Kansas State tops Cal in college football opener

Updated: August 24, 2003, 1:34 AM ET

JERSEY CITY, New Jersey - Kansas State played in the first Division I-A game of the college football season. Coach Bill Snyder says his team must improve in order to play in the last one as well.

Ell Roberson passed for three touchdowns and ran for another and Darren Sproles rushed for a career-high 175 yards as fifth-ranked Kansas State defeated pesky California, 42-28, in the Black Coaches Association Classic at Arrowhead Stadium.

The game was the first of hundreds to be played before the season ends with the national title game in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on January 4. The Wildcats are among those teams with a serious chance of getting there, thanks to Roberson and Sproles.

Roberson completed 9-of-18 passes for 205 yards and threw TD passes to Travis Wilson, James Terry and Davin Dennis. He also ran for 145 yards on 18 carries. Sproles carried 22 times, scored Kansas State's first TD on a five-yard run, and posted his 10th straight 100-yard game.

But the Wildcats allowed 440 yards and had trouble putting the Golden Bears away.

"That's why we took this game, to get better," said Snyder, who won his 14th straight season opener.

California lost 24 seniors from a team that made huge strides in its first season under Jeff Tedford, improving from 1-10 to 7-5. The Golden Bears managed to maintain their poise and stayed within striking distance, trailing by 13 points at halftime and by 14 points early in the fourth quarter.

The Wildcats could not feel comfortable until Roberson threw a 28-yard TD pass to Dennis with 10:14 left to make it 42-21.

"We didn't fold our tents," California coach Jeff Tedford said. "That's a tremendous football team we played. I thought it was a good game for some of our young guys."

The Wildcats gained 535 yards, but one of the more important plays of the game was by linebacker Brandon Archer, who stopped California quarterback Reggie Robertson for no gain on fourth down at the Kansas State 2 early in the second quarter.

Kansas State responded by marching the length of the field, with Roberson throwing a five-yard touchdown pass to Wilson to make it 17-7 with 6:17 left in the quarter.

Robertson, who took over for the departed Kyle Boller at quarterback, was 16-of-29 for 257 yards and three scores. He was replaced in the third quarter by Aaron Rodgers, but returned when a hard hit knocked Rodgers out of the game.

Past years have featured numerous preseason "classics," a trend that began with the Kickoff Classic in New Jersey two decades ago. But the NCAA, responding to the bloated schedules caused by the addition of conference title games at the end of the year, decided to eliminate the preseason contests.

The Black Coaches Association Classic, however, was allowed to continue this year in order to fulfill a pre-existing television contract. The game attracted 50,823 fans to Arrowhead Stadium.

One other game is scheduled for Saturday as San Jose State shut out Division I-AA Grambling, 29-0, in the Literacy Classic. San Jose State was given permission to host the early game when another opponent dropped the Spartans from their schedule.

A full slate of games is scheduled for Labor Day weekend. Defending national champion and second-ranked Ohio State will host Washington in its season opener on August 30. Top-ranked Oklahoma plays North Texas the same day.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index