Sept. 6, 1997
California - Houston Game Notes
HOUSTON -- New quarterback Justin Vedder didn't wait very long to show he'll be a factor for the Cal offense as he changed plays on the first two offensive plays from scrimmage. The first was successful as he checked to an out pattern and completed it for a 6-yard gain. The second resulted in a delay of game penalty.
Houston's first two drives were kept alive by Cal penalties -- the first being a holding call and the second being a dead ball personal foul -- both coming on third down plays. The Cougars still had to punt on the first possession, but they converted a 44-yard field goal by Sebastian Villarreal on the second drive.
Cal's defense keyed Cal's first score as Justin Flagg recovered a Tyler Helton fumble with 2:08 left in the first quarter at the Houston 44-yard-line. On the next play, Justin Vedder hit Bobby Shaw for a 41-yard pass play and Tarik Smith went in on a 3-yard sweep on the next play for a 7-3 Cal lead. The Cal defense got in the act again with just over 7 minutes left in the half, when safety David Burnside forced and recovered a Ketric Sanford fumble at the Houston 48. Cal got the ball deep in Cougar territory, but eventually turned the ball back on an interception at the Houston one-yard-line when Vedder tried to go deep to Dameane Douglas.
The Justin Vedder - Bobby Shaw connection already seemed in mid-season form as the two connected a trio of big plays in the first half, helping Cal forge a 21-3 lead. The first was a 41-yard pass to the Houston 3-yard-line setting up Cal's first score. The second was a short pass in the flat in which Shaw broke a tackle and went 30 yards down the sideline for Cal's second touchdown. Vedder went back to Shaw 3 different times on a late 84-yard touchdown drive in the first half. The third time Shaw took a 10-yard pass and sleeked through the Houston defense all the way for his second touchdown of the half. It was Shaw's 19th touchdown reception of his career, an amazing stat considering he's only started 17 games.
Shaw had a career day as followed a huge first half (6 catches for 144 yards) with final game stats of 11 receptions for 204 yards. The yardage total was the third highest in school history.
While Cal was thrilled with the win, there was obviously some first-game problems that need to be cleared up. In the first half alone, Cal was called for 21 penalties for 189 yards. The penalty bug hit all areas of Cal's team -- offense, defense and special teams. That's not a huge surprise in view of the major change in personnel from last year, but it's not a trend the Cal coaches would like to continue.