Meet Richard Rodgers, Keenan Allen's new best friend.
Check that. Meet a healthy Richard Rodgers. That's a welcome development for Allen and the rest of Cal's offense.
Rodgers, finally healed from a foot injury, exhibited just what he can do for the Bears' offense Saturday night during a 43-17 rout of No. 25 UCLA. Rodgers caught seven passes for 129 yards, drawing the attention of the Bruins' defense and thus diverting at least some of the attention away from Allen, Cal's All-American wide receiver. Allen, benefitting from the presence of Rodgers, led the Bears with eight catches for 79 yards and two touchdowns.
"They double Keenan a lot and now they have to account for Rich," said Cal quarterback Zach Maynard, who was an efficient 25-for-30 for 295 yards and four touchdowns. "He can make plays out there. He was huge out there tonight. He played strong and physical and that's what we needed this week."
The Bears have expected much of Rodgers since he arrived in Berkeley last season, the son of Richard Rodgers Sr., who was best remembered for his role in "The Play" during the Big Game against Stanford in 1982. Cal coach Jeff Tedford has said Rodgers has the potential to be the best tight end in the country.
Rodgers played primarily special teams as a true freshman last season and had been limited this season because of the foot. He entered Saturday with just three catches for 28 yards on the season.
But it was obvious from the outset Saturday that Rodgers would be a big part of the offensive game plan. Two of Maynard's first three completions were to Rodgers.
"It was nice to see him running full speed tonight," Tedford said. "That's more of what you expect from him because he's a very good player, but he's been injured all season. He's finally back. It gives us one more weapon to be able to use on offense."
The highlight of Rodgers' night came early in the fourth quarter when he broke free down the field on a post pattern and Maynard found him for a 50-yard gain.
"My foot is definitely feeling better," Rodgers said. "I wouldn't say I am 100 percent, but whatever I can do for the team to help us, I'm going to do. That's what I did tonight, contributing in the pass game."