Cal Crushes No. 15 Michigan State
Sept. 14, 2002
EAST LANSING, Mich. - California is 3-0 for the first time in six years and has beaten a top-15 team for the first time in 28 years. Yet the Golden Bears and first-year coach Jeff Tedford aren't all that impressed with themselves.
Cal quarterback Kyle Boller accounted for four touchdowns - two throwing, one running and one receiving - as the Golden Bears humbled 15th-ranked Michigan State 46-22 Saturday.
The last time the Bears beat such a highly ranked team was Oct. 5, 1974, when they defeated No. 14 Illinois. Cal is 3-0 for the first time since 1996, which was coach Steve Mariucci's only season before leaving for the San Francisco 49ers.
Despite tripling last year's win total, the Golden Bears were businesslike after first silencing, then emptying, Spartan Stadium.
'I don't think we need to be surprised or giddy about winning,' said Tedford, who was the offensive coordinator at Oregon the past four years before taking over for the fired Tom Holmoe in Berkeley.
The Spartans (2-1) fell behind for the second straight week, but unlike their victory over Rice, they couldn't mount a comeback.
'The guys weren't ready to play. We never even showed up,' Michigan State coach Bobby Williams said. 'It's very frustrating. I'm mostly disappointed in myself. I'll take the hit. Put it all on me.'
The Bears stunned Williams' team by scoring 18 second-quarter points and taking a 25-0 lead at halftime. The scores came on a punt return, a safety, a trick play and three field goals.
Michigan State opened the second half with two touchdowns, but Cal responded with three consecutive TDs to wrap up the win.
Boller was 19-of-33 for 232 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He caught a 14-yard TD pass from receiver LaShaun Ward in the second quarter and scored the first of Cal's three second-half touchdowns on a 2-yard run.
Receiver Charles Rogers might have been the only Michigan State player who didn't have an awful game. He caught nine passes for 166 yards and a TD. He has caught at least one TD pass in his last 11 regular-season games - one short of the NCAA record held by Marshall's Randy Moss, Michigan's Desmond Howard and Pacific's Aaron Turner.
Going back to last season's Silicon Valley Bowl, which doesn't count toward national records, Rogers has caught a TD pass in 12 straight games.
'I'd rather have the win,' said Rogers, who also broke the school record with his seventh straight 100-yard game.
Spartans quarterback Jeff Smoker was 16-of-33 for 206 yards with two TDs and two interceptions.
Tedford has brought Cal immediate respect one year after the team went a miserable 1-10. The passing game was Tedford's specialty at Oregon and Fresno State before that, and so far the Bears have outscored their opponents 91-10 in first halves and 150-57 overall.
'We know we have the athletes to play with anybody in the country,' Ward said. 'Our coaching staff has told us that, and we're all believers. We expected to win here, so we're not surprised.'
Defense has been the real surprise for Cal, however. The Bears forced five Michigan State turnovers and gave up only one, and they're plus-10 in turnover margin this season after ranking 114th out of 115 Division I-A schools with a minus-17 margin last year.
Michigan State drove to Cal's 1 and 2 on consecutive drives in the first quarter, but the Spartans turned the ball over both times. They also fumbled the kickoff after two of the Bears' first-half scores.
Cal's first-half outburst began with Jemeel Powell's 90-yard punt return for a TD - the Bears' longest in 36 years - midway through the first half.
Ward returned a kickoff 56 yards, breaking several tackles, to set up Mark Jensen's career-long 51-yard kick, which gave Cal a 12-0 lead.
A trick play made it 22-0 with 19 seconds left in the half. Ward, a receiver, went in motion from left to right, caught a pitch from Boller, then lobbed the ball back to the quarterback for a 14-yard TD.
Michigan State had brief hopes for a comeback in the second half.
On the opening drive, the Spartans went 91 yards, capped by Smoker's 15-yard TD pass to Rogers. On Cal's next play, Jason Harmon intercepted a pass by Boller.
Smoker's 2-yard pass to Jason Randall cut the deficit to 25-14 midway through the third quarter.
The Bears quickly ended the threat with Boller's touchdown run, James Bethea's second interception and Boller's two TD passes.