Cal gets redemption

California got redemption and much more. The Golden Bears pounded Tennessee 45-31 Saturday night to not only avenge last year's embarrassing defeat but gain a measure of respect for the Pac-10.

It was a stunning reversal of UT's 35-18 victory a year ago when the Vols controlled the line of scrimmage and played faster than Cal.

This time, Cal controlled the line and played faster than Tennessee.

And while Tennessee answered some questions on offense, more arose on defense. Cal's 45 points were the most allowed by UT in an opener since 1893.

But the defense was, in a word, awful.

California did score two non-offensive touchdowns, returning a fumble44 yards for a touchdown on the first series and getting a brilliant 77-yard punt return from the dynamic DeSean Jackson.

But UT's defense didn't stop the run, didn't put pressure on quarterback Nate Longshore (19 of 28 for 241 yards) and didn't tackle.

How can a defense go from being so dominant a year ago against Cal to being so porous? How can a defense that rattled Longshore a year ago be so passive?

You can bet defensive coordinator John Chavis was embarrassed by what he saw.

When last we saw Tennessee's defense, it couldn't stop Penn State's running game in the Outback Bowl.

It couldn't stop Cal's, either. Justin Forsett darted through defenders for 156 yards on 26 carries and true freshman Jahvid Best had a 34-yard run as the Bears ran for 230 and averaged a whopping 6.2 yards per run. That's an ominous figure, considering only two SEC teams had a worse run-per-carry defense than the Vols' 4.1 in 2007.

The Bears chalked up 471 total yards on just 65 plays, an average of 7.2 yards per carry.

Maybe some of the defenders were hanging out in the trees with the hippies outside the stadium.

You had to wonder what happened to the front four. You had to wonder what happened to the linebackers. You had to wonder where the safeties were in run support.

UT's run defense was a no-show and it showed.

``We had spurts of greatness and spurts of not playing well at all,'' said senior linebacker Ryan Karl.

The spurts of greatness were rare. Cal had four touchdown drives of over 50 yards, a 60-yard drive for a field goal and an 85-yard drive ended with a fortunate – for UT – fumble in the end zone.

Bottom line: When UT's defense had to make stops, it didn't. And not one Vol defender consistently made big plays – not linebacker Jerod Mayo, not safety Jonathan Hefney, not Karl.

Longshore wasn't sacked and was rarely pressured. Given time, he had a field day picking apart a young secondary that lost three starters from a year ago..

``We've got to work on our pressure,'' Karl said.

No kidding. A pass rush that went dormant down the stretch last season never materialized in Berkley. The Vols now have one sack in their last five games.

``If you're completing the ball 25-30 yards downfield, there should be more pressure,'' said Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer.

Meanwhile, the Vols' offense showed a spark. Despite a broken little finger on his passing hand, quarterback Erik Ainge was amazingly accurate early, hitting 12 of his first 13 passes. He finished with a career-high 32 completions on 47 attempts for 271 yards and three touchdowns.

``It feels all right,'' Ainge said of his finger after the game. ``There were a few passes that affected my accuracy a little bit.''

Ainge said he'll have his finger X-rayed to make sure it's OK.

Arian Foster was outstanding. He had 89 yards on 13 carries, caught three passes for 20 yards and a touchdown and returned a kickoff 68 yards.

The Vols wide receivers were surprisingly productive, considering how they performed in August scrimmages. Lucas Taylor had a career game with six catches for 103 yards. Austin Rogers and Josh Briscoe also caught six passes. Tight end Chris Brown had seven grabs for 54 yards and two touchdowns.

``I thought we did a good job,'' Ainge said of the offense. ``But we had three third and shorts and didn't get in. That was kind of the downfall for us.''

With UT down 38-21 with 9 minutes left in the third quarter, the Vols moved to just inside the Cal 2-yard line. But an Ainge pass to Taylor fell incomplete, Taylor took a direct snap and ran for no gain, and Ainge, with an empty backfield, threw incomplete on fourth down.

Tennessee did rally to score 10 straight points to cut the margin to 38-31 with 14 minutes left in the game. But the Vols couldn't make a play on offense or defense as Cal pulled away.

``It was a game of big plays,'' Fulmer said. ``Our inefficiency with tackling showed up in a big way. I wouldn't have believed anybody could have rushed the ball like that on us.''

But Cal did. And if Cal can, what do you expect from Florida and Georgia and Arkansas and maybe even Southern Miss, which has a 1,400-yard rusher from a year ago?

``Offensively we played well enough to win except on third and short,'' Fulmer said.

The defense didn't. If the tackling, the pass rush and the secondary don't improve dramatically, the Vols will be out of the SEC East division race in early October.

And while Cal fans protest cutting down trees by camping in them, UT fans will protest a potentially poor start in a different way.

They'll boycott Neyland Stadium.

EXTRA POINTS: Fulmer said defensive end Xavier Mitchell had movement in his extremities and the hope is he suffered only a concussion. … Fulmer said UT took the ball after winning the coin toss – rather than defer – because UT doesn't have a kicker than can get the ball downfield and he wanted to put the strength of his team (offense) on the field first, while keeping Cal's offense off the field. ``It'll be a thrill a minute,'' Fulmer said of his kick coverage team. Fulmer added: ``We'll continue to take it as much as we can.'' … Fulmer said the game plan was to kick away from Jackson each time, but Britton Colquitt's first kick went to Jackson, who burned the Vols with his fifth punt return for a score since the start of last season.

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