Keenan Allen, the highly touted wide receiver out of Greensboro, NC, immediately made his presence felt on the field with a 19-yard catch in the first quarter. As soon as he caught the pass from senior Kevin Riley, Allen juked his way past the defender to pick up the first down. The move brought the crowd to its feet, but that was just the beginning.
Allen's fluid athleticism would make a return soon in the second quarter. On a trick play designed to have Allen throw the ball, Allen rolled right, saw nothing downfield, and used his blockers to cut back left through the heart of the Aggie defense, all the way for an 18-yard score. The play was reminiscent of former Bear Marshawn Lynch's scamper against Washington in 2006, though Lynch was a junior and was stopped short of the goal line. Allen, who turned 18 in April, made it look easy on his first career touchdown.
“The person I was supposed to throw it to was covered,” said Allen. “So I just looked to run, and I saw the whole defense coming to the right. I just cut back and followed my blockers, and got behind them.”
His second career touchdown would come just shortly later.
In the third quarter, Allen caught a short pass from Riley, juked a defender, broke tackles, and outran everybody else on his way for a 52-yard touchdown. Of those 52 yards, 48 came after Allen caught the ball.
“I just look for the green grass,” said Allen. “That is what I have been taught my whole life: look for green grass. Everybody was running back to where I was, so I just ran the other way around, and it opened up.”
Cal fans have plenty to be excited about with Allen, who came to Cal after initially committing to Alabama. Within a week of fall training camp, head coach Jeff Tedford named him as a starting wide receiver and never looked back. His talent has never been doubted, but to put up that type of performance in his first collegiate game was quite the surprise.
“He made some big plays today,” said Tedford. “He can do just about anything; he is a great athlete. He has great size and the speed to go with it. He is a strong runner for being that big. In the open field he can make people miss and that is a great combination.”
With Keenan Allen being on the team for three years, Bear fans have every right to be excited about what the future holds on offense.
Aside from Allen, the offense generally put up a very solid game. In just over one half, senior QB Kevin Riley finished 14-for-20 with 258 yards, and 3 touchdown passes. Riley looked very comfortable in the pocket and made the right reads. On his second touchdown pass – a 13-yard strike to junior Marvin Jones – Riley recognized the man coverage, and threw a solid pass to Jones, who easily beat his man with a post route down the middle of the field. Riley was not perfect, most notably with a fumble early in the game, along with a couple of penalties. But, Riley looked solid getting the ball to his playmakers.
"We had our good moments and our bad moments,” said Riley. “I would have liked to have been a little more consistent on a couple drives. Besides that fumble, we drove down the field and had a couple solid 7-or-8 play drives. We've just got to continue working."
Junior running back Shane Vereen, who missed most of fall camp with a hamstring injury, also was solid as he consistently pushed the ball forward for positive yards. Vereen finished the game with a solid 67 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries, as well as a 23-yard touchdown reception that broke the score. Vereen has the speed to take it to the end zone on any given play, but his ability to get 3-to-5 yards on every play is just as valuable to this offense. On Vereen's second touchdown run, he broke several tackles and managed to stay on his feet as he essentially powered his way into the end zone.
Backup running back Isi Sofele looked good, finishing with 52 yards on nine carries. Freshman Dasarte Yarnway finished with 22 yards on five carries and a fumble. Sophomore Covaughn Deboskie-Johnson finished with 21 yards on seven carries.
Junior Marvin Jones was solid, coming up with his 13-yard touchdown reception, along with a 51-yard catch that somehow made it into his hands while he was being interfered. Jones finished the day with five catches for 81 yards and a touchdown.
Sophomore quarterback Beau Sweeney had his opportunity for playing time in the second half, as he finished 6-for-8 for 29 yards. Most of Sweeney's damage came on the ground, where he ran for 34 yards and a touchdown. Junior Brock Mansion also saw time.
Cal next hosts Colorado Saturday September 11 at 12:30 p.m. PT.
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