Notebook: Rodgers justifies the hype

Zach Maynard (US Presswire)

Running back Brendan Bigelow makes first career start versus UCLA, as coaches follow through on promise to get sophomore more involved in the offense.

BERKELEY, Calif. – Richard Rodgers looked like a breakout star in spring practice and fall camp, and California head coach Jeff Tedford certainly praised the sophomore tight end like a centerpiece to the offense moving forward.

But Rodgers was a non-factor the first two weeks of the season before suffering a foot injury in the fourth quarter against Southern Utah.

Against UCLA, Rodgers showed exactly why Tedford said he could end the year as one of the nation's elite players at his position, catching seven passes for a game-high 129 yards.

"He's been out for a while, and even when he played he wasn't healthy. It was nice to see him fun full speed. That's more what you expect of him," Tedford said.

Rodgers had only three receptions for 28 yards coming into Saturday, but frequently gashed the Bruins defense as it attempted to balance double-covering wide receiver Keenan Allen and while also bringing pressure for quarterback Zach Maynard.

"Richard did a huge job for us," Maynard said. "We know he can make plays down the field. They kept bringing blitzes, and he kept burning them. One guy can't tackle him. He played strong out there, physical, and that's what we needed this week."

Showing a knack for big plays, Rodgers had catches of 42 and 50 yards attacking the seams of the UCLA secondary. That could open up opportunities for Allen, who caught eight passes for 79 yards and two touchdowns, by making safeties account for the 6-foot-4, 265-pound former high school receiver.

"You can't go on the perimeter and double our guys outside when he is in the middle of the field," Tedford said. "Finally he is back and it gives us one more weapon to be able to use on offense."

Bigelow Involved Early
After promising all week that sophomore running back Brendan Bigelow would be more involved in the offense, coaches followed through from the start.

Bigelow carried the ball on the first three plays of the game, making his first career start. He finished with 12 yards rushing on five carries, but added two catches for 36 yards, showcasing his speed on a screen pass that Bigelow took 32 yards down the far sideline for a touchdown.

"The screen was a nice play," Tedford said. "He did a nice job of catching that and scoring."

It was the third offensive touchdown for Bigelow in 18 touches this season.

M.A.S.H. Unit
Defensive end Aaron Tipoti did not play against UCLA because of a knee injury, while Todd Barr left the game after pulling a calf muscle.

Outside linebacker Brennan Scarlett (broken hand) started the game, but did not record a tackle.

"He didn't even practice this week, but got in and played hard," Tedford said of Scarlett.

Turnaround for D'Amato
After missing four field goal in a row, including all three tries in a 35-28 loss at Ohio State, kicker Vincenzo D'Amato has now made five in a row, hitting on a 26-yarder in the first quarter.

However, D'Amato had two extra points blocked against UCLA.

Home And Home
California has now won six consecutive games against UCLA at Memorial Stadium, dating back to October 2000.

The Bears are 1-5 at the Rose Bowl in the same span.

Dan Greenspan is the publisher of Cal Sports Digest and writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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