Bears Bully The Bulldogs
By Ryan Reiswig
Despite an early mishap on their first offensive drive, the California Golden Bears quickly recovered and showed the explosive offense that will make them a force to be reckoned with in the Pac-12 this year.
Marvin Jones caught 5 passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns as the California Golden Bears beat the Fresno State Bulldogs 36-21 in their season opener at Candlestick Park Saturday afternoon.
Fellow wide receiver Keenan Allen added 112 yards receiving as the Bears showcased what looks to be a potentially deadly receiving duo on the other end of quarterback Zach Maynard's passes.
"(Maynard) has a lot of confidence in the receivers, obviously in Keenan (his half brother)," said Cal head coach Jeff Tedford. "He has been working with Marvin a lot. We will enjoy this one and go back to work on Monday."
While the Bears led the Bulldogs for nearly the whole game, they got off to a rough start just seconds in.
On first and 15 from their own 11 yard line, Maynard threw the ball into the hands of Fresno State cornerback L.J. Jones for an interception that put Fresno State at the Bear's 16 yard line. Fresno State then ran the ball three times with the third of those runs resulting in a touchdown, giving the Bulldogs an early 7-0 lead.
The early scare seemed to wake Cal up as they proceeded to score in each of their next three possessions and take control of the game for good.
Aside from a late touchdown from Fresno State with 3:21 remaining, the Bulldog's points were scored as a result of Cal's mistakes; the early interception in the first quarter as well as a second quarter fumble in the end zone by running back Isi Sofele that was jumped on by the Fresno State defense for a touchdown.
The Bears are more than happy to come away with a convincing win; however Tedford knows there are aspects of the game his team needs to tighten up on, including special teams, where his kicking unit had two of their extra points blocked.
"We turned the football over down deep," said Tedford. "We need to jell. We need to be more consistent. It has a lot to do with communication. Special teams did well except for the extra points early. It was a combination of protection issues and not getting the ball in the air."
Even with the mistakes and inconsistencies, Tedford is no doubt coming out of this game excited with what he saw from his offense, specifically his passing attack. Jones and Allen seem to have a good rapport going so far with Maynard, a transfer from Buffalo. This good rapport is by no mistake; the three of them have put in a lot of hard work to get to this point.
"I see great potential," said Jones, a senior. "We've been together for long days, endless nights, and we know each other inside out. We've worked real hard these past months coming into fall camp that we know our potential. We just need to capitalize on it and it was a good start today."
Jones' and Allen's athletic ability, and their ability to get open and be playmakers make Maynard's job a lot easier, but it's also Maynard's ability to make plays when things seem to be breaking down that also helps the Bear's passing attack.
"If you see on the last play going into the half, he can extend plays," Jones said of Maynard. "That's a great attribute that he has and with our routes we have to be aware of where he's at and what we have to do next cause he's great at extending play, he's very fast."
One aspect of the Bear's win that may be slightly overshadowed by the offense is their stellar defensive effort; they showed the ability to shut down all phases of an offense. The Bears held Fresno State to just 68 yards rushing and under 150 yards passing, consistently stifling a good Fresno State team. Out of Fresno's 210 total yards, 64 of them came in mop-up time on Fresno's last scoring drive with less than five minutes left. The Bears held the Bulldogs' offense in check all game long.
"We were physical up front," said Tedford. "They popped a few runs, but we were solid up there. It looked like they were a little afraid of our pass rush."
If they continue to perform offensively and defensively the way they did Saturday, the rest of the Pac-12 Conference will have a reason to be afraid, not just Fresno State.