Keenan Allen's performance in Cal's 52-3 victory over UC Davis in the Bears' season opener Sept. 4 provoked the obvious question: Can he do anything similar against a team like Colorado, Cal's opponent in its second game Sept. 11 in Berkeley?
Allen, a true freshman wide receiver, was the star of the opener, providing a number of big plays in his college debut, albeit against a Football Championship Series school.
One play provided a capsule report of his football skills. Early in the second quarter, Allen took a handoff on an end-around designed for him to pass the ball. When he saw no one open, he simply reversed his field, weaved his way through the defense and scored on a dramatic touchdown run that officially covered 18 yards, but actually totaled about 50 yards.
Those few seconds told us a lot about Allen:
Cal coaches will do anything to get him the ball, which means handing it to him on end-arounds. He carried three times Sept. 4.
Allen can throw the ball. Although he did not get an opportunity to do so, the mere fact that the play called for a pass suggested he's a proficient thrower.
He showed good judgment. When he saw the intended receiver covered, Allen did not force the ball, never panicked or hesitated and looked for somewhere to run instead.
Allen can make something out of nothing while carrying the ball, showing a willingness to be creative while following blockers effectively and making tacklers miss.
"That play speaks not only to his athleticism but to his intelligence as a player," Cal offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig said.
Allen has an efficient elegance that makes everything he does look effortless and screams stardom.
"He's unreal," Cal linebacker Mike Mohamed said.
"He's just a natural with the ball in his hands," quarterback Kevin Riley said. "Give him a chance to make a play and he will."
Allen played a little more than half the game, but he chalked up 176 all-purpose yards on his eight touches (he also returned a kickoff 18 yards). He had 120 receiving yards on four catches and scored two touchdowns.
Things won't be this easy in the games to come.
UC Davis does not have the athletes of Pac-10 schools or Colorado, Cal's next opponent.
The Buffaloes beat Colorado State 24-3 in their opener, limiting the Rams to 49 rushing yards. Colorado intercepted three passes and did not yield a point until the fourth quarter.
Colorado will join the Pac-10 either next season or in 2012.
NOTES & QUOTES
The win was the 68th for Cal coach Jeff Tedford, moving him ahead of Pappy Waldorf for the most wins by a Cal coach in the modern era. The school's all-time leader in coaching wins is Andy Smith, who got the last of his 74 wins in 1925.
Cal is 9-0 against UC Davis, outscoring the Aggies by a combined 351-23. Prior to the Sept. 4 game, the last time the schools met was 1939.
Keenan Allen was hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for slapping hands with a fan after his touchdown catch in the third quarter. "I didn't know you couldn't do that until after the play," he said. Any contact by a player with a fan is an automatic penalty.
Cal's defense held UC Davis to 81 yards total offense. It was the first time Cal held a team under 150 yards since the Bears limited San Jose State to 147 yards in 1994. Cal did not have records on the last time it limited an opponent to fewer yards.
GAME BALL GOES TO: WR Keenan Allen -- The true freshman touched the ball eight times (four receptions, three runs and a kickoff return) in a little over one half and had 176 all-purpose yards. He had 120 receiving yards, scored one rushing touchdown and one receiving touchdown. And every play in which he was involved was a mini-highlight film. Granted, it was against UC Davis, but he is a big play waiting to happen.
KEEP AN EYE ON: RB Isi Sofele -- Shane Vereen's backup rushed for 52 yards on nine carries, including an impressive 17-yard run on his first carry, showing that he has big-play potential. Sofele won a preseason battle to become the backup, a position that gets a lot of work in Jeff Tedford's offense. Sofele is also an excellent pass receiver, although he did not catch any passes against UC Davis.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He can do almost anything." -- Jeff Tedford, on freshman WR Keenan Allen.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: The Cal defense yielded only 81 yards total offense against UC Davis, and if that is an indication of things to come, Cal should do well this season.
The Bears have a new defensive coordinator in Clancy Pendergast, and he is giving the defense a variety of looks, primarily to help rush the passer. The Bears' pass defense, which was terrible last season, yielded only 67 passing yards as UC Davis quarterbacks went 9-for-25. Whether the defense is really as good as it played in the opener may be determined in the Bears' second game against Colorado.
STILL NEEDS WORK: QB Kevin Riley had a good game overall, going 14-for-20, but he fumbled a snap to end the Bears' first drive, and made a few bad decisions that resulted in penalties. The Bears need him to be consistent to be successful. After completing his first nine passes, he was just 5-for-11, and one of those completions came on a great catch by Marvin Jones that would have been ruled pass interference if he hadn't caught it.
Freshman LB Dave Wilkerson, cleared by the NCAA earlier in the week, played quite a bit in the opener and made a tackle. He had been held out of practice for much of the preseason because his academic records had not been approved by the NCAA.
TB Shane Vereen missed a lot of preseason camp with a hamstring injury, but he showed no ill effects of the injury in the opener and said afterward that it feels fine.
OT Matt Summers-Gavin returned to practice a few days before the opener after missing most of preseason camp with a knee injury. He did not play in the opener but may play in the Sept. 11 game against Colorado.