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September 10, 2011

Bears eke out a victory in Boulder



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BOULDER, Colo. -- It had been four years since Zach Maynard and little brother Keenan Allen had connected on a touchdown pass. The last time they hooked up, it was in the second round of the North Carolina state playoffs during Allen's sophomore year.

California's stud sophomore had, in fact, never caught a game-winning touchdown pass, period. That is, until today.

After seeing upstart Colorado come back from a 16-3 deficit to tie the game at 30 as the final seconds wound off the clock, then pull ahead on an overtime field goal, Allen and Maynard finally had their shot.

When a facemask penalty put the Bears in a first-and-30 situation from the 35, Maynard found Allen over double coverage at the three-yard line for a first down. After scrambling for a loss of two, Maynard again found his little brother on a rainbow cross-field pass to the back right corner of the end zone for the winning score, as Cal came out on top, 36-33.

"I knew it was a touchdown," said Bears head coach Jeff Tedford. "Once they lined up, I knew it was a touchdown. They had that guy on Keenan and Keenan had a tight split, and Keenan jukes people. As long as that throw was a good throw, I knew that was going to be a touchdown."

Maynard -- who hit Allen five times for 97 yards and even caught a pass from Allen for 27 yards -- had plenty of faith in his little brother.

"I was thinking the same thing. I'd seen that DB's tight alignment, I put it up, and I was like, 'Aw, Keenan, c'mon, that's you, baby,'" Maynard said. "I threw it up for him, and he got the ball."

Cal (2-0) escaped with the win despite virtuoso performances from the Buffaloes' top playmakers. True sophomore wide receiver Paul Richardson played like a man possessed, hauling in 11 passes for an eye-popping 284 yards and two touchdowns.

"He has this look to him during a game or practice where you know he's in the zone," said quarterback Tyler Hansen, who had quite the day of his own. "He had that look again today; he's a special player."

Out of Colorado's six third-down conversions on 17 attempts, three came on passes to Richardson. Of the Buffaloes' 25 first downs -- out-pacing Cal's 22 -- Richardson accounted for nine.

"Yeah we knew that he was [a good player]," said Bears' defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast. "We felt like that, you know, our matchups with our corners were good going in. We had some technique breakdowns. We just have to get better at it. He's a very talented player, and he's a big-play guy, and they did a nice job getting him the ball.

The man slinging the ball to Richardson -- senior quarterback Hansen -- set the school record for passing yards, going 28-of-49 for 474 yards and three touchdowns.

"I'd rather have the win," Hansen said. "I'd be OK throwing 20 yards and getting a W. It feels good getting the passing game going, [but] we got to get the running game going. We've got to get those guys up front to pull the ball. It seemed like we didn't get the running game going until overtime.

Though the Buffaloes didn't rush for much -- only 108 on the afternoon -- the young Colorado offensive line gave Hansen plenty of time to find receivers. Hansen didn't take a single sack, as the Bears defensive line failed to get much pressure at all on the Buffaloes signal-caller.

"You know, he's very good getting out of the pocket, and they were very good at throwing to the back out of the backfield, which neutralized some of the pressures that maybe we normally would have liked to have run," said Pendergast. But he's a good player and we knew the three guys that we had to take care of were five, nine, and six, and obviously, they all had big days.

Cal registered no sacks and just four tackles for loss the entire day.

"Yeah, the better pressure -- you know, we didn't want to come into this game with a lot of different pressures just because of the nature of their playmakers, and you know, they did a nice job," Pendergast said.

While the Bears were able to hold tailback Rodney Stewart to just 73 rushing yards on 24 attempts, Cal seemingly had no answer to a him in the passing game. Four times, Hansen found the 5-foot-6, 175-pound Stewart underneath or on a short screen, dumping the ball to the speedy runner for at times big gains, including a 26-yarder which led to the game-tying field goal late in the fourth quarter. Stewart caught seven passes -- second on the team behind Richardson -- for 84 yards.

"That back's a good back," Tedford said. "He's a slippery guy and he's hard to bring down, which Trevor did a nice job of defending the block there and hitting him in the backfield and not letting him get started."

All in all, the Bears' vaunted defense was very average on Saturday, allowing Richardson, Hansen and the Buffaloes to post 582 yards of total offense. The same Cal defense that paced the Pac-10 in passing defense last season surrendered seven passing plays of 20 yards or more, including four of over 30 yards.

