3:30 PM ET, August 31, 2002
Memorial Stadium (Berkeley, CA), Berkeley, CA
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.