No. 12 California Blasts New Mexico State In Home-opener
Courtesy: Cal Athletics  
Release:  09/11/2004

Sept. 11, 2004

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AP Sports Writer

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) - California coach Jeff Tedford remembers when one lonely man sat in Memorial Stadium for the Golden Bears' pregame walk-through.

With Cal's recent climb in the polls and talk of a berth in the Bowl Championship Series, thousands now turn out just to see the team get ready.

And come game time, the 12th-ranked Bears put on quite a show for 58,949.

J.J. Arrington ran for 177 yards and three touchdowns, and Aaron Rodgers completed 20 of 26 passes for 266 yards and two scores in the Bears' 41-14 victory over New Mexico State on Saturday night.

"It really makes a difference when we go on the field and it's a full stadium," Tedford said. "The twelfth man, the fans, can make this a very difficult place to play."

The noise even caused Arrington to miss a Call. Aside from losing two first-half fumbles, about the only other thing that went wrong for the Bears was having to wait more than an hour for their final statistics because of computer problems.

Chase Lyman had four receptions for 111 yards with a touchdown and a two-point conversion for the Bears (2-0), who played their only home game until they host UCLA on Oct. 16.

Arrington now has six rushing TDs in two games this season, including a 69-yard burst midway through the third quarter.

The Bears outgained the Aggies 353-96 in the first half and didn't punt until their opening series of the second half. Cal finished with 611 yards to 212 for New Mexico State, and the Bears almost doubled the Aggies with 27 first downs.

"Once we started to get aggressive, we put the game away," Rodgers said. "We think every time we get the ball we can score."

When asked whether that means the Bears can put 40 points up every Saturday, Rodgers smiled and said, "Fifty, I hope."

Cal now must turn around and play Thursday night in a nationally televised game at Southern Mississippi, a 21-17 winner at Nebraska on Saturday.

The crowd was the largest for a Cal home opener in school history by nearly 3,000 fans.

"It was awesome for us to come out and see that kind of support," Lyman said.

He better get used to it.

Tedford, the school's third-year coach, has changed the spirits in a hurry for students who in recent years would have rather wandered the downtown streets checking out handmade crafts than spend a Saturday afternoon watching football.

Now, with a top team to watch, they're passionate.

Rodgers hit Lyman for 37 yards in the second quarter that set up Arrington's second TD, a 12-yard run 4:52 before halftime. Arrington also scored on a 2-yard run on Cal's first offensive series of the game.

The Aggies (0-2), who lost their opener 63-13 at Arkansas, split quarterback duties between starter Buck Pierce and backup Paul Dombrowski. Both also lined up at receiver for several plays, but the offense was ineffective.

Pierce was 11-for-18 for 89 yards before he limped off the field in the third quarter and didn't return.

"We hurt ourselves and stopped our drives on a couple of occasions," Pierce said. "We are definitely not where we want to be."

The Bears were determined to have a fast start on defense after they had to pull away in the second half to beat Air Force 56-14 last week. The Bears struggled early with the Falcons' triple-option offense.

When the Aggies got as close as the 36 on their second series of the game, they proceeded to false start on consecutive plays and had to punt.

They got the ball at the 44 early in the second quarter after Dominique Jacobs recovered a fumble by Cal's Marshawn Lynch. Pierce hit Kenneth Buckley for a 28-yard completion that gave New Mexico State first down on the 16. Moments later, Pierce connected with Tim Tolbert for a 6-yard TD and converted the kick for a 7-6 lead.

But that was as good as it got for the Aggies.

"We have to quit giving up big plays," coach Tony Samuel said. "It's a great football team we just played."

Dombrowski scored the other TD on a 1-yard run late against Cal's reserves.

Geoff McArthur's 15-yard reception in the second quarter moved him into second place on Cal's career list for receiving yardage. He now trails Bobby Shaw, who compiled 2,731 yards from 1994-97.

The Bears won 34-13 in the only other meeting between the schools Sept. 7, 2002, in Berkeley. Cal will travel to Las Cruces next season for the third meeting in a three-game series.

Cal honored Olympic champion swimmer Natalie Coughlin before the game.