When the Bears took the field at Edwards Stadium for the annual spring football game, fans might not have known what to expect. After a loss to Texas in the Holiday Bowl last December and a lackluster recruiting season, the state of the team was up in the air.
After four quarters of a glorified scrimmage between evenly-matched Cal practice squads — blue versus gold — two things stood out: the improved play of junior quarterback Zach Maynard and junior running back C.J. Anderson.
Maynard had an immediate impact for the blue squad. He led a six-play, 75-yard drive finished off by a 29-yard pass to freshman wide receiver Maurice Harris.
Maynard finished the day 6-for-10 with 109 yards. But more importantly for Cal, the offense looked productive under his leadership as he played a part in two of his team’s touchdowns.
“Zach did a nice job, moved the ball early,” Cal head coach Jeff Tedford said in a press conference. “He is so far ahead of where he was last year.”
Maynard had a productive day without the services of his top target in 2011, sophomore wide receiver Keenan Allen, who paced the sidelines in flip flops after suffering an ankle injury in early March.
Sophomore kicker James Langford nailed 47- and 41-yard field goals, and Anderson punched through the blue defense for a 14-yard touchdown to account for the gold’s scoring output.
After losing 15 pounds over the past few months, Anderson looked faster and more confident than last season. He compiled 87 yards on 14 carries and looked the most explosive of all the Cal running backs.
“I have a year under my belt, so now I have to let my abilities play,” Anderson said.
Isi Sofele paced the blue team with 34 yards on nine carries, and sophomore Brendan Bigelow had 20 yards on three carries for the gold.
In the second half the fans got a chance to see players from deeper down the depth chart. Highly-touted freshman quarterback Zach Kline made huge throws in the final quarter, including a 40-yard touchdown strike to tight end Spencer Hagan .
Despite losing leaders such as Mychal Kendricks and Sean Cattouse to graduation, the defense of both squads showed resilience. Led by the play of redshirt sophomore Nick Forbes, the defense continually made early stops and pressured the quarterbacks.
Toward the end of the game, the blue team trailed 21-14. Freshman quarterback Austin Hinder passed the ball to freshman wide receiver Stephen Anderson for a 75-yard touchdown reception.
With no time left and down by one, the blue team lined up for a two-point conversion. Defensive back Tyré Ellison broke up Hinder’s pass in the corner of the endzone, preserving the one-point victory for the gold team.
While the gold team was awarded a bus ride up the hill to Memorial Stadium, the blue team was forced to hike. Although the walk acted as punishment for the losing players, it won’t be long before the fans will also be trekking up to Memorial Stadium for Cal’s 2012 season opener against Nevada on Sept. 1.