No. 19 Cal Dominates Sacramento St. in Opener, 41-3
Sept. 3, 2005
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) - Marshawn Lynch rushed for 147 yards and a score, and 19th-ranked California beat Sacramento State 41-3 Saturday despite a tumultuous afternoon for three quarterbacks.
Heralded freshman DeSean Jackson caught a 31-yard touchdown pass from Nate Longshore on Cal's opening drive. Jackson also returned a fourth-quarter punt 49 yards for a score as the Golden Bears finally turned the mismatch into a blowout.
But the Bears' traditionally powerful offense struggled against the Division I-AA Hornets even before Longshore went down with a serious ankle injury late in the first half. Coach Jeff Tedford, one of the nation's top quarterback teachers, clearly still has plenty of work to do on his latest class.
Longshore, a redshirt freshman who beat out junior college transfer Joe Ayoob for the starting job, was 8-for-11 for 131 yards with an interception. But Cal led just 7-3 when he sprained his ankle and went to the locker room on a cart.
Ayoob took over, but looked terrible while throwing 10 straight incompletions - most sailing over the heads of his receivers. Ayoob was expected to replace Aaron Rodgers last spring, but lost the chance with dozens of similarly inaccurate throws in training camp.
Third-stringer Steve Levy, a junior from Cornwall, N.Y., who wasn't expected to play much this season, then threw an interception on his first play from scrimmage. But Levy threw a 46-yard touchdown pass to Noah Smith moments later, then led another scoring drive culminating in Chris Manderino's 3-yard TD run.
Jackson, Cal's top recruit from prep powerhouse Long Beach Poly, became the first true freshman to start for Tedford. He finished with just two catches for 37 yards, but returned a punt down the Cal sideline and dived into the end zone for a score with 5:21 to play.
In front of 65,398 fans - the biggest season-opener crowd in school history - the Bears won with an impressive performance by their defense, which held Sacramento State to 2.7 yards per play and forced three fumbles in the second half.
Though the Bears got a decent preseason ranking, they know they've got plenty of work to do after losing several key members of last season's 10-2 team, which reached the school's highest ranking in a half-century.
Lynch, who averaged 8.8 yards per carry last season as the backup to 2,000-yard rusher J.J. Arrington, finally got the chance to be the centerpiece of Cal's offense. Curiously, he spent most of the first half rushing straight up the middle with limited effectiveness.
Lynch also fumbled twice in the first quarter, though he recovered both - and he ran the wrong way on a screen play in the second, forcing Longshore to intentionally ground the ball.
Longshore completed his first five passes, but hurt his ankle after throwing a 44-yard completion to Sam DeSa late in the second half. X-rays were negative, but Longshore couldn't return.
Lynch finally looked like a budding star in the second half with a series of elusive runs, setting up a 2-yard TD stroll with a gorgeous, spinning 21-yard run. He seemed to get stronger in the second half, rushing for 72 yards on nine carries.