Fresno St. loses 36-21 to California in opener

Fresno St. loses 36-21 to California in opener

Published Sep. 4, 2011 1:00 a.m. ET

Derek Carr dropped back to pass and thought he had a chance to make something happen. Before he could throw the ball, a defender knocked it out of his hands, and it was California celebrating a touchdown instead of Fresno State.

That's the kind of day it was for Carr in his first collegiate start for the Bulldogs.

Carr and the Bulldogs offense struggled all game behind a revamped offensive line and lost their season opener 36-21 to the Golden Bears on Saturday.

''Coming into the game, I knew I had to be tough. I knew I had to get back up,'' Carr said. ''I give myself an 'F.' We didn't win.''


While Cal was in control after scoring three touchdowns in the first quarter, it was a defensive score that put the game away in the third.

Linebacker Cecil Whiteside came off the edge and got to Carr before he could get rid of the ball. He knocked it out of Carr's hand and the ball fell right to Trevor Guyton, who ran it back 22 yards for the touchdown that made it 33-14.

''I stepped up in the pocket, and we had what we wanted,'' Carr said. ''We had a big play. I don't know where the guy came from.''

It was that kind of night for the Bulldogs, who are breaking in four new starters on the offensive line. It got even worse when center Richard Helepiko left with an ankle injury early in the game, forcing coach Pat Hill to juggle his line and put freshman Cody Wichman in at tackle.

The Bulldogs didn't manage to reach 200 total yards until a meaningless touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter.

''Our center went down early in the game, and we had to make three moves. We weren't intact,'' Hill said. ''We had a guard at center, and Cody came in and did a good job for a freshman at tackle. We don't have the kind of depth you'd like to have there.''

Carr finished 21 for 33 for 142 yards and was sacked four times. He is the younger brother of former Fresno State star and 2002 No. 1 overall draft pick David Carr. His debut was highly anticipated among Fresno State followers, but the Bulldogs' entire offense struggled.

Cal fared much better with its new quarterback. Transfer Zach Maynard threw an interception in his first pass but bounced back to throw for 266 yards and connect with Marvin Jones on two touchdown passes.

''I was very nervous,'' Maynard said. ''I hadn't played in a year and a half, you're always nervous at first. Once I got in and threw that first interception, it all went away. I had to focus.''

Isi Sofele ran for 83 yards and two touchdowns, Jones had 118 yards receiving and Keenan Allen caught eight passes form his half-brother for 112 yards to give the Bears an emphatic start to the season a year after posting a losing record.

The game was at a neutral site, Candlestick Park, with Fresno State bringing a larger contingent of fans in the crowd of 31,563.

The Cal fans had much more to cheer about - especially after Maynard recovered from the early interception that helped give the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead.

Maynard struggled with his accuracy, completing just 16 for 35, but had a knack for the big play as he capitalized against a Fresno State defense missing injured safety Phillip Thomas.

Maynard's mobility helped him win the job, and he showed it off with a couple of long runs, including a 48-yarder on Cal's opening drive of the second half that set up his second TD throw. The 23-yarder to Jones made it 26-14 and made that early interception a footnote to this game.

''He just shook it off,'' coach Jeff Tedford said. ''He just let that one go. He wasn't shook up by it at all. You could tell early in the game he was playing a little fast and rushing some things. Then he settled down and did some nice things running and keeping things alive. You can see that brings an added dimension to the offense. He can move around.''

The day couldn't have started off much worse for Maynard and the Bears. After an illegal formation penalty negated the first offensive play for Cal, Maynard threw his first pass right to Fresno State cornerback L.J. Jones, giving the Bulldogs the ball at the 16. Three plays later, Robbie Rouse ran in from 9 yards for the opening score.

Cal answered with three straight touchdown drives, but had two extra point attempts blocked.

Despite outgaining Fresno State 310-122 in the first half, the Bears only led 19-14 at the break after a botched snap by Dominic Galas led to a fumble in the end zone by Sofele that Christin Wilson recovered for a touchdown.