Two games into the 2010 season and Cal has proved one thing.
The Bears can beat bad teams.
Cal enjoyed its second straight blowout to open the season, this time crushing Colorado 52-7 in front of 55,440 at Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Combined with their rout of UC Davis in the opener, the Bears have outscored their opponents 104-10
"We're doing what we're supposed to be doing," said Cal quarterback Kevin Riley, who tied a career-high with four touchdown passes. "We're winning and winning big, and that's all we can do. But we know the competition is going to get tougher. I think people have their head on straight and know if we just get better every week, we're going to give ourselves an opportunity to win the game."
After playing a Football Championship Subdivision opponent in their opener, the Bears were supposed to face an upgrade in competition against the Buffaloes. And although Colorado was faster and stronger than the Aggies, it was overmatched by Cal's attacking defense, which gave the Bears' offense favorable field position throughout the afternoon.
Cal made life miserable for Colorado quarterback Tyler Hansen, who threw three interceptions, one of which was returned 41 yards for a touchdown by linebacker Mike Mohamed. The Bears, who made pressuring the quarterback a talking point during the offseason, sacked Hansen six times.
The Bears were workmanlike on offense for most of the game, capitalizing on good field position and scoring 31 points off turnovers. Cal made some big plays in the fourth quarter to polish things off, including a 62-yard throw from Riley to Marvin Jones that set up an 8-yard touchdown catch by Keenan Allen. The Bears also forged an 82-yard, nine-play drive that resulted in Isi Sofele's 1-yard scoring grab.
"Both teams we've played posed a little threat for us, things we had to adjust to," said running back Shane Vereen, who had a quiet day with 59 yard rushing on 16 carries but scored two touchdowns. "I don't think it's about the opponent that we're playing. I think it's more about us and our execution, regardless of who we're playing."
The Buffaloes were just 3-9 last season, but some believe they are ready to move up the Big 12 pecking order this season. Colorado beat Colorado State 24-3 in its opener but did nothing Saturday to make believers out of anybody.
The Buffaloes committed nine penalties for 75 yards, had a handful of dropped passes and lost their 13th straight road game.
"This is the most embarrassing game of my life," said Colorado star wide receiver Scotty McKnight, who was held to just two catches for 14 yards. "We did not show up to play today. We have the players. We have talented guys, but we just executed terribly today in all phases of the game. Cal is a good football team. They've got some great players. That doesn't say that we don't match up against them, though."
It was clear from the outset that it would be a long day for Hansen and Colorado's offensive front. Hansen's first four passes were incomplete, and he was sacked for the first time by linebacker Mychal Kendricks for a 9-yard loss. On the next play, Jarred Price had the first of his two sacks, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Kendricks. The Bears capitalized with a six-play scoring drive, culminating in a 4-yard scoring pass from Riley to Jones.
Price had another sack on Colorado's next possession and almost got to Hansen again on the next play. He still forced Hansen into an errant pass, which resulted in Bryant Nnabufie's first career interception. Cal turned that into a 31-yard field goal by Giorgio Tavecchio for a 17-0 lead.
Price, who is compact and athletic at 5-feet-11, 213 pounds, tormented Colorado left tackle Nate Solder, who is 6-9, 315 pounds.
"I like going against dudes that are tall because they can't come down that low to block me," Price said. "I really don't look at the height as a big factor. I look it as an advantage to me. They were hyping (Solder), saying he was a first-round pick. I wanted to put him to the test, and I came out on top. Overall, we had a good day on defense."
Price also provided the pressure on Mohamed's interception return, forcing Hansen to throw left-handed as he attempted a short pass to tight end Ryan Deehan.
It was a strong all-around game for Cal's linebackers, who appear to be thriving in new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast's system. Mohamed had 14 tackles, Kendricks 11 and two tackles for loss, and D.J. Holt was all over the field and finished with seven tackles.
The Bears also had three sacks by defensive linemen -- Cameron Jordan, Ernest Owusu and Trevor Guyton.
"I think it's a players game," Pendergast said. "We have to utilize the players that we have. I want to put a product out there that's fun for our players, that they enjoy and utilize their skill set, and is also fun for the fans to watch. We want to be active and we want to be disruptive."
Cal (2-0) at Nevada (2-0), 7 p.m., ESPN2
New coordinator Clancy Pendergast invigorates Bears' defense. Page 5