Aug 23, 2003
By STEVE BRISENDINE
AP Sports Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Ell Roberson threw for 205 yards and a career-high three touchdowns and ran for 145 more yards and another score.
Darren Sproles ran for a career-high 175 yards and one TD and became Kansas State's career leader in 100-yard games.
Coach Bill Snyder's assessment?
It fell to California coach Jeff Tedford to praise the Wildcats' offensive stars.
"They made a lot of big plays, but the credit goes to their two guys," Tedford said. "I'm not sure they don't do that against anyone."
Then again, Snyder had more pressing concerns after the seventh-ranked Wildcats beat California 42-28 Saturday night in the season opener for both teams.
Kansas State's defense, historically the team's stronger unit, gave up 440 yards and the first four-touchdown performance by an opponent since a 35-31 loss to Colorado on Oct. 5, 2002.
"They'll be tested in practice on Monday," Snyder said.
Sproles' 11th career 100-yard game on 22 carries set a school record, and he extended his own record with his 10th consecutive 100-yard game. The Wildcats' win in the Black Coaches Association Classic was their 14th straight season-opening victory.
Roberson threw TD passes of 5 yards to Travis Wilson and 57 yards to James Terry as the Wildcats took a 27-14 halftime lead. He finished 9-for-18 and carried 18 times.
"I felt a little bit rusty at first, but I got more comfortable as the game went along," he said. "The coaches put me in some great positions."
Roberson's 11-yard scoring run and 2-point conversion carry midway through the third quarter gave the Wildcats a decisive 35-14 advantage. A holding penalty on Kansas State's next drive wiped out what would have been a 35-yard TD pass to Terry, but Roberson connected with Davin Dennis from 28 yards for a 42-21 lead in the fourth quarter.
Offense was rarely a problem for Kansas State, which scored on its first five possessions and rolled up 540 yards.
Defense - especially pass defense - was another story.
The Wildcats did have two sacks, one interception and a key fourth-down stop against Cal quarterback Reggie Robertson.
Robertson, who was lifted for Aaron Rodgers in the third quarter but returned when a hard hit knocked Rodgers out of the game, was 16-for-29 for 257 yards and three touchdowns against a secondary which lost two starters - including All-America cornerback Terence Newman - from last year's 11-2 team.
"I expected him to be good," Snyder said. "The only thing I was concerned about was that we gave him a month and a half to throw. We did not get the pressure we wanted in one on one situations."
Rodgers was 9-for-13 for 121 yards with one touchdown, a 22-yarder to J.J. Arrington that cut Kansas State's lead to 35-21 early in the fourth quarter, before a knockdown by defensive end Andrew Shull took him out.
"I got the wind knocked out of me and bruised my sternum," Rodgers said. "I was ready to go back in, but Reggie finished it off."
With just under 4˝ minutes left in the game, Robertson's 7-yard shovel pass to Arrington cut Kansas State's lead to 42-28. The Bears tried an onside kick, but Joe Lawson covered it for the Wildcats.
Sproles ran 53 yards on his first carry of the game, setting up his 5-yard run three plays later for a 7-0 lead. But Robertson was 4-for-5 on the Golden Bears' next drive, capped by his 34-yard pass to Vincent Strang to tie it at 7.
Joe Rheem's 22-yard field goal put the Wildcats ahead for good, 10-7, and Kansas State began to pull away with a goal-line stand and a 98-yard TD drive.
On the first play of the second quarter, California went for it on fourth down from inside Kansas State's 1. Linebacker Josh Buhl stuffed Robertson at the 2.
"If we don't make a play there, it's a first down or a touchdown," Buhl said. "The play just happened to come my way."
Roberson took over on the ensuing drive. He carried eight times for 70 yards, then threw to Wilson for a 17-7 lead.
After Rheem's 37-yard field goal made it 20-7 and James McGill's interception gave the Wildcats the ball again, Roberson put together his most impressive play of the night.
Roberson got safety Harrison Smith to bite early on a pump fake, then lofted a perfectly timed throw over Smith's head to a wide-open Terry. Terry pulled the ball in at the Bears' 35 and raced in untouched to put the Wildcats up 27-7.
Four plays after that, Cal's Geoff McArthur outjumped cornerback Randy Jordan at the Wildcats' 40 and went down the right sideline to complete a 65-yard TD play that got the Bears within 27-14.