Massacre In Strawberry Canyon: California 52; Colorado 7

Stuart WhitehairAnalyst ISeptember 13, 2010

September 11th - @ California          California 52, Colorado 7

Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott indicated this weekend that the chances of Colorado moving to the Pac-12 in 2011 are "worse than 50-50". Scott did not rule out the chance that Colorado and the Big 12 will work out their differences in time for a move next season, but the Pac-10 may go with 11 teams next fall. "It sounds like some discussion (with the Big 12) is going on," said Scott, "but they (CU athletic director Mike Bohn and CU chancellor Phil DiStefano) are pessimistic (about 2011), and are thinking 2012".

The way the Buffs played against Cal from the Pac-10 in week two of the 2010 season, waiting another year might not be a bad idea ...

Fact: Colorado hasn't won a road game since 2007.

Reality: If the effort against California in Berkeley is any indication, the Buffs are not likely to win on the road anytime soon.

Colorado turned the ball over five times, including interception and fumble returns for touchdowns, as the Buffs wiped away all of the confidence gained from the opening win over Colorado State, falling 52-7 to California.

The Buffs were their own worst enemies in the first quarter, when the game was still in doubt. Cal took the opening kickoff and started its initial march down the field. MISTAKE No. 1: On third-and-one at their Cal 43-yard line, the Buffs jumped offside, giving Cal a first down. The Colorado defense then did force a punt, leading to MISTAKE No. 2: On a short punt, Travon Patterson called for a fair catch at the Buffs' five yard line, pinning the Buff offense deep in its own territory.

On the first offensive play of the game, Rodney Stewart gave the Buffs some breathing room, rushing for five yards, but ... MISTAKE No. 3: Illegal block, negating the run. The next three plays went nowhere, and the Buffs were forced to punt. MISTAKE No. 4 came when Zach Grossnickle's punt of 38 yards was returned 23 yards to the Colorado 19. Starting their second drive in the red zone, Cal needed only three plays to score, with quarterback Kevin Riley hitting running back Shane Vereen for a 13-yard touchdown.

7-0, Cal. 7:23 to play in the first quarter.

The Buffs' second drive would have started outside the shadow of their own goalposts, but ... MISTAKE No. 5, a holding call on the runback, followed by MISTAKE No. 6, a false start ... and the second Colorado drive was quickly back at the CU seven yard line. Three incomplete passes later, the Buffs were forced to punt, and the Bears were back in business on the Colorado side of the field.

A glimmer of hope was felt by Colorado fans as the Buff defense held the Bears when a fourth-and-two pass by Riley fell incomplete at the Colorado 39-yard line. The Buffs registered their first first down of the game on an 11-yard pass from Tyler Hansen to Kyle Cefalo, but that was soon negated on back-to-back sacks. On the second sack, Hansen fumbled, with the Bears recovering at the Colorado 31-yard line. The fumble, MISTAKE No. 7 of the quarter, was quickly converted, as the Bears needed only six plays to score again. Kevin Riley hit Marvin Jones on a four yard pass to up the lead to 14-0, California.

The first quarter ended with a Rodney Stewart run for a loss of a yard, and another sack of Tyler Hansen.

First quarter score: California 14; Colorado 0.

Colorado in the first quarter ... Four possessions: 13 plays, minus-19 yards total offense. Three penalties for 20 yards. SEVEN MISTAKES.

And it was about to get worse ...

On the first play of the second quarter, Tyler Hansen suffered his second turnover of the game, an interception. Cornerback Bryant Nnabuife picked off Hansen's offering at the CU 34, returning it 13 yards to the 21. The Colorado defense held, though, forcing a 31-yard field goal by Cal kicker Giorgio Tavecchio.

17-0, California.

A three-and-out by the Colorado offense was followed by a six-play, 72-yard drive by California to end any doubt about the direction the fifth game in the Colorado/California series was going. A three yard run by Shane Vereen upped the lead to 24-0, and the rout was on.

A drive for respectability was then mounted by the Colorado offense. The Buffs held onto the ball for 17 plays, but, due to three Colorado penalties for 25 yards, the drive went only 36 yards. A 42-yard field goal attempt by Aric Goodman was wide left, and the debacle continued.

The Colorado defense did force a three-and-out late in the second quarter, with the Buff offense taking over at the CU 22-yard line with just over a minute to play. After one first down, Tyler Hansen was forced from the pocket. Trying to make a play, Hansen tried to get a left-handed heave to tight end Ryan Deehan. The ball was behind Deehan, and the ball was picked off by Cal linebacker Michael Mohamed, who took the ball 41 yards for yet another California touchdown.

