Sept. 20, 1997
Bears Beat Oklahoma in Home Opener, 40-36, Improve to 2-0
BERKELEY, Calif. - In one of the most entertaining games of the college football season, the California Golden Bears improved their record to 2-0 while defeating the Oklahoma Sooners, 40-36, in front of a homecoming crowd of 48,000 at Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon in Berkeley, Calif.
Cal had many opportunities to put this game away early, but key mistakes and penalties gave Oklahoma second chance after second chance and the Sooners finally took advantage to come back from a 21-point second half deficit and tie
Offensively, Cal quarterback Justin Vedder completed 24-of-39 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns, but he also had two interceptions. Wide receiver Bobby Shaw had another outstanding day with 11 receptions for 158 yards and two touchdowns. It was Shaw's second time over the century mark in receiving yardage this season and the eighth time in his career, tying Wesley Walker for the most 100-yard receiving days ever at Cal.
On the ground, Tