Sept. 6, 1997

Cal Rolls over Houston in Season Opener, 35-3

The Cal football team got the Tom Holmoe era off to a flying start with an impressive 35-3 rout of Houston in the Astrodome.

The Bears are now 1-0 on the season and have won eight of their last 11 season openers. Houston fell to 0-2 on the season.

Justin Vedder
Justin Vedder

The headlines will focus in on the superb offensive games of new quarterback Justin Vedder and All-American receiver Bobby Shaw, but it was the Cal defense which made as big a contribution to the victory as any component on the field.

After giving up 460.3 yards a game last season, the Bears nearly pitched a shutout, holding the Cougars without a TD - and only giving up 165 yards of total offense. It was the first game Cal did not allow a touchdown since the Bears last trip to the state of Texas -- a 38-3 win over Iowa in the 1993 Alamo Bowl.

"Going into the first game, I wondered how well our team would play," said Holmoe. "But our team prepared well. We had good chemistry and came out and played hard. I was proud of the fact that our offense was patient and our defense played team defense. That was good to see. I don't want to judge this team on one game, but this first game was a success."

Houston actually got on the board first as the Cougars drove 38 yards on 10 plays and senior Sebastian Villarreal connected on a 44-yard field goal with 4:42 left in the first quarter. Even that score was questionable since the Bears had the drive stopped, except for a deadball personal foul called for piling on tackle by safety Pete Destefano.

After that, Cal controlled the game. Cal's defense came up with a big play just two minutes later when Justin Flagg recovered a fumbled snap from center at the Houston 44. A 41-yard pass from Vedder to Shaw was followed by a 3-yard TD run by Tarik Smith and the Bears had the lead for good.

On Cal's next drive, the Bears went 90 yards on 12 plays, with Shaw taking in a 30-yard TD pass. Cal threatened again on its next drive, but Vedder attempted to go deep and Houston's Thomathan Good intercepted at the Cougar 1-yard-line.

Cal wasn't done, however. The Bears got the ball back at their own 16-yard-line with 2:07 left in the half. Six plays later, Cal was in the endzone as Vedder and Shaw hooked up three more times, the last resulting in a 50-yard TD pass.

Cal put the game completely out of the reach on the first drive of the second half, when the Bears went 87 yards on 13 plays with fullback Joshua White going in the final five yards for a 28-3.

From that point on the Bears were in control. Cal got on the scoreboard next in the fourth quarter. A roughing the punter penalty kept a Cal drive going and freshman Marcus Fields went in on a 3-yard sweep to make the score 35-3. That made up for an earlier holding penalty that negated a long touchdown pass from Vedder to Dameane Douglas.

"I think today was a good performance for the whole team," said Vedder, whose 321 passing yards were a Cal record for a quarterback in his debut game. "I think we got rid of the doubters who didn't think Cal was going to be a good team. I never dreamed of having a 300-yard game in the first game of the season."