Allen Stars in Spectacular Debut; Bears Rout UC Davis

Photo: Keenan Allen dominated the competition in his collegiate debut. The true freshman caught four balls for 120 yards and two touchdowns.
Evan Walbridge/Photo
Keenan Allen dominated the competition in his collegiate debut. The true freshman caught four balls for 120 yards and two touchdowns.

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Keenan Allen's lifelong football mantra has been to go toward the green grass.

On Saturday, he found it twice.

The wide receiver nearly set a new Cal football record for receiving yards by a freshman as the Bears rolled over UC Davis 52-3 in their season opener at Memorial Stadium.

Allen electrified with his first collegiate touch. On Cal's second possession of the first quarter, quarterback Kevin Riley tossed Allen the ball in the backfield. Allen strong-armed two Aggie defenders for 17 yards and a taste of the five-star recruit's talent the Cal fan base has been longing to see.

His prowess was on full display all day, but he really opened eyes on a broken trick play. Early in the second quarter, Riley handed off to Allen, who dropped back to pass. When he saw his man downfield was covered, Allen took off to the right. With no blockers on that side, he almost came to a complete stop and turned left to lope into the endzone, putting the Bears up 21-0.

"That speaks not only to his athletic ability, but to his intelligence as a football player," offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig said.

The true freshman hauled in four catches for 120 yards - 10 shy of DeSean Jackson's single-game freshman record - and added 38 more yards on the ground.

Allen wasn't the only receiver to impress on Saturday. Junior Marvin Jones had five receptions for 81 yards and a touchdown that came off of a gorgeous ball by Riley.

The senior quarterback threaded a pass between several defenders and hit Jones as he was inches above the ground. Jones also made a highlight reel catch for 51 yards as an Aggie defender fell all over him.

Again, though, Allen's presence made an impact.

"Coming into this game, I knew (UC Davis) hadn't seen Keenan, so they probably didn't know what he could do," junior wide receiver Marvin Jones said. "He established himself early, so having that guy on the other side of me is glorious. I can't put into words how appreciative and happy I am."

The man throwing to Allen and Jones was no slouch either. Much has been made of Riley's new-found confidence over the offseason, and it appeared to pay dividends, even if it was against a diminutive opponent.

Riley completed all of his passes until 9:56 left in the second quarter and finished the day with 258 yards (14-of-20) with three touchdowns, no interceptions and no sacks.

The offense as a whole scored all six times when it was in the red zone, three times by tailback Shane Vereen who waltzed all over the Aggie defense for 70 yards on 14 carries.

"We'd like to be a little more consistent on a few drives, but for the most part we did some good things," Riley said. "Besides that fumble, we drove down the field, had a couple solid seven- and eight-play drives."

The Cal defense, which has also been the subject of much offseason speculation, showed off new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast's blitz-heavy packages. For a moment, it didn't look great.

UC Davis quarterback Randy Wright completed his first pass of the game to wide receiver Dean Rogers for a 14-yard gain, exploiting the gaps left by blitzing linebackers. But that was it and that was all for the Aggies.

At halftime, UC Davis still hadn't managed another first down, and it finished the day with four total first downs and 81 yards of offense. They averaged 0.7 yards per rush.

"I've been in games where I've been real disappointed with how we played and games were I felt we gave points away and put the ball on the ground," Aggies coach Bob Biggs said. "But it wasn't that kind of game. They were better."

All of this is, of course, footnoted by the fact that UC Davis is the lowest-caliber opponent the Bears will see this season. Still, the last time Cal kept an opponent to less than 150 yards of total offense was in 1994.

"That was one our goals going in, not to give up any points," senior linebacker Mike Mohamed said. "It hurt a little bit (to give up the field goal). But our goal changed to no touchdowns."

And that goal they realized.


Katie Dowd covers football. Contact her at [email protected]

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