"We let some big plays get away on us, but they held strong when it counted and held them to a field goal at the end. That's what it comes down to," Tedford said.

The game started sluggishly on both sides of the ball for Cal, with the Bears turning the ball over on a punt after a stalled first drive and an interception on a jump-pass from Maynard on first-and-10 from the Colorado 44, which erased a 13-yard first-down pass to fullback John Tyndall.

The Buffaloes turned right back around and turned that pick into a field goal, marching down to the Cal 10-yard line before freshman Will Oliver put three on the board.

Maynard finally got rolling late in the first quarter, marching the Bears 81 yards down the field and finding fullback Nico Dumont for a two-yard touchdown pass, Dumont's first ever catch and first ever score. Maynard got a little help from the Colorado secondary, which committed two pass interference penalties on crucial third downs. On third-and-five at the Cal 24, Maynard sent a wobbler over the middle for Allen, who was tripped up by the defensive back, giving the Bears a fresh set of downs.

Maynard nearly was picked off on the very next play -- a deep ball to Allen that required the sophomore to take to the air in an attempt to snag it -- before finding senior Michael Calvin on a bubble screen for a first down. After a seven-yard toss to Allen, Maynard put one up for Jones downfield on the right side, but Jones was well-covered and the ball bounced off the defender's back, but enough contact was made for yet another flag.

Just a hair outside the red zone on first-and-10 at the Colorado 21, Maynard lateralled to Allen, who found Big Bro for 27 yards. At the end of the play, though, Maynard lost the ball, but recovered his own fumble, while the Buffaloes drew a roughing the passer penalty on Allen, adding an extra four yards.

After the TD pass to Dumont, beleaguered senior placekicker Giorgio Tavecchio had his third PAT of the season sent back into his face, meaning that the Bears had just a three-point advantage.

On Cal's next possession, though, Tavecchio redeemed himself, hammering home a second-quarter 39-yard field goal try. Though Tavecchio sent four of his six kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks and made the rest of his PAT attempts, the big kicking star of the day was Colorado's freshman leg in 5-foot-10, 195-pound Oliver, who responded to the Bears' score with a 52-yard field goal of his own, setting the school record for longest field goal by a freshman.

After tallying two of the Bears' three dropped passes in the first half, senior tight end Anthony Miller got his act together late in the second quarter, hauling in a seven-yard one-handed TD grab to take the Bears into the locker room with a 16-6 lead.

Despite the score, though, the game was far from in control.

In the first half, starting outside linebackers Ryan Davis and Dan Camporeale were largely ineffective, and Stewart abused senior inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks several times, as Colorado turned to the short dump screens underneath to supplement Stewart's rushing.

Stewart caught five passes for 65 yards and rushed 12 times for 42 yards in the first half alone, while Richardson caught five balls for 96 yards -- again, all in the first half, as the Buffaloes out-gained the Bears to the tune of 240 offensive yards to 204.

Starting Bears tailback Isi Sofele gained 50 yards on 12 attempts, including a 29-yard dash, but was largely ineffective. Cal got a bit of a preview of things to come, though, as junior college transfer C.J. Anderson surpassed his debut last week against Fresno State in the first half alone, gaining 13 yards on two carries.

The Bears would rely more and more on Anderson as the game progressed and the score tightened. Colorado came out and burned 4:30 of clock time on its first drive of the half, ending with a 37-yard TD strike from Hansen to tight end Ryan Deehan.

Cal responded once again with the M&M connection, as Maynard found Miller on the right sideline for a 20-yard touchdown, with Miller wearing 6-foot-1, 210-pound linebacker Patrick Mahnke like a backpack for the final 10 yards.

"I just knew I had to get in there," Miller smiled. "He wasn't that heavy."

Richardson then had his way with the Bears secondary, hauling in touchdown catches of 66 and 78 yards to polish off the next two Colorado possessions to reclaim the lead. Bears junior cornerback Marc Anthony was the victim on the 78-yard strike.

"Over the week we talked about his playmaking ability and trying to come out and limit what he actually did," said Anthony. "You gotta' give credit when credit is due. The guy was good. He came out and made big plays, and that's what we tried to limit, but you know, he was in the right place at the right time, and we couldn't stop it.

It wasn't until late in the game -- after the two big touchdowns -- that Pendergast began to apply double-coverage to the dynamic Richardson.

