Part of the reason might have been because the opponent plays in an inferior division, but Cal freshman Keenan Allen sure made college football look easy in his debut Saturday afternoon.
Allen, who came to Berkeley out of Greesnboro, N.C., as one of the top recruits in the country, made UC Davis' defense look laughable in the Bears' season-opening 52-3 victory in front of 58,040 at sun-splashed Memorial Stadium. Allen caught four passes for 120 yards and a touchdown and added 38 yards and a score on the ground, making for one of the more memorable Cal introductions in recent memory.
"He's unreal," Cal linebacker Mike Mohamed said. "He was making big play after big play. Everything he did today, we saw in camp. To us, it's no surprise. We expect to see a lot more of that this year."
Allen was rated as the fifth-best prospect in the country by rivals.com and made an immediate impact during training camp, earning a starting spot after just a few days. The first time he touched the ball against UC Davis came on a lateral from quarterback Kevin Riley, and Allen evaded an attempted tackle by Aggies cornerback Jonathan Calhoun en route to a 17-yard gain.
Early in the second quarter, Allen took a handoff on an end around and looked down field to pass. The intended receiver was covered, so Allen reversed field and ran 18 yards for a touchdown.
On the third play of the third quarter, Allen roamed into the flat, caught a short pass from Riley and shredded the defense for a 48-yard touchdown reception.
"He's just a natural with the ball in his hands and has great vision of the field," said Riley, who was 14 for 20 for 258 yards and three touchdowns. "You just have to give him a chance to make a play and he will. You could just tell he was going to be good. He showed up today and proved it."
The highlight of Allen's day might have come on a pass he didn't catch. Late in the second quarter, Allen Riley lofted a pass for Allen, who had beat his man down the left sideline. Allen stretched his body as much as possible on a dive, had the ball in his fingertips momentarily then had it pop out as he hit the turf.
"I was real nervous, trying to get the players to calm me down," Allen said. "I've been waiting for this day for a long time. It was great."
Allen's achievements were part of a near-flawless performance for the Bears against an opponent from the Football Championship Subdivision. The Aggies are playing just their fourth season at the Division I level but did play national power Boise State close into the fourth quarter last season. The Aggies also knocked off Stanford in 2005, when they were still a Division II program.
"I didn't expect the outcome of the score to be what it was, to be perfectly honest with you," UC Davis coach Bob Biggs said. "They were better. We couldn't mount any kind of attack."
Cal outgained UC Davis 517-81, the first time the Bears have held an opponent under 150 yards since 1994. Running back Shane Vereen sat out the second half after rushing for 70 yards and two touchdowns and catching a touchdown pass. Wide receiver Marvin Jones had five catches for 81 yards and a touchdown.
Cal's defense, playing its first game under new coordinator Clancy Pendergast, held the Aggies to just four first downs.
"It's kind of hard to tell this early in the season, but I thought we jelled real nicely," Mohamed said. "There is a lot of good communication out there. There are still a lot of things we can do. It's just going to take time to get 100 percent comfortable with everything and everybody."
While there was satisfaction over the win, the Bears acknowledged the level of competition will get tougher from here on out. Although Colorado is regarded as one of the bottom-feeders of the Big 12, the Buffaloes will feature a higher level of depth and athleticism when they visit Berkeley next weekend. Colorado beat Colorado State 24-3 in its season opener Saturday.
"You can't tell after one game," Riley said. "Davis is a good team in (FCS), but it's not going to be a Colorado. It's not going to be the Pac-10 teams we're playing.
Colorado (1-0) at Cal (1-0), 12:30 p.m. CSNBA