(Saturday, September 19th)
Final Score: (8) California 35, Minnesota 21
Minneapolis, MN (Sports Network) - Jahvid Best had five touchdowns on the ground as No. 8 California survived a scare at the hands of Minnesota to take a 35-21 win at TCF Bank Stadium.
Best finished the game with 26 carries for 131 yards while Kevin Riley went 16-for-25 with 252 yards for the Golden Bears (3-0), who have scored 146 points on the season.
"People have to take notice of Jahvid and try and stop the running game," said California head coach Jeff Tedford. "He's got a tailor made running game. Anytime you can run the football effectively and have the receivers catching their passes, you have the ability to be pretty versatile on offense."
Adam Weber went 21-for-32 with 226 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions while Eric Decker caught eight passes for 119 yards and two scores for the Golden Gophers (2-1), who opened the season with wins over Syracuse and Air Force. Decker also had a touchdown pass in the loss.
"There were certain plays and moments when we could've taken over the game," said Decker. "Obviously, things didn't go our way, but you have to take the positives out of the game. Cal is a great team and they are ranked for a reason. We have some confidence going into Big Ten. We have the skill and the mindset to do well."
Trailing by a touchdown to start the third, Minnesota began the half with the ball and caught a break as the team had to punt the ball away, but Marc Anthony fumbled and Minnesota recovered near midfield. However, Hayo Carpenter later fumbled the ball and Cal recovered.
The offenses for both teams sputtered over the next several minutes, but Minnesota got the ball back at its own 23 with 4:11 to play in the third and marched down the field to tie the game.
On the first two plays, Weber connected with Brandon Green for 14 yards and Decker for 23 yards to get the ball across midfield. Five plays later, the ball was hiked to Weber, who pitched the ball back to Dicker. Dicker rolled to the left and softly tossed the ball into the left corner of the end zone where MarQueis Gray made a leaping catch for a seven-yard score to tie the game at 21-all with 29 seconds left in the third.
The score remained that way going into the fourth quarter, but, after Minnesota had to punt the ball away on its first possession of the frame, California went ahead.
Facing a 3rd-and-16 at their own 22, Riley converted the down as he dumped the ball to Jeremy Ross, who drug a couple of defenders with him for several yards on a 35-yard play. Riley and Ross later hooked up on a 31-yard play to put the ball at 1st-and-goal from the one and Best punched it in for a 28-21 lead with 7:14 to play.
"Well, I hope that every game is a big game for me, but we had some great blocking up front, and the holes were there, so I was just hitting them," said Best.
The Bears defense stepped up after the Gophers got the ball back as Michael Mohamed picked off Weber on the first play of the ensuing drive to give the Bears the ball back near midfield.
Minnesota ate up a bit over four minutes on the drive and sealed the win as Best took the ball into the end zone around the right side from two yards out for a 35-21 lead with 2:59 to play.
"I'm really disappointed for our kids because they fought their guts out," said Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster. "We weathered the storm early in the game and I know I say this a lot but I'm extremely proud of our football team and the way they competed and fought today against a very good opponent. We didn't make the plays near the end we needed when we had the chance to win the game and in that I'm very disappointed."
Cal started the game with the ball and used nine plays and just over five minutes to take the lead as Best got in the end zone on a 33-yard score.
After holding Minnesota to a three-and-out, the Bears struck quickly as Best took the first play 25 yards on a carry, Riley and Verran Tucker hooked up on a 59-yard play and Best followed with a two-yard score for a 14-0 lead with just over seven minutes to play in the first.
Minnesota, though, got on the board on the first play of the second quarter as a seven-play drive was capped on a leaping, 26-yard touchdown catch by Decker at the right side to make it a 14-7 game.
California drove on its next touch and got within field goal range, but Vince Damato missed a 47-yarder.
However, the Bears were able to take a two-score lead after forcing a three- and-out on the Gophers ensuing possession. On the 10th play of the drive, Best took a handoff into the end zone from 27 yards out for a 21-7 lead with 3:47 to play in the first half.
However, after an exchange of punts, the Gophers made it a one-score game heading into the break as Decker caught a 12-yard score in the left side of the end zone as he was falling down with just 40 seconds to play in the first half.
California begins Pac-10 play next week at Oregon...Minnesota starts Big Ten play next week at Northwestern...California has won four of the six meetings with Minnesota...Cal had a nearly seven-minute edge in time of possession...Tucker and Ross each had three catches with 78 yards and 73 yards, respectively.
09/19 18:45:24 ET