"We actually did," Pendergast said. "We actually did in the second half. We doubled him a good bit, not so much on the long touchdown he had, but some other instances. We had a safety over the top and a corner underneath him, you know, probably a handful of times. Because we obviously knew that's where they were going to go with the football. He still made some plays and the quarterback made some throws."

Colorado head coach Jon Embree wasn't surprised by Richardson's performance, which set the school record for single-game receiving yards (the third 200-plus game in Buffs history) and tied the single-game reception mark of 11.

"I think Paul Richardson is a star in the making and we are seeing it," Embree said. "I told him late in the game that he has to run more. We have to get into better shape so he doesn't get gassed. I have to give credit to No. 1 on Cal [Steve Williams], he made a terrific play in knocking the ball out right down in the red zone. I can't remember whether it was overtime or at the end of regulation, but it was a heck of a play by that kid. If he touches it, he catches it. It is always great to have that as a quarterback and as a head coach."

If it weren't for Anderson, the Bears may very well have dropped their second straight contest in the state of Colorado. After Calvin hauled in a 27-yard pass with an acrobatic grab on third-and-10 from the Cal 45, Sofele ground out nine yards on two carries before the Bears once again turned to Anderson.

"I was patiently waiting for my number to be called, and when it's called, I've got to make plays," Anderson said. "That's what they expect, and that's what I did."

On third-and-one at the Colorado 19, Anderson blasted through the middle and shrugging off contact, finding paydirt for the first time in his Cal career.

"The linebackers blitzed, took both the A and B gaps, and I just cut back on the flow, exploded and used my abilities," Anderson said. "You've got to run through that [contact]. Coach G [Ron Gould] always talks about keeping our pad level down and running through arm tackles, so we practice that drill every day. It's like running through the chutes."

Anderson said that the play he scored on was called 'Jazz,' or, as he puts it "smooth jazz."

"It's an inside zone play," he smiled. "Like smooth jazz, inside zone play, read my read, knew my keys and just cut back and scored. I hope I get to run it a lot. It's my favorite play. I ran it a lot at Laney, and coming up here, the offense is similar, so it's great."

While he was in, Anderson also saved Maynard's bacon several times with solid pass blocking. "He's a great running back," Maynard said of Anderson, who gained 33 yards on four carries. "He's low, he's level, strong and balanced. He scored and that gave us a lot of momentum."

A nearly seven-minute Colorado drive resulted in a 32-yard field goal by Oliver to tie things up, sending the game into overtime.

The Buffaloes stalled out on their first overtime possession, unable to capitalize on Stewart runs of nine and 12 yards as Bears defensive end Trevor Guyton -- earlier penalized for a personal foul for allegedly hitting after the whistle -- came up with two big stops in the middle.

"I saw that," Tedford smiled afterwards. "They ran inside and he slanted inside and made some big plays in there."

After Oliver nailed a 22-yard field goal, the Bears looked to be rolling again, as Sofele rushed for a yard and Maynard found Jones over the middle for eight more. A one-yard rumble from Anderson up the middle gave Cal a fresh set of downs at the Colorado 15.

"I just want to do whatever I can to help the team," Anderson said. "We get a running back test, and coach Gould asked me what my goal was for the day. I just told him that -- team goal -- I want to get the W, and personal goal, I want to do anything to help my team win.

"We were excited, and when they kicked the field goal, we went out there and it was real loud. We always talk about being poised, having composure. It was third-and-two and we had to pick up that third-and-two. We couldn't kick a field goal. We ahd to come back and win. I got the same inside zone play, made some people miss in the hole and got the first down."

Two straight penalties - a false start and a facemask on Dominic Galas -- backed the Bears up to the Colorado 35 for a first-and-30, where Allen and Maynard once again got their chance to shine.

On first-and-30, Maynard found his little brother in double-coverage over the left side with a thread-the-needle zinger at the three-yard line.

"Oh yeah, me and Marv, we just had a switch, a switch release and we seen cover two, so Zach put it over the corner, and I just made a play on the ball," Allen said. "I ran a corner route."

After Maynard lost two yards on a scramble, he hooked up with Allen for the fifth time on the day, connecting on a fade route from the inside.

"I didn't know it was going to be a score, but I knew I was going to have a chance to score and Zach gave me a good ball, so I made a play on it," Allen said of Maynard's rainbow pass to the back right corner of the end zone. "He told me in the locker room [that] he'd seen the coverage and he seen he was inside of me and I had the outside route so he just gave me a chance."


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