Cal's Attack Well-Grounded Against EWU

Four Different Bears' Running Backs Burn Eastern Washington For Over 300 Yards

Photo: <b>Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson</b> rushed for nearly 100 yards in the fourth quarter alone, posting 92 yards and a touchdown. Cal amassed 342 yards on the ground on Saturday.
Victoria Chow/Staff
Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson rushed for nearly 100 yards in the fourth quarter alone, posting 92 yards and a touchdown. Cal amassed 342 yards on the ground on Saturday.

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Cal quarterback Kevin Riley recognized early on that Eastern Washington was defending against the big play, providing the Bears with ample opportunities on the ground.

"If you keep six in the box against us," Riley said, "we're gonna run the ball."

And run they did.

Last week against Maryland, Cal moved downfield with its passing game, racking up more yardage through the air (298) than on the ground (244).

Against the Eagles, the Bears made it clear from the start that they would punish their Football Championship Subdivision opponent with their feet, exploding for 342 yards and compiling seven rushing touchdowns -- their highest such total since last season against Washington State. In fact, all but one of Cal's touchdowns came on the ground.

But that result, coach Jeff Tedford said, wasn't planned ahead of time.

"It was just kind of how the game worked out," he said. "We were having a lot of success on first down running the ball. We were ripping off some pretty good chunks."

The Bears reeled off 7.4 yards per carry to be exact, earning six more first downs with the running game than with the passing game. Overall, more than two-thirds of their offensive sets were running plays.

Jahvid Best had 17 carries for 144 yards, improving upon his 137-yard output against the Terrapins. Shane Vereen, in his usual role as backup tailback, managed a career-high three touchdowns with his 12 carries.

Both were also mentors in their team's 59-7 victory on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

"It feels really special to play behind Javhid and Shane, two of the best backs in the nation, just learning from them," said freshman Isi Sofele, who moved from wideout to running back this week. "I just try to do what they do."

Sofele got his chance against Eastern Washington, averaging 18 yards per carry and zipping 22 yards into the end zone for his team's penultimate score and his first collegiate touchdown.

All three running backs moved the chains as part of Cal's first drive after halftime -- perhaps one of the most important of the game considering the Eagles had hung around for all of the first quarter and into the second.

After Vereen's 34-yard kickoff return brought the Bears to their own 47-yard line, Best gave them a first down with a 20-yard outburst up the middle. Vereen followed with a carry of four yards. Sofele burned 14 more on an end-around. Three plays later, Best found himself in the end zone on a one-yard rush to give Cal a 24-point cushion.

He did a lot less running and a lot more watching after that.

"That's the best thing," Best said of cheering on his teammates. "These guys are out here with me practicing just like I do, so when they get a chance to go in there I'm always excited to see them go."

All in all, four tailbacks contributed in the Bears' second game. Redshirt freshman Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson was a fourth-quarter force, taking 11 carries for 92 yards and earning six points on Cal's final drive.

"DeBoskie-Johnson did a nice job," Tedford said. "He secured the football and ran hard. It's nice to be able to get him in the game."

Cal's success on handoffs meant that Marvin Jones and Nyan Boateng combined for just 33 yards on four catches.

But the wideouts were still pretty busy.

"We have depth at running back, and everyone did an exceptional job," Jones said. "(The receivers) just did our job: blocking our heads off."


Contact Jeff Goodman at [email protected]

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