California overwhelms Colorado, 52-7
BERKELEY – Colorado looked as if it didn’t belong on the field against a Pac-10 opponent.
Kevin Riley threw four touchdown passes and California forced five turnovers to give the Buffaloes a rude welcome to what will be their new conference with a 52-7 victory Saturday.
“There’s a lot of speed in the Pac-10,” linebacker Jarred Price said. “Big 12 has speed out there too but that’s more of a powerhouse. The Pac-10 is more speed. Power against speed, I’ll take speed every time.”
Shane Vereen caught one touchdown pass and ran for another score as the Golden Bears (2-0) broke out to a 31-0 halftime lead in Colorado’s first game against a Pac-10 team since announcing plans in June to join the conference.
With the Buffaloes (1-1) still in the Big 12 for at least one more season, this was a nonconference game and was nearly as lopsided as Cal’s season-opening 52-3 victory over lower-division UC Davis last week.
Colorado had negative total yards after nearly 20 minutes, threw three interceptions, lost two fumbles, and committed nine penalties on the way to a 13th straight road loss.
“This was the most embarrassing game of my life,” receiver Scotty McKnight said. “I did not expect it to be like this. We flat-out did not show up today.”
Tyler Hansen was responsible for four of the turnovers, including an ill-advised left-handed pass that was intercepted by Mike Mohamed and returned 41 yards for a touchdown in the closing seconds of the first half.
The performance was particularly disappointing to the approximately 7,000 Colorado fans who came out for the Buffaloes’ first game in California in eight years. One of the reasons to join the Pac-10 was to have more games in front of their alumni and all the potential recruits in talent-rich California.
Colorado officials are negotiating with the Big 12 over a buyout to determine whether they join the soon-to-be Pac-12 in 2011 or 2012. Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott said before the game he was pessimistic it would happen before 2012. If games like this are what await the Buffaloes, they might not be in any hurry to join their new conference.
“The future of our program is playing in the Pac-10 and they’re a Pac-10 team,” Hansen said. “It’s disappointing to think about that, but we can’t think about that now. We’re still in the Big 12 and we still got our conference games left. We are optimistic about them.”
Riley threw a 13-yard TD pass to Vereen to cap Cal’s second drive and the blowout ensued. Jarred Price stripped Hansen on a sack and Mychal Kendricks recovered at the Colorado 31. Three plays later, Riley found Marvin Jones for a 4-yard score in the closing minute of the first quarter.
On the first play of the second quarter, Hansen threw up a floater after being hit and Bryant Nnabuife came up with the interception that set up Giorgio Tavecchio’s 31-yard field goal that made it 17-0.
Vereen scored on a 3-yard run to cap the Bears’ next drive and with 10:29 left in the opening half Cal led 24-0 and was outgaining Colorado 152 to minus-1.
Cal’s defense dominated the game, recording six sacks and scoring two touchdowns, including Darian Hagan’s 82-yard fumble return for a score in the final minute.
“We don’t want to be a defense that stands around and holds bags,” new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said. “We want to be active and destructive.”
They did that to the end. Hagan’s score with 34 seconds left provided a sweet finish since his father, Darian Sr., is the running backs coach at Colorado.
“That was a fairy tale ending to this game,” Hagan said.
Even on the rare times the Buffaloes were able to move the ball, they were unable to score. They got inside the Cal 5 on one drive in the second quarter before two penalties and a sack backed them up to the 24. Aric Goodman missed a 42-yard field goal.
Hansen’s decision to throw the ball with his off-hand on a scramble proved to be a fitting end to the first half when Mohamed caught the ball and raced in for the score.
Hansen did get Colorado on the board with a 4-yard run on fourth-and-goal late in the third quarter, but the game had already been decided by then.
Riley finished 15 for 24 for 197 yards, adding touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to Keenan Allen and Isi Sofele.
“He isn’t making bad decisions or turning it over,” coach Jeff Tedford said. “It is hard to complete every single pass but for the most part he’s doing a good job in terms of decision making, running the team and being accurate throwing the ball.”