSU, Mariucci 45-25 @ SJSU, and Holmoe 35-3 @ Houston). And everyone who cares enough to read this report is painfully aware that only Snyder managed a winning record during his tenure. Nevertheless, it's difficult to rein in the enthusiasm when your team scores TEN touchdowns in its opener. Great googily-woogily! I can't imagine even Oklahoma, Texas, or Nebraska bludgeoning Baylor to more of a green-and-gold pulp than Cal did.
From the first snap, Cal served notice that it wouldn't be the same old boring team. Boller threw a lateral pass to RB Williams, who paused, stepped back, and heaved the ball downfield to a wide-open WR Gray. Gray, who had a good 20-yard head-start on the badly fooled defenders, stumbled momentarily after he caught the ball around the BU 40, righted himself, and sped untouched into the end zone for a 71-yard TD. Delirium broke out in the stands, and it took awhile for the cannon to go off because the operators probably hadn't had time to reload it after the opening kickoff.
The cannon people were soon busy again. On Baylor's first play from scrimmage, senior QB Cicero threw the ball directly to DB Bethea, who returned the interception 32 yards to the BU 11. On third down, and just over two minutes into the game, Boller fired a 4-yard bullet to WR McArthur on a hitch pattern for a 14-0 Cal lead.
Baylor went three and out, and Cal took over at its 40. A nice 60-yard drive, which included two completions to WR Makonnen, culminated in an 8-yard Boller-to-Igber shovel pass TD. Less than halfway through the first quarter, Cal had a giddy 21-0 advantage.
Baylor finally woke up and sliced through the defense on a 76-yard drive that took BU from its 20 to the Cal 4. Though I began to worry somewhat, a quick scan of the field confirmed that our opponent was green-and-gold Baylor and not our purple-and-gold tormentors from Washington. Sure enough, Cicero's third-and-goal pass bounced off the tight end's hands and into those of Matt Nixon, who was off to the races on a 101-yard interception-return TD. There was one Baylor player with a chance to tackle him around the BU 30, but Nixon made a nifty stutter-step move and the guy flew right by him. Shades of Deltha O'Neal! The potential 14-point swing effectively ended the game (with 1:49 remaining in the first quarter!) as Cal's lead burgeoned to 28.
Just over a minute later, QB Cicero threw his third pick of the quarter and his last pass of the game, as it turned out. DB Powell stepped in front of the receiver to snag an errant pass and broke two tackles en route to the end zone for a 26-yard TD. In the process, Cal broke the team record for points in a quarter with 35. At that point, I expected my alarm clock to wake me up from this sweet dream, but it never rang.
The Baylor coaches had seen enough of Cicero and pulled him for backup Karas. Karas quickly exploited a breakdown in the Cal secondary and connected on an 85-yard TD pass to WR Newhouse on the final play of Q1. With the scoreboard reading an amazing 35-7 at the end of the first quarter, I began daydreaming about a final of 140-28.
We didn't quite reach triple digits, but we sure tried. After Bethea returned the kickoff 49 yards to the BU 48, we looked to be in business again. However, the drive bogged down after Cal reached the BU 25, with a sack (Baylor's only one of the day) cratering the drive. Frederickson finally had to punt, and he backed up Baylor to the 13. I must admit to feeling some disappointment, because until then Cal had scored on every possession. But Baylor was still in a generous mood, as on the very next play Karas threw the ball directly to Powell for his second interception of the day. Though Cal couldn't move the ball and Jensen subsequently hit the crossbar on his 42-yard FG attempt, Baylor's nightmare continued as Karas and his RB then botched a handoff that was covered by Banta-Cain at the BU 16. A few plays later, Boller hit a diving Manderino in the end zone on a beautifully executed 18-yard TD pass. Baylor's five turnovers had led to 28 Cal points, prompting Cicero to claim later that the Baylor players beat themselves. With Cal ultimately winning by 48, that was quite a self-inflicted pulverizing!
After the teams traded a few punts, Cal struck again on a 55-yard drive that included a 7-yard Williams-to-Boller pass for a first down. McArthur did the honors this time, as he scored on a 5-yard end-run TD. The halftime score was an unbelievable 49-7.
Cal went to sleep somewhat in the third quarter, with Baylor managing the only score of the period on a short TD run by RB Golden. We were surprised that Boller played the entire quarter with the game well in hand, but apparently Tedford wanted the first-team offense to work on a few things. In fact, Kyle wasn't pulled until early in the fourth quarter, after Boller's 47-yard bomb to McArthur keyed a 72-yard drive that ended in a 3-yard QB sneak TD. The romp continued thereafter, as backup QB Robertson hit Ward with a 52-yard TD pass that the DB gambled for and lost; momentarily, I thought he was going to get a TD going the other way. The madness finally concluded with a drive that was geared to freshman RB O'Keith, who got all five of his carries and his first career TD (a 2-yard run) in helping Cal to hit 70. Baylor tacked on a late TD to close out the scoring.
