No. 12 California races past Maryland 52-13
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP)—Jahvid Best was on the wrong end of the highlight film last year against Maryland, seen on his knees vomiting following a hard hit from a Terrapins defender.
Best was back in his usual role in the rematch, finishing off a long run to the end zone as California turned the tables on Maryland.
Best ran 73 yards for one of his two first-quarter touchdowns and the 12th-ranked Golden Bears avenged an early-season loss to the Terrapins last season with a 52-13 victory Saturday night to open this season.
“Last year we went down there and we felt like we didn’t play Cal football,” Best said. “We wanted them to know what Cal football was all about. We wanted to jump on them early.”
Kevin Riley added a career-high four touchdown passes for the Bears, who avenged last year’s 35-27 loss. Cal finished with 542 yards of offense and got touchdowns from five players.
“Everybody got involved in the action today which was good to see,” coach Jeff Tedford said.
This was quite a contrast to last year’s game. That game was played in East Coast humidity with a noon start and the Cal players looked half asleep at the start, falling behind 21-3 early in the second quarter and never recovering. This year, it was the Maryland players who had to adjust to the time change with a game that started just after 7 p.m. PDT.
The Terps never did and had their most lopsided season-opening loss since the first game in school history, a 50-0 loss to St. John’s of Annapolis in 1892.
“These guys are learning on the run,” Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said of his inexperienced team. “We have got to make it as best as we can. I told them in the locker room, we have to look at this game and learn from it.”
Best heard quite a bit about last year’s game leading up to the rematch, most notably the hit by Maryland cornerback Kevin Barnes that became an instant YouTube classic. Best said he’s watched the hit a handful of times since then and usually laughs when he sees it.
“It’s rare to see somebody do that so it’s kind of funny,” he said.
Best made his own highlight reel in this game, starting with the long touchdown run that opened the scoring. On the first play of Cal’s second possession, Best burst up the middle and broke away from the Maryland defense. He slowed up at the 25 to wait for a block by Verran Tucker on defensive back Nolan Carroll, before finishing off his ninth career run of at least 60 yards.
It’s those kinds of runs that have made Best a trendy Heisman contender and the Bears a team to be reckoned with in the Pac-10. Best finished with 137 yards on 10 carries, including a 40-yarder that was sprung by a block from Riley.
But it’s the passing game that will probably determine how far Cal goes this season. Riley completed 17 of 26 passes for 298 yards, including a 42-yarder that dropped right into Marvin Jones’ hands in the end zone to make it 45-6. He also threw TD passes to Nyan Boateng, Skyler Curran and Shane Vareen.
“Everybody knows we can run the ball,” Riley said. “A lot of close games are going to come down to if we can make plays in the passing game. Tonight we did some good things.”
Riley’s first completion was a 20-yard strike to Jones that came after Torrey Smith fumbled the kickoff following Best’s first TD. Best leaped in from the 2 on the following play for his second score in a 42-second span.
That was Riley’s only completion in five attempts in the first quarter. But he found his stride in the second, connecting on a 39-yard pass to Tucker that set up a 3-yard TD pass to Curran that came after Riley avoided a sack by Jared Harrell.
Riley then stepped up in the pocket and found a wide-open Boateng on a 39-yard pass in the final minute of the half to give the Bears a 31-6 lead.
Maryland was supposed to be the team with the pressure defense after bringing in coordinator Dan Brown and his blitzing schemes. But the Bears had no problems moving the ball, getting big plays on the ground and through the air.
It was Cal that constantly pressured Chris Turner, sacking him six times and keeping the Terps out of the end zone until Da’Rel Scott’s 39-yard run made it 45-13 midway through the third quarter.
“Cal has one of the best defensive fronts we’ll see all year, so it was a good test for our o-line,” Turner said. “We’re not trying to make excuses but we have to make corrections.”