Cal Rolls Past Southern Miss
Aug 30, 2003
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
BERKELEY, Calif. - Reggie Robertson threw two touchdown passes andJames Bethea returned a blocked punt for a score as California beat SouthernMississippi 34-2 Saturday in the Golden Bears' home opener.
Adimchinobe Echemandu rushed for a career-high 127 yards - including a60-yard TD run - and tight ends Brandon Hall and Garrett Cross caught scoringpasses as Cal (1-1) shut out Southern Miss over the final 55 minutes of theschools' first-ever meeting.
The Bears got another impressive non-conference rout under coach JeffTedford with hard-hitting defense and fine special-teams play. Cal blocked twopunts, and Mike McGrath's interception in the final minute of the first halfset up a score.
Robertson was 9-of-14 for 142 yards, improving his hold on the starting job.J.J. Arrington rushed for 114 yards as Cal racked up 417 total yards againstthe Golden Eagles' vaunted defense.
Micky D'Angelo passed for 163 yards for Southern Miss, which lost its openerfor just the fifth time in coach Jeff Bower's 13 seasons. In their first gameever against a Pac-10 team, the Eagles had their lowest-scoring outing sinceTulane shut them out in 1995.
Cal's special teams had a big home debut under new coordinator Pete Alamar.Andy Briner blocked Luke Johnson's punt midway through the second quarter, andBethea returned it untouched for a score.
The Eagles' revamped offense under new coordinator Rip Scherer wasn't nearlyas impressive. Southern Miss got the game's first points on a safety when Calpunter Lucas Everett fumbled a snap out of bounds, but the Eagles neverseriously threatened to score against the Bears' first-string defense andfinished with just 277 total yards.
The Eagles' defense, which features five preseason all-Conference USA picks,was just as good as advertised while making three effective stands near thegoal line in the first half. But Southern Miss made huge mistakes on offenseand special teams, repeatedly forcing the defense to scramble back on the fieldafter turnovers.
D'Angelo was 16-of-26, but the junior quarterback took a beating from theblitzing Cal linebackers and defensive backs. Donnie McCleskey poppedD'Angelo's helmet off his head with a crushing sack late in the first quarter.
The Bears opened Tedford's second season in charge with a competitive 42-28loss to fifth-ranked Kansas State last week, and an enthusiastic crowd of33,552 was at Memorial Stadium for the home opener. Cal also debuted itsMomentum Turf - a new artificial-grass surface also used by the BaltimoreRavens.
McGrath intercepted a tipped pass in the final minute of the first half,setting up Hall's 4-yard TD catch. Cal then drove 70 yards early in the secondhalf, with Cross slipping behind the Southern Miss secondary for an easy30-yard score.
Echemandu, one of three tailbacks getting significant playing time for Cal,sprinted through the Eagles' defense for a score with 10:20 left. It was theBears' longest rush in three years.