What a bonanza! Having watched us get crushed mercilessly too many times last season, I felt sorry for Baylor. But to paraphrase a line from Norm Peterson, it's a dog-eat-dog world, and this time we weren't the ones wearing Milkbone underwear. Or in this case, it's a bear-eat-bear world, and Baylor was the one wearing salmon underwear!
* The most encouraging statistic from the game was the turnover column, with zero for us and five for Baylor. Of all of the ugly numbers from 2001, perhaps none stood out worse than our horrific 2-to-1 turnover ratio. On Saturday, Boller fumbled one snap but quickly recovered it; meanwhile, the DBs were showing ballhawking instincts that were all but absent last season. Our four interceptions already represent half of our entire 2001 total, and the 174 return yards almost triple the 2001 total of 63.
* As strange as it sounds, the rout could have been worse. Cal's offense did not appear to be firing with 100% efficiency, as Boller missed several open receivers and fumbled a snap, Jensen hit the crossbar on his only field-goal attempt, and the OL was flagged for four holding and two false-start penalties.
* Baylor's punter Andino was horrible. Powell routinely lined up about 35 yards past the line of scrimmage and it seemed like he was running forward to field most of the kicks. Andino's longest punts bounced well before reaching their final destination. Overall, he averaged a paltry 31 yards on 8 kicks, and only one landed inside the 20, so the majority of the time he should have been trying to boom them.
* Powell generally looked good on punt returns, including a 31-yarder, but he got a little too fancy and lost 7 yards on one return. With the game long since decided, he probably wouldn't have been fooling around like that had it mattered.
* Cal scored TDs in all six of its red-zone opportunities. That may be unprecedented.
* RS freshman QB Schwartz made his collegiate debut just before the game ended. He didn't throw a pass, meaning he is two attempts (and two completions) behind RB Williams, who finished 2-for-2 for 78 yards and a TD. Terrell had six times more passing yards than rushing yards (13).
* The total yardage was very close considering the score (Cal 460, Baylor 402), and I seem to remember that Baylor was actually ahead in yardage during the second quarter. Long passes of 85, 39, and 27 yards helped to pad BU's stats, and also signified that our secondary, its great day notwithstanding, is a work in progress.
* According to the media guide, Cal's 35 first-quarter points toppled the previous mark of 29 vs. UOP in 1991; our 49 first-half points rank #2 to the 51 from the UOP game; and our 70 total points also place #2 behind the 86 from the UOP game. Also, for both teams, the 42 in the first quarter rank #2 (tie) behind the 43 from the dratted Aloha Bowl vs. Navy in 1996; the 56 in the first half place #3, and the 92 for the game represent the fifth-highest total in Cal history.
* The weather was scorching. It had to be over 90 degrees, and the length of the game didn't help; with only four minutes gone in the third quarter, it was already almost three o'clock. Thankfully, things picked up during garbage time. But as I always say, I'd sit in a desert wearing three wool jackets or a snowstorm wearing only a T-shirt and shorts to see a Cal victory!
* Our new all-blue uniforms, with the yellow stripe down the side, closely resemble Oregon's home greens. I'm lukewarm on the change, but if Tedford can bring us Oregon-like success, the team can wear whatever it wants!
* Baylor didn't bring many fans – I'd guess there were a couple hundred – but I was impressed that most of them stayed until the end. Quite frankly, if my team was losing by 55, I don't think I'd make it until the final gun. Unfortunately, I got too much practice last season. :(
And now, a word from our sponsors. Right before our opener last season, I visited my friend Mark and we pitted Cal against Illinois in EA's NCAA Football on the Sony Playstation 2. Though the Bears were actually favored by the oddsmakers in real life, the Illini administered a thorough whipping in the video game, and of course we proceeded to lose by 27. Last Thursday, Mark and I put Cal against Baylor using the recently released 2003 version, and in four six-minute quarters, Cal won by 35 (with Baylor making a myriad of mistakes). Plus, the graphics are incredible! My one beef is that our fight song, which was incorporated in last year's version of the game, has been replaced by generic band music this year. To make matters worse, our song is still included as UCLA's theme.
I don't know what to make of New Mexico State. I had pegged the Aggies as the opponent we were most likely to clobber this season, and yet NMSU only lost to #21 South Carolina by 10 on the road. It's too early to say whether that signifies that USC had an off-day, USC is overrated, or NMSU is tougher than expected. Lindy's rated New Mexico State at #92 overall with the comment: "Tough losses at QB, RB, and LB; lines should be strong." Perhaps Mark and I should play Cal vs. NMSU on the PS2 to see who will win next Saturday! Based on the momentum from this game, it should be us.
Go Bears! Beat the Aggies!
CalvinBear's Game Report
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