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Tedford era starts with a shocking twist

8/31/2002

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -- Jeff Tedford concocted a bit of trickery
for the first play of his head coaching career at California.

Just like almost everything Cal did in the blowout victory that
followed, that play was a complete, surprising success.

Beginning with a picture-perfect 71-yard double pass for a
touchdown, the Golden Bears scored 35 points in the first quarter
of a 70-22 victory over Baylor on Saturday that was nothing less
than shocking for a team that went 1-10 last season.

"We wanted to pretty much start out the game with a bang and
get the crowd into it,'' Tedford said. "I don't think it was
statement of anything except, 'We think this will score a
touchdown.'''

Around Cal football, that's a bold statement to make.

Tedford, Oregon's offensive coordinator in the past four
seasons, was hired last December to revitalize a school that was on
rock-bottom after five dismal years under Tom Holmoe. From the
opening seconds, he did more than that: Tedford had his players
smiling at Memorial Stadium for the first time in two seasons.

"Everything is different this year,'' said quarterback Kyle
Boller, who might finally reach his potential under Tedford's
tutelage. "Guys are fired up to play football again. It's fun
again. It's been a long time since we had some real fun.''

Matt Nixon's rambling 100-yard interception return for a
touchdown was one of four interceptions for the Golden Bears. They
returned two of those interceptions for TDs.

Boller passed for 213 yards and three TDs as the Golden Bears
snapped an eight-game home losing streak. They backed up the
highest-scoring quarter in school history with three fourth-quarter
TDs that gave Cal 460 total yards on its most prolific offensive
day since Sept. 7, 1991.

It was the worst defensive game in 89 years for Baylor -- and
perhaps the worst start possible to the Bears' fourth season under
coach Kevin Steele, who has won just six games.

"I don't know if I've ever seen that many turnovers instantly
turn into points,'' Steele said. "I don't have all the answers,
but I've never seen that. I think everybody was trying too hard to
be perfect.''

Judging by the chants of "We love Tedford!'' and "We want
70!'' at Memorial Stadium, Tedford's rebuilding program is off to
an unexpectedly fine start -- though he refused to congratulate
himself.

"I'm happy for the players. They deserved to win,'' Tedford
said. "After what they've been through in the last few seasons, to
bounce back and win, I'm very happy for them. This isn't about me
and my first game. This is about them.''

It was clear something special was happening for Cal from the
game's first play, which Tedford selected 2½ weeks ago as his
opener.

Boller threw a screen pass to Terrell Williams, who pulled up
and threw a long pass to freshman David Gray behind the befuddled
Baylor secondary. With no defenders within 20 yards of him, Gray
raced untouched for a score just 20 seconds into the game.

"They just executed the play well,'' Baylor cornerback Matt
Johnson said. "We just had a little bust. It was really
frustrating, but we didn't let it get us down. ... I think (the
game) was a wakeup call for us -- better early than late.''

The Cal crowd didn't really know how to react to such an
athletic, surprising play by their Golden Bears -- but it was only
the beginning. Cal rolled to a 49-7 halftime lead.

Geoff McArthur caught seven passes for 90 yards, including a
4-yard TD pass, and rushed for another score. Joe Igber ran for 65
yards and caught a TD pass.

The Golden Bears' offense was overwhelming, but Cal also made
several big plays on defense against Baylor quarterback Greg
Cicero, a sixth-year senior who won back his starting job in the
spring but was benched in the first quarter.

Reggie Newhouse had eight catches for a career-high 164 yards
and a TD for Baylor. Aaron Karas relieved Cicero and passed for 211
yards, most of it after halftime.

James Bethea intercepted Cicero's pass on Baylor's first play,
and Boller quickly led two TD drives to give Cal a 21-0 lead. Even
when Baylor mounted its first solid drive late in the first
quarter, the Golden Bears came out shining with another spectacular
play.

Cicero's pass bounced off Shane Williams at the goal line, and
Nixon intercepted it. The senior linebacker sprinted up the Baylor
sideline, dodged Cicero's tackle at the Cal 40 and stumbled all the
way into the end zone.

"It was a great feeling to see that open field,'' Nixon said.
"I didn't think I could run that far without falling over.''

Fifty-two seconds after Nixon's return, Jemeel Powell returned
another interception 26 yards for a score that gave Cal a
school-record 35 points in the quarter. Cal had just eight
interceptions in the entire 2001 season.