Redemption? Found. Louder Message? Sent.

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Ever since last year's loss to Maryland, it seemed Saturday night would be about redemption. And yes, there definitely was that.

Within the first six minutes of the season opener, each unit of the Cal football team had earned some measure of redemption for the 2008 blunder at Byrd Stadium.

Its defense was on point, forcing the Terrapins to punt on their first possession and not giving up a touchdown until midway through the third quarter.

The offense moved the chains with frequency, Jahvid Best putting the barf behind him when he burst out of the pocket on a 73-yard runaway for the Bears' first touchdown.

Even special teams got the turtle off its back when D.J. Campbell forced and recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff.

In many ways, though, the story of redemption ended right then, less than halfway through the opening quarter.

The rest of this Blue-Out-turned-blowout was less of a retribution for what happened last year and more of a 52-13 message to Maryland, to the Pac-10 and to the nation.

"If we keep having production like that," Best said, "we're gonna be unstoppable."

To be sure, the speedy running back wasn't the only one who spoke of the win at Memorial Stadium not as payback for old wounds but as a launching pad for what Cal can do this year.

Take sophomore wide receiver Marvin Jones, for example.

"If you win (season openers), it makes you excited even more," Jones said. "It's like, 'What can we do to prepare for the next game?' If we executed in practice, and it translated to this game, the sky's the limit for us."

Inevitably, some people will think the Bears' victory this weekend was nothing out of the ordinary.

They'll ridicule coach Jeff Tedford's perfect record in season openers at home because those wins haven't led to major bowl berths.

They'll bring up 2007, when a redemption game against Tennessee -- not unlike this weekend's tilt against the Terrapins -- and a No. 2 ranking preceded an epic collapse in the second half of the season.

Who's to say it'll be different this time around?

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen suggested it.

"What you saw (on Saturday) was a really good football team, an experienced football team," Friedgen said. "They are a very physical team, much more than the team we played last year."

The team the Terrapins played last year was also marred by a quarterback controversy and an inability to develop a potent passing attack.

That changed in the teams' second meeting, when junior Kevin Riley threw a career-high four touchdown passes in a little more than three quarters of play.

Across the board, it looked like Cal had gotten over last season's loss and had moved on to something much more substantial.

This win, then, wasn't just about getting even. It was about getting noticed.

At the post-game press conference, the Bears quickly acknowledged their triumph as a redemptive one -- they had to, especially considering that's how they framed it beforehand -- but they didn't dwell on that theme for long.

Why would Cal limit itself to that?

"This is just one step of where we want to be," Best said.

Undoubtedly, where the Bears want to be is the Rose Bowl, the ever-elusive postseason affair that hasn't seen them for more than five decades and hasn't seen them win since the first day of 1938.

To take the first step towards getting there again, Cal didn't have to win against Maryland in particular.

It just had to win.

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Punch Jeff in the face for mentioning the Rose Bowl at [email protected]



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