California Defense Leaves Little Option For Air Force
Sept. 4, 2004
By JOHN MARSHALL
AP Sports Writer
AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) - J.J. Arrington ran for 181 yards and threetouchdowns, and Aaron Rodgers threw for 208 yards and a touchdown to help No.13 California pull away from Air Force in the second half of a 56-14 victorySaturday.
Air Force knocked off Cal the last time the Bears were ranked in 2002 andanother upset appeared to be brewing when the Falcons were within seven pointsat halftime.
But after struggling with Air Force's triple option early, Cal figured outits assignments and started stringing the Falcons out toward the sideline.
Air Force had 214 yards its first three drives, but just 12 in its nextfour. The Falcons finished with 271 total yards - 56 in the second half - andweren't much better on defense, giving up the most points on opening day inschool history.
Cal's offense got off to a quick start and never really slowed. The Bearshad touchdowns on their first three possessions and put the game away with fivemore in the second half. Cal finished with 573 yards to survive a difficultopening road test in a season that started with the school's highest preseasonranking in 50 years.
It just took a little while to dispatch the pesky Falcons.
Cal used a mix of short passes and runs behind the tackles to move 80 yardsin 12 plays on its first drive. Arrington capped it with an 11-yard touchdownrun, taking off right and cutting back through a hole up the middle to scoreeasily.
Then Air Force did what it does best: control the clock.
With Shaun Carney looking more like a veteran than the first freshmanquarterback to start on opening day, the Falcons chewed up more than 6 minuteson their first drive. Carney finished off the 17-play, 77-yard march, hittingRobert McMenomy on a 10-yard touchdown pass over the middle.
Cal didn't waste any time answering, moving 80 yards in eight plays foranother Arrington touchdown run. This time the senior took off left and cutback to the middle to go in untouched for a 4-yard score.
Air Force kept churning away on its next drive until Cal's Matt Giordanostepped in front of Andy Messerall for an interception at the Bears' 9-yardline. Arrington went 89 yards up the middle on the next play, setting upRodgers' 1-yard touchdown dive that made it 21-7.
But Carney shrugged off the pick, keeping Air Force's option in a rhythm onan 80-yard drive that ended with fullback Dan Shaffer's 2-yard touchdown on anoption up the middle.
Air Force's defense finally stiffened after that, forcing Cal to punt twiceto end the first half just seven points behind.
But it didn't last.
Arrington scored on a 1-yard dive over the top to open the third quarter,then Chase Lyman followed with a 78-yard touchdown catch after cornerback NateAllen slipped with just over a minute left.
Terrell Williams opened the fourth quarter with an 11-yard touchdown run,Marshawn Lynch scored on a 43-yard run and Justin Forsett capped the 35-pointhalf with a 13-yard touchdown run.
Carney finished with 75 yards on 18 carries and was 9-for-15 for 89 yardspassing.