Bears Win Down Under To Start Season On Top
New starting quarterback Davis Webb compiled an impressive stat line in his first appearance as a Golden Bear, completing 38 of 54 passes for 441 yards, four passing touchdowns, one rushing score and no interceptions. Chad Hansen was Webb's main target, hauling in 14 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns. All three numbers were career-highs for Hansen and his reception total tied him for third on Cal's all-time single-game list. Khalfani Muhammad led the rushing attack with 96 yards and a touchdown and Cal outgained the Rainbow Warriors 630 yards to 482 as a team.
While the rest of college football continued to prepare for the upcoming season, Cal got its campaign started with an international showdown that took the Bears abroad for a game that captured plenty of attention at home thanks to its place on the calendar. And, it also captured the attention of an enthusiastic Australian audience, with 61,247 fans turning out to see the Bears and Rainbow Warriors put on a show.
It didn't take long for the familiar fireworks of a potent Bear Raid offense to take center stage. Muhammad turned Cal's first drive into immediate points, making one quick cut at the point of attack and breaking free for a 34-yard touchdown run on the sixth offensive play of the new season.
Khalfani Muhammad had 212 all-purpose yards in Cal's season-opening 51-31 win over Hawai'i on Saturday at the College Football Sydney Cup
That was only the opening salvo in an action-packed first quarter. Hawai'i countered with a touchdown of its own on a 39-yard pass from Ikaika Woolsey (Rodeo, CA; Salesian HS, Richmond) to Marcus Kemp, but Cal had an answer of its own when Webb connected with Hansen on a perfectly executed back shoulder fade that resulted in a 17-yard score and Webb's first touchdown pass as a Golden Bear.
"As soon as Davis got in here in May, we just had a connection," Hansen said. "I think it sort of blossomed over fall camp. Us being together, day in and day out, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., that really helps the quarterback-wide receiver connection."
A 53-yard touchdown run by Diocemy Saint Juste pulled Hawai'i back to even at 14-all, but a 29-yard field goal by Matt Anderson gave the Bears a 17-14 lead at the end of one quarter. Defense took over on both sides to start the second quarter but a key leaping penalty by the Warriors on a Cal punt gave the Bears new life and an 18-play, 87-yard march down the field culminated in another Anderson field goal.
The ensuing kickoff provided Cal with even more momentum. Derron Brown popped the ball loose from returner Keelan Ewaliko and Trey Turner dug the ball out of the pile to give the Bears the ball on the Hawai'i 34. On the very next play, Webb found Hansen on a quick screen and the redshirt junior did the rest, bolting for a 34-yard touchdown.
After the Cal defense stopped the Warriors with 1:42 left in the half, the Bears marched 85 yards in just eight plays and Webb steamrolled a Hawai'i defender at the goal line to finish the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run and give the Bears a 34-14 lead at halftime.
The offensive onslaught only continued after the break. Hawai'i started the half with a field goal, but Webb led the Bears back down the field expertly and found true freshman Melquise Stovall for a 14-yard touchdown that gave the Lancaster, Calif. native his first collegiate touchdown. Webb completed all eight of his third-quarter passes for 98 yards and a touchdown and capped his Cal debut with a 33-yard touchdown strike to Jordan Veasy midway through the fourth.
"As coach (Sonny) Dykes said, there are still a lot of things we need to improve on for two weeks from now against a good San Diego State football team," Webb said. "All the credit in the world goes to Hawai'i. They played really hard tonight. We didn't really know what they were going to do defensively and they did a good job throwing us our groove in the first and second quarter, so that's a credit to those guys and their coaching staff. I'm really proud of guys like Chad and Khalfani who played their butts off tonight."
After making the trip across the globe to open the season, Cal returns to Berkeley for two weeks before hitting the road again for game No. 2. The Bears will travel to Southern California for a Sept. 10 non-conference game against San Diego State with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. The game will be televised live by CBS Sports Network. Cal's home opener is set for Sept. 17 at 7:30 p.m. against Texas.
"We've got a lot of work to do," Dykes said. "Your first game of the season is always a good test, just to see how you handle it. Lot of good things, lot of bad things. We're going to have to play better. We know that. I think all our guys understand the next two weeks are going to be big challenges for us with San Diego State and Texas. And that's even before we get into the Pac-12. We have a lot of things we have to improve on but it was a good starting point."