BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -- Jeff Tedford's best quarterback probably
is out for the season. His junior college project couldn't hit the
broad side of a receiver, and California finished the season opener
behind a third-string passer who played fullback last season.
No wonder the 19th-ranked Golden Bears and their coach didn't
look particularly excited about their 41-3 victory over Sacramento
State on Saturday.
Tedford's reputation as a quarterback guru is about to get its
toughest test yet: Nate Longshore, the redshirt freshman who won
the starting job over Joe Ayoob, broke his leg near his ankle late
in the first half. He'll be out at least three months -- and when
Ayoob got his first chance to play, he threw 10 straight
Though Marshawn Lynch's 147 yards rushing and heralded freshman
DeSean Jackson's two touchdowns paced Cal to an easy win, the Bears
soon will face much bigger tasks than pulling away from an
undermanned Division I-AA opponent.
"It's nice that we've got a supporting cast around that we
don't have to rely on our [quarterback] to win every game for us,"
Tedford said. "It's really unfortunate. Nate was playing really
Longshore was 8-for-11 for 131 yards with an interception, but
Cal led just 7-3 when he got hurt and went to the locker room on a
cart. The Bears originally said Longshore's ankle was sprained, but
Tedford revealed his quarterback has a broken fibula.
Ayoob took over but looked comically bad, with most of his
passes sailing over the heads of his receivers. Ayoob was expected
to replace Aaron Rodgers last spring, but lost the chance with
dozens of similarly inaccurate throws in training camp.
"I couldn't even tell you why I wasn't hitting them," Ayoob
said. "I've never played a football game where that's happened
before. I've never thrown balls like that."
Third-stringer Steve Levy, a junior from Cornwall, N.Y., who
played fullback for the Bears last season, then threw an
interception on his first play from scrimmage. But Levy threw a
beautiful 46-yard touchdown pass to Noah Smith moments later, then
led another scoring drive culminating in Chris Manderino's 3-yard
"I threw the best ball of my life," said Levy, who went
2-for-7 for 52 yards despite not taking a snap in practice last
week. "It was a dream. It's just a blur. It's been a long journey
to get this far."
Levy moved to fullback last year in an ill-fated attempt to get
on the field after two seasons on the bench, but went back to
quarterback this spring. His parents were in the stands -- and after
the game, he got a congratulatory text message from Rodgers.
Jackson, Cal's top recruit from prep powerhouse Long Beach Poly,
caught a 31-yard touchdown pass from Longshore on Cal's opening
drive. Jackson also returned a fourth-quarter punt down the Cal
sideline 49 yards for a score, diving into the end zone.
"I got out there and was a little excited, so I messed up on a
couple of plays," Jackson said. "We were planning for me to get
the ball a lot more on offense, but it couldn't happen with the
In front of 65,398 fans -- the biggest season-opener crowd in
school history -- the Bears won with the running game and an
impressive performance by their defense, which held Sacramento
State to 2.7 yards per play and forced three fumbles in the second
"Those big mammoth pocket protectors, those 1,500-pound
linemen, they come after you," Sacramento State coach Steve
Mooshagian said. "We had an experienced defense going against
inexperienced quarterbacks. They're developing their tight ends,
their wide receivers and the quarterbacks, and that's hard
Lynch, who averaged 8.8 yards per carry last season as the
backup to 2,000-yard rusher J.J. Arrington, finally got the chance
to be the centerpiece of Cal's offense. Curiously, he spent most of
the first half rushing straight up the middle with limited
Lynch also fumbled twice in the first quarter, though he
recovered both -- and he ran the wrong way on a screen play in the
second, forcing Longshore to intentionally ground the ball.
"The first half looked like we hadn't been practicing for three
weeks," Tedford said. "We were dropping the ball on handoffs, and
it looked ridiculous. It was the sloppiest game I've ever seen
Lynch seemed to get stronger in the second half, rushing for 72
yards on nine carries.
Chris Hurd passed for 82 yards for Sacramento State in the first
meeting between schools separated by 90 miles. Fred Amey, who
graduated last year as the Hornets' career leader in receptions and
touchdowns, watched the game from the sideline after learning he
had made the San Francisco 49ers' roster as an undrafted free
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... After clinging to a 10-3 halftime lead, Cal shut out overmatched Sacramento State 31-0 in the second half. That, despite losing QB Nate Longshore to an ankle injury late in the first half.
Gameball goes to... Freshman DeSean Jackson, who caught a 31-yard TD pass on Cal's opening drive and returned a punt 49 yards for a TD in the fourth.
Stat of the game... 2.7: Average yards per play for Sacramento State in the second half.