Football: Bears Tully Second Win

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Joe was red hot. Banta-Cain was sack hungry. The crowd was pom-pom happy.

But then, who wouldn't be, after the Cal football team trounced New Mexico State 34-13 to start the season with consecutive wins for the first time in five years?

The Bears followed their demolition of Baylor in last week's opener with a poised and confident effort against a more challenging opponent.

"It's a great feeling to be 2-0," senior quarterback Kyle Boller said. "I haven't been 2-0 since high school. We knew this was a big test, and we came through and played a strong game."

Although the offensive fireworks were more subdued Saturday, Cal continued to play with a sense of daring that paid off nearly immediately.

Three plays after narrowly recovering a surprise onside kick by the Aggies to start the game, the Bears faced fourth-and-one at the New Mexico State 35-yard line.

Instead of punting or trying the long field goal, Cal called a bootleg run for Kyle Boller that went for 15 yards.

Three plays later, Boller completed a 15-yard touchdown pass to Lashaun Ward (2 catches, 21 yards), giving the Bears a lead they would never lose.

After an Aggies field goal, Cal rattled off 10 straight points to lead 17-3 at the end of the first quarter, and the lead would remain in double digits for the remainder of the game, as the defense held NMSU out of the endzone until the Aggies' last play of the game.

Tully Banta-Cain ate up Aggies quarterback Buck Pierce, with five sacks, seven tackles and one forced fumble.

"He's played great two weeks in a row now," Tedford said. "He's really a handful off the edge."

The Cal offense did not reproduce its gaudy numbers from the opener, producing 300 total yards to NMSU's 330.

However, backed by a big-play defensive effort and a strong special teams performance, the offense did just enough to control the game and put the outcome out of doubt.

Boller finished the day 19-of-32 for 180 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. He also had six rushes for 14 yards and a running score.

"He had a couple get away from him," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "But I think Kyle is only going to get better."

The Cal defense mostly achieved its goal of keeping the Aggies one-dimensional by forcing them to throw the ball, and came up big when it counted.

With Cal leading 7-0 in the first quarter, NMSU had first and 10 on the Bears 13-yard line.

Cal proceeded to hold the Aggies to a one-yard rush, a four-yard loss, and a sack resulting in a fourth down and a field goal.

The Bears blocked a punt and forced four fumbles, recovering two and finished with six sacks, knocking out Pierce midway through the second quarter.

"Our defense did an excellent job of recovering fumbles and forcing turnovers," Tedford said.

Cal running back Joe Igber was responsible for much of the team's offensive success. Igber had 18

carries for 87 yards and a touchdown. He also caught three balls for a team-leading 60 yards.

Igber was the culprit in the Bears' first turnover of the season, fumbling with 5:38 left in the fourth quarter.

"He ran very hard and had great vision today," Tedford said. "He's disappointed about losing the ball but he'll learn from that."

Beyond the turnover, the offense struggled with hands of stone. Starting receivers Geoff McArthur and Ward both dropped multiple passes, but managed to work through the difficulties.

After Ward dropped a 3-yard pass on a third down conversion, Boller went right back to him with the same throw on the next play. This time, Ward caught it for Cal's second fourth-down conversion on the day.

Tedford said the Bears still have room for improvement before they face the No. 15 Spartans this Saturday.

"It's great to be 2-0 when we know we haven't played our best by any means," Tedford said.


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