With 5:13 to go in the first quarter, the Cal football team looked far worse than expected. The score was tied 7-7 against Hawaii and the Bears’ defense was struggling, while the Cal offense looked far more tame than last year’s Jared Goff-helmed unit. But things took a turn when Davis Webb, the Bears’ new quarterback, lofted a pass into the corner of the end zone toward Chad Hansen.
Hansen soared over his defender to catch the ball and bring down a touchdown that was a callback to last year’s famous Goff-Kenny Lawler connection.
After a shaky start to the first game of the post-Goff era, Webb and the Bears put things together to give Cal its season-opening win in Australia. Webb had 441 yards through the air along with five touchdowns, including a score on the ground, to give the Bears a 51-31 win Friday.
The Rainbow Warriors started the game and the college football season with a failed onside kick that Cal’s Patrick Laird recovered at the Hawaii 48 yard line. Khalfani Muhammad was dominant on the first series of the game. The Bears were faced with a fourth and one, and Webb handed the ball off to Muhammad who picked up the first down. After a Webb pass to Raymond Hudson fell incomplete, Muhammad got the ball again and ran it 34 yards past the whole defense for a touchdown.
The two teams traded series where the offenses faltered, with Hawaii turning the ball over and Cal going three-and-out. On the next drive, the Rainbow Warriors took advantage of a Bears defense characterized by new faces and shoddy tackling. Hawaii drove successfully down the field with redshirt junior running back Diocemy Saint Juste consistently moving the chains. The Rainbow Warriors capped off the drive with an Ikaika Woolsey touchdown to Marcus Kemp. Kemp broke a few defenders’ tackles en route to the end zone for what ended up being a 39-yard touchdown.
Cal followed up the defensive letdown with an impressive series of its own. The drive ended in an end zone fade from Webb to Hansen. The connection was one of the few working well for the Bears’ passing game in the first quarter, as six of the quarterback’s first nine completions went to Hansen. The touchdown, which went for 17 yards, was Hansen’s fifth catch of the first quarter. Hansen’s grab made the score 14-7 with 5:13 left in the first quarter.
Hawaii’s response was quick, as it staged a three-play, 64-yard drive to score just 1:23 after Hansen’s catch. Saint Juste got a carry and took it 53 yards, evading Cal’s whole defense, as the Bears’ tackling issues grew ever more concerning. Cal’s offense kept the team in control, however, driving the ball into the red zone and getting a Matt Anderson field goal. The Bears’ three-point lead at the end of the first quarter was concerning, considering Cal was a 20-point favorite coming into Friday’s matchup.
The second quarter was a different story, as the feisty Hawaii squad turned into a mistake-prone underdog. Fumbles and stalled drives were a common sight for the Rainbow Warriors, all while Cal kept capitalizing on the Webb to Hansen connection. Hansen, who was easily the player of the game for the Bears, scored another touchdown in the second quarter to push Cal to a 27-14 lead. He ended the game with 14 catches for 160 yards and two touchdowns.
Webb tacked onto the lead with a four-yard rushing touchdown when he took advantage of his giant frame to carry a defender into the end zone with him. The Bears ended the half with a scoreline more in line with pregame expectations, leading 34-14.
After a Hawaii field goal cut the lead to 17, Cal orchestrated an impressive nine-play drive to get yet another touchdown. The Bears trekked down the field 73 yards and ended the series with another Webb touchdown, this time to freshman Melquise Stovall. The score was the hyped freshman’s first in his career.
The Rainbow Warriors again cut into the lead with a touchdown of their own to finish off a 15-play drive. Hawaii consistently kept the series going by converting third downs, as Cal seemed unable to corral the run game at all. The Rainbow Warriors brought the score to 41-24 with the Steven Lakalaka touchdown. Hawaii ran for 248 yards in the game on 38 attempts in the game.
The Bears padded the lead with another Anderson field goal, his third of the game, after Muhammad dropped a pass in the end zone and after a 33-yard Jordan Veasy touchdown, the redshirt junior’s first at Cal. Hawaii cut it back down to 20 — right at the pregame points spread — with a Paul Harris touchdown.