Sept. 18, 2002
Coming off one of the most convincing victories in the program's history, California looks to continue its amazing start when it faces Air Force at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
The 23rd-ranked Golden Bears improved to 3-0 on Saturday with a 46-22 rout of then-No. 15 Michigan State at Spartan Stadium. Cal senior quarterback Kyle Boller accounted for four touchdowns - two throwing, one running and one receiving - as California knocked the Spartans out of the AP Top 25.
California went 1-10 last season but is off to its first 3-0 start since 1996, Steve Mariucci's only season coaching the Golden Bears. The win over Michigan State was Cal's first against a Top 15 team since 1974.
"I think it's just an attitude that we've been trying to instill since Day 1," said first-year coach Jeff Tedford, who replaced Tom Holmoe after he was 16-39 over five seasons. "We're going to expect to win and do things the right way. When I look at our kids, I don't see any surprise in their faces."
The Bears have been the ones surprising other teams, outscoring opponents 91-10 in first halves and 150-57 overall.
If there's a drawback to Cal's fast start, it's that upcoming opponents aren't likely to underestimate them. That change in perception could be significant, as the Bears face 2-0 Air Force this weekend, and No. 16 Washington State, No. 13 Washington, No. 11 Southern California and No. 20 UCLA in the ensuing four weeks.
Cal must focus first on shutting down the powerful running game of Air Force, which had a bye last week after beating New Mexico 38-31 in overtime on Sept. 7 and routing Northwestern 52-3 in its opener.
Steve Massie ran for a 4-yard touchdown to give the Falcons the win over the Lobos in the first OT game involving teams from the 4-year-old Mountain West Conference.
Cal will also have to be aware of misdirection against Air Force. The Falcons ran numerous trick plays to beat the Lobos, including a 55-yard halfback pass as well as a 3-yard touchdown throw from quarterback Chance Harridge to offensive tackle Blane Neufeld.
Leotis Palmer ran for a career-high 125 yards and a touchdown for Air Force, which leads the nation in rushing offense at 368.5 yards per game.
"I told them all, if you can't get off the field when the game's over, don't worry, we'll have carts to get you off the field," coach Fisher DeBerry said. "But we're going to leave it all on the field."
Cal and Air Force will be meeting for the sixth time and first since 1977. The Bears lead the series 4-1, with the only loss coming at Berkeley on Nov. 11, 1961.