Cal bullish in 36-21 win over Fresno State

Maynard debuts with 266 yards, pair of TDs

Marvin Jones had 118 yards receiving and caught a career-high tying two touchdown passes in the Bears' season opener.
Sean Goebel/Staff
Marvin Jones had 118 yards receiving and caught a career-high tying two touchdown passes in the Bears' season opener.

SAN FRANCISCO — A Cal quarterback throws an interception on the second play of the game.

New quarterback. New season. Same old story?

At least that’s what it seemed like when Zach Maynard missed Marvin Jones on a short pass and was picked off by Fresno State’s L.J. Jones at the 11-yard line, not 20 seconds into the Cal football team’s season opener on Saturday.

But Maynard bounced back from his snafu to manage an efficient game and the Bears’ defense shut down the Bulldogs’ offense, as Cal cruised to a 36-21 victory over Fresno State at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

 Photo gallery: Cal vs. Fresno State 

“Obviously, there was a lot of rush; pregame jitters or whatever,” head coach Jeff Tedford said. “Falling down 7-0 — nobody blamed each other.”

After the interception, Bulldogs running back Robbie Rouse reached the end zone on two carries. When the Bears got the ball back, Maynard still looked shaky. The junior’s second pass attempt of the season was way behind his intended receiver. On his third pass, though, he hit his half-brother Keenan Allen for 23 yards.

Allen said, “It was like being in the backyard,” while Maynard attributed their chemistry to an “instant connection from birth.”

Maynard looked relatively comfortable from there on out. The Greensboro, N.C., native guided Cal to a touchdown on that drive, and the two after that. In all, he passed for 266 yards and two touchdowns and was 16-for-35 passing. He also ran for 53 yards.

“I was like, ‘man, here we go. This is real life,’” Maynard said of his interception. “I rushed the pass a little bit. As the game progressed, I felt a lot better … I really didn’t think about it. I just shook it off.”

It helped having an array of weapons at his disposal.

After scoring only one touchdown on the ground in his first two seasons at Cal, running back Isi Sofele rushed for two scores — in the first quarter. He gained 88 yards on 24 carries in his first career start, utilizing his speed to get to the outside on pitch play. He also had some success running up the middle, the highlight being his second touchdown, when he burst up the middle for 39 yards, the longest run of his career.

Maynard was certainly not perfect after his interception, with several passes that were thrown long.

“Early in the game he was playing a little fast, but as the game progressed he calmed down,” Tedford said. “Overall he played OK.”

The transfer from Buffalo rated himself “four and a half, five out of 10.” Had he rated his receivers, their score certainly would have been higher.

Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones combined for 230 yards receiving — 112 and 118, respectively — marking the first time Cal had two receivers with more than 100 yards receiving since Lavelle Hawkins and DeSean Jackson accomplished the feat in 2006.

Jones caught a career-high tying two touchdown passes, including an impressive 23-yarder he hauled in on the Bears’ first drive of the third quarter. On third and nine, Maynard found Jones on the right side, and the senior wideout spun around his defender to reach the end zone.

“I had a short comeback and the leverage of the cornerback, he was playing with inside leverage, so I kind of faked him inside and I came back,” Jones said. “It was a low ball, and I knew he was gonna be at my back hip, so I avoided him.

“I knew there was going to be inside pressure coming, so I kind of spun and, you know, made that play.”

All eyes were on Maynard, but the Cal defense did not disappoint. The unit gave up just 210 yards and did not give up a touchdown — discounting Rouse’s score following Maynard’s interception — until three and a half minutes left in the game. By then, the Bears’ defense had already scored a touchdown of its own.

With 4:21 remaining in the third quarter, linebacker Cecil Whiteside slapped the ball out of Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr’s hand, and lineman Trevor Guyton picked it up and took it into the end zone.

“Basically, I was just doing my job,” Guyton said of his first-ever touchdown. “And good things happen when you do your job.”

Despite the 15-point margin, the team was not satisfied. Sofele fumbled in the end zone, resulting in the Bulldogs’ second score. Kicker Giorgio Tavecchio missed two extra points. Cal also had 11 penalties for 86 yards which, combined with the two turnovers, turned what could have been a blowout into a relatively close game.

“I wish we would have played a little better so we could have gotten some more guys on the field at the end there,” Tedford said. “There is a lot of room for improvement, but all in all we are 1-0.”

Read more about the Cal win on the football blog.

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  • What *I* saw was A) an FSU QB not nearly as good as his brother which resulted in B) a haplessly outmatched team and C) an unbelievably unprepared Cal offense that was almost comically hideous at times.

    THIS is what a coach who we have paid $25 Million over his career here produces??We had back to back to back to back penalties, game-breaking plays called back, consecutive blocked PATs, an incident in the end zone that can only be described as surreal and a QB who alternated between surprisingly(if momentarily) good and horrendous.

    This is a BAD Cal offense, Kiddies, because NO offense that is good would perform that badly against competition that was evidently vastly overmatched. The defense? Time will tell because FSU provided not much contest but with the offense giving up more points to FSU than the defense did, it doesn’t really matter.

    Maynard might be our salvation as long as we stick to the Bulldogs or the Blue Hoes but against the Pac?? It’s gonna be another long season.

    • Anonymous

      I will give Cal a break on one of their penalties, there was a leg whipping call against Schwartz? that was clearly not. Dominic Galas had a horrendous game and looked totally lost at times. The 3 consecutive penalties looked Raideresque, Is this a bad trait Michalczik picked up in Oakland? Maynard should only get better, i think you will see probably 5 more games where 2 WR’s have 100+ receiving yards, they could have had more if it weren’t for plays being called back and several easy passes that were dropped. Lets hope that a second string RB steps up to backup Sofele, Sofele is not an everydown back and needs to be given a break. 

      Tavecchio should be an encouragement for the offense to do better, because #40 is clearly a detriment that needs to be overcome by more offensive scoring ( Tavecchio was a +6 pts when he should have been +8 pts, those could be the difference in winning or losing a game in the future ), I’m hoping that we do not have a game in which we must rely on him to win it in the last seconds.

      Although a win is good any day the final score without mistakes should have been 45-0 or 42-2. 

      Our first road trip next week. Road trips always make me nervous because Cal does a horrendous job in preparing for the road. Lets hope that not having the comfort of Memorial Stadium will make Cal a better road team.  

    • Anonymous

      “a coach who we have paid $25 Million over his career”

      I didn’t know you worked for Nike.

  • Anonymous

    For me having Zach Maynard throw an interception that resulted in Fresno’s first TD was a good chance for fans to see what kind of QB he would be, would he  come unglued? Nope. It did look like the team as a whole was trying to give the game away at times. 

    Cal turnovers gave Fresno 2 easy TD’s, Putting in the second string defense a little to early in the game gave Fresno their 3rd and final TD. Way to many penalties that brought back long gainers or moved Cal out of scoring position. Giorgio Tavechio will surely give me a heart attack, sure he made a 40 yard field goal, he also missed two extra points in a row. Those are things that can cost a team a game, which he has done in the past. Coverage on kick offs and punts was fairly good and consistent. 

    It’s going to be fun watching this team, they could be a surprise. 

  • Dancing Bear

    Great start.  Go Bears!