31-0, California, at the half.

Game. Set. Match.

The third quarter, oddly enough, was all Colorado.


Colorado held the ball for 12 plays to open the second half. The drive did result in a punt, but consumed 6:15 of clock. A three-and-out by Cal was followed by the only scoring drive of the game for the Buffs. A nine play drive covered 60 yards, with Tyler Hansen scoring on a four yard run on fourth-and-goal to break the ice for Colorado. Another three-and-out gave the Buffs the ball back at the end of the quarter.

Third quarter stats ... Colorado: 22 plays, 92 yards, 10:56 of possession time. California: three plays, eight yards, 4:04 of possession time. 7-0, Colorado.

So much for the Colorado highlights.

In the fourth quarter, Cal restored order.

A 62-yard pass from Kevin Riley to Marvin Jones set up an eight-yard touchdown pass from Riley to Keenan Allen.

Yet another Tyler Hansen interception gave Cal the ball back, and the Bears then quickly marched down the field, capped by a one-yard touchdown pass from Riley to Isi Sofele.

Then, to add insult to injury ... the Buffs took over on downs with less than two minutes to play. After Travon Patterson dropped a sure touchdown pass from Tyler Hansen on the first play, Colorado pushed the ball as far as the Cal 29 yard line. A Hansen pass to Ryan Deehan was complete, but Deehan fumbled the ball at the Cal 18. Cornerback Darian Hagan, Jr., son of Colorado running backs coach Darian Hagan, returned the ball 82 yards for a touchdown with 34 seconds to play.

52-7, California.

"We got off to a bad start, and it got worse from there," said Dan Hawkins, who could not be accused of overstatement.

"We just didn't execute. It's disappointing," said junior quarterback Tyler Hansen, who went 18-for-34 for 166 yards and three interceptions on the afternoon. "Cal's a lot faster and more athletic than Colorado State was. We underestimated how fast they were. I think that was the biggest key."

Wide receiver Scotty McKnight, who was held to just two catches for 14 yards, may have summed up what many Buff players, and fans, were feeling after the 52-7 debacle: "This is the most embarrassing game of my life," said McKnight. "I don't even know how to handle it. We did not show up today. We have the players. We have talented guys, but we just executed terribly today in all phases of the game. We didn't show up at all today. We need to. Cal is a good football team. They've got some great players ... We have some great players as well. We beat ourselves most of the day. We didn't give them a chance to beat us. We continuously got penalties and turned the ball over. That's stuff we can control and we didn't. That's why the score looks like that."

There will be little time for soul searching. Hawaii, 2nd in the nation in passing at over 400 yards per game, is up next. The Rainbows are 1-1 after racking up 588 total yards of offense in a 49-36 loss to USC, and 343 yards passing in a 31-28 victory over Army.

What had seemed like the easiest game on the 2010 schedule is once again looking like the latest "must win" for Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins ...

Game Notes -

- The loss to California gives the Bears a 3-2 edge overall, including a 2-0 record in games played at Berkeley.

- In the five game series, the losing team has never led. That is to say, there has never been a lead change in any of the games. "He who scores first, wins", has been the model for CU v. Cal.

- California's dominating win, coupled with a 52-3 win over Cal-Davis to open the season, was enough to impress the coaches participating in the USA Today poll. Unranked to start the season, the 2-0 Bears debuted as the No. 24 team in the nation.

- Colorado actually led in total offense after three quarters, 179 yards to 168, but the score at the end of the third quarter was 31-7, Cal. The Bears went on to post 188 yards of total offense in the fourth quarter, while the Buffs registered 62.

- Of Colorado's nine penalties (for 75 yards), seven were called on the offense.

- Junior safety Anthony Perkins led the Buffs with 11 tackles (four solo).

- Junior tight end Ryan Deehan had career highs for catches (four) and yards (51).

- Junior running back Rodney Stewart had 80 yards rushing, but it took 29 carries to get those yards. The 29 carries were the second highest total of Stewart's career (he had 32 against Wyoming in 2009). Stewart now has 1,573 career rushing yards, good enough for 25th on the all-time list. Against Cal, Stewart passed Billy Waddy (1,537; 1973-76) and Ward Walsh (1,565; 1968-70).

- Three players made their first career starts against Cal: senior wide receiver Travon Patterson; senior tight end Luke Walters; and junior defensive back Travis Sandersfeld.


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