MAULED! 

Was this "Fumble-TD" the Turning Point?

From start to finish, the Cal Bears looked every bit as good as you'd expect the thirteenth ranked team in the nation to be, in dismantling the Air Force Falcons, 56-14, this afternoon in the season opener for both teams.

Mauled
NO SURPRISE.  Entering the 2004 season much had been made of the Golden Bears having handed USC its only defeat last year. Lost in Bears' fine play over the second half of the 2003 season is the fact that Cal led the PAC 10 in rushing at a shade over 168 yards a game. Another TDToday, against a team which prides itself in being able to contain the ground game, Cal ran for more than twice that figure. J. J. Arrington  carried a mere sixteen times for the West Coast visitors, but made every carry count as he totaled 181 yards and three TDs.
 
 After AFA freshman QB Shaun Carney was intercepted at the Cal 9 yard line by Matt Giordano, Arrington slipped through just one of the many displays of sloppy Air Force tackling and rambled 89 yards for his longest run of the day and the biggest running play in Falcon Stadium since CSU's Cecil Sapp busted an 85 yarder in the Snow Bowl of 2000.  QB Aaron Rodgers took the ball the final yard of the short lived drive to extend Cal's lead to 21-7.
 
 Trapped againAir Force made a game of the contest throughout the first half as Carney led the offense on two impressive drives, one in each quarter, to keep Air Force within striking distance of coach Jeff Tedford's juggernaut.
 
 After Cal opened the scoring with a crisp drive culminating in Arrington's first TD of the day on an 11 yard burst, Air Force answered with a scoring march of its own on the team's first offensive possession of the 2004 season. Carney found TE Robert  on a 10 yard crossing pattern at the goal line to tie the game in the ninth minute of play.  
 
 The Golden Bears showed why their elite preseason ranking was well deserved when mounting another scoring drive that took less than four minutes. Arrington again did the honors from 4 yards out to stake Cal to a, 14-7, advantage.
 
 It was on AFA's ensuing possession that Carney through an ill- advised pass into double coverage near the sideline that resulted in the game's only interception and presaged Arrington's game breaking play.
 
 DOMINANT. Neither team showed an ability to stop the other's offense in the first half as the Falcons and Golden Bears combined for 485 yards of total offense. Early in the third quarter the two most domineering forces of the game came to the fore as Cal's offensive and defensive lines seized control of play.
 
 While Carney and the AFA option attack were productive in the first half each was sufficiently throttled by the superlative play of Cal's defensive line anchored by Lorenzo Alexander.  After amassing  215 yards on offense in the first half Air Force was manhandled in the second half and held to just 56 yards and no points.  In the first half Cal defenders had few answers for the blocking assignments and patterns of AFA's offensive line. Halftime adjustments made by the Cal coaching staff blunted the Falcons' option attack rendering it almost completely ineffective in the third and fourth quarters.
 
 In one stretch of the gameFrustration!!! beginning late in the first half and lasting until the fourth quarter, eight consecutive AFA offensive possessions ended in a fumble, the halftime break and six punts.
 
 In strolling five unanswered second half touchdowns, Cal scorched Air Force for the most points surrendered by the Falcons at home since BYU pounded them, 54-7, back on November 3, 1990.  The 56 points also represented the highest total scored against  a Fisher DeBerry coached team on opening day in his twenty-one season at Air Force.
 
 SOME ODDS & ENDS. Carney showed an unexpected measure of poise for a One of many good runs for the freshmantrue freshman in the first half when he adeptly audibled the Falcons into several productive plays.  His totals of 18 carries for 75 yards rushing, mixed with nine completions in fifteen attempts and 89 yards passing, may momentarily be lost in the disappointment of the team's loss. At the same time, it's possible Air Force fans have had their first look at the player who'll lead the Falcons for the next four years.
 
 Punter Donnie Heaton showed he's going to be able to pin some opponents deep in their own territory, with several outstanding efforts. He hoisted a 59 yard punt which was nullified by an AFA penalty. Unfazed, Heaton took the ensuing snap from center five yards deep in his own end zone and unloaded a gargantuan 64 yard effort.
 
 The offensive line suffered a substantial loss when RG Curtis Grantham broke his left leg in the first half of  the game.
 
 Air Force concludes a two game season opening homestand next week by hosting division 1-AA Eastern Washington from Cheney. The Eagles play in the Big Sky Conference.

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