Minnesota falls to California
Sept. 9, 2006
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -- DeSean Jackson almost chuckled as he lined up against Minnesota's single coverage. One play-action fake and 40 yards later, the speedy California receiver reached over his shoulder to grab Nate Longshore's perfect touchdown pass.
Cal's offense was supposed to score this impressively -- and after a false start in last week's season-opening loss, everything was just as good as the Golden Bears expected.
Jackson caught three of Longshore's four touchdown passes in the first half, and No. 22 Cal rebounded from its Tennessee debacle with a 42-17 victory over the frustrated Gophers on Saturday.
Marshawn Lynch rushed for 139 yards and two touchdowns, and Jackson caught seven passes for 114 yards, including that 48-yard pass that fell straight into his arms. Jackson, the sophomore who led the Bears last season with seven TD catches, already has four in the first two games this year, along with a handful of spectacular nonscoring grabs.
"Our tight ends and receivers, you've got to respect us a little more than that," Jackson said. "(That catch) was like taking candy from a baby."
Indeed, the Bears (1-1) showed off all the offensive talent that attracted their highest preseason ranking in 54 years before their 35-18 defeat in Knoxville, knocking them 13 spots down the poll.
"They're a pretty resilient group, and they worked hard in practice," coach Jeff Tedford said. "They didn't have a hangover from last week. They knew that last week wasn't us. Maybe now we can stop talking about it."
Lavelle Hawkins had career highs of nine catches for 125 yards, and Robert Jordan also caught a TD pass in Cal's sharp passing game.
"You knew they were some good backs," Minnesota linebacker John Shevlin said. "I'm not an NFL scout, but these guys could be making millions soon."
Dominic Jones returned a kickoff 99 yards for a score for the Gophers (1-1), whose 17-game winning streak against nonconference opponents -- longest in the Big Ten -- ended.
The Bears were the first ranked nonconference opponent in coach Glen Mason's cupcake-filled 10 seasons at Minnesota, which beat lowly Kent State 44-0 last week and faces Temple and Division I-AA North Dakota State later.
Lynch fumbled and committed a foolish personal foul, but the Heisman-hyped tailback also had 27 carries while wearing down Minnesota's defense. The Gophers yielded 531 yards -- 371 in the first half -- in the schools' first meeting in 19 years.
"If you're going to play tackle football, then you have to tackle," Mason said. "That was our biggest mistake. We didn't get them on the ground. I can't remember when we tackled worse in a ballgame."
The offense wasn't much better, failing to get in the end zone after Alex Daniels' TD plunge capped a 71-yard drive just 3½ minutes in. Daniels rushed for 78 yards and a score, while Bryan Cupito went 21-for-33 for 243 yards with two interceptions by star Cal cornerback Daymeion Hughes.
Longshore struggled and eventually got pulled in Knoxville, but was much better in his first home start since his freshman season ended with a broken leg in last September's opener. He went 22-of-31 for 300 yards, patiently picking apart the Gophers' defense on the way to a 28-14 halftime lead.
"I finally made it through a game," he laughed. "I'd never played a fourth quarter before, and it was exciting."
Cal went ahead in the first quarter when Minnesota safety Dominick Barber tipped an overthrown pass straight to Hawkins, who snagged it for a 42-yard gain to set up Jackson's 2-yard TD slant catch.
Jones, a sophomore safety, returned the ensuing kickoff for a score, cutting straight through Cal's coverage team in full stride for his first TD -- Minnesota's first on a kickoff return in three years.
Lynch fumbled on the Bears' next possession, but the Bears made a 96-yard scoring drive later in the quarter with Jackson's over-the-shoulder scoring catch. Jackson caught another short TD pass with 4:34 left in the first half.
The Cal student section began to chant Jackson's name, and he responded with a towel-waving celebration in front of the bench.
A thick fog settled onto Memorial Stadium in the fourth quarter, gathering around the temporary light stanchions in Strawberry Canyon while Lynch bulled into the end zone for Cal's final score with 2:51 to play.
Brandon Mebane and Mickey Pimentel sacked Cupito in the closing moments, ending Minnesota's streak of eight games without allowing a sack.
"I played terribly, and it cost us," Cupito said. "I think it's been two years since I played that bad."