The California Golden Bears came into their week one matchup with the University of Nevada Wolf Pack as 12-point favorites. They were returning to Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium for the first time in 21 months, a place they hadn’t lost to UNR since 1903. Cal led the all time series 22-2-1 coming into Saturday. But none of that kept them from falling flat and losing their first game in their new digs 31-24.
When I was writing my pregame post yesterday, I saw a little tidbit regarding Quarterback Zach Maynard’s offseason academic issues. I decided to pass on including it because it seemed like old news – Maynard was slated to start the game and he appeared to be in good academic standing. That is, until I flipped on KGO to hear play-by-play man Joe Starkey saying that Maynard would not start because he missed a tutoring session in the offseason.
It seems that head coach Jeff Tedford is taking academics very seriously for all his players this season, and taking away Maynard’s chance to be the first starting quarterback in the newly renovated stadium is a pretty big statement.
The offense was flat with Maynard’s back up Allan Bridgford at the helm. Bridgford played 3 series, going 1-for-8 for 8 yards.
Nevada’s head start
Cal struggled with three drives that resulted in punts while Maynard was on time out; meanwhile, Nevada found a way to take advantage. The Wolf Pack’s second possession was a 16-play, 80 yard drive that ended in a Stefphon Jefferson touchdown.
Maynard took the reins late in the first quarter. But after his first drive stalled at Cal’s 43 yard line they punted the ball back to Nevada, who made the score 14-0 on the strength of a 49-yard touchdown run from quarterback Cody Fajardo.
The Bears found a way to battle back and knot it up at 24-all by the fourth quarter with touchdown catches from wideouts Bryce Treggs, Keenan Allen and Chris Harper. But it was Cal’s defense that would ultimately cave.
In discussing the Bears’ 2010 loss to UNR, Cornerback Marc Anthony mentioned the importance of gap responsibility and technique. Cal must not have studied hard enough for this test, because Fajardo looked like the second coming of Colin Kaepernick on Saturday.
The Wolf Pack’s pistol offense still puzzled Cal’s defense, as UNR racked up 450 yards of total offense and five touchdowns, all of which came on the ground. Fajardo looked elusive running the ball, racking up 97 yards and a touchdown. But that doesn’t mean that Nevada’s air attack wasn’t clicking: Fajardo finished his day 25-for-32 for 230 yards.
Cal may have found a way to hang in offensively, but Nevada was the team that sustained the final scoring drive and finished the game victorious.
– Zach Maynard finished the game 17-for-30 for 247 yards and 2 touchdowns.
– Cal’s run game wasn’t exactly dominant Saturday. They totaled 29 rushes for 110 yards as a team, and CJ Anderson was their leading rusher; he gathered 14 carries for 66 yards (4.7 avg). The rushing highlight of the day was a double reverse to Keenan Allen, who scampered 39 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.
– Speaking of Allen, his connection with Maynard looked as healthy as ever. He pulled in 5 catches for 69 yards. Although the quarterback looks like he may have a nice new target to throw to in Treggs (3 catches, 63 yards, 1 TD), Allen remains Maynard’s favorite receiver, especially on third down. Allen showed a dynamic ability to snatch passes out of the air and elude tackles once the ball was in his hands.
– Fajardo may have stolen the show, but his co-star Stefphon Jefferson looked pretty darn good too. He rushed for 145 yards and 3 touchdowns.
– Recorded attendance at the game was 63,186 – a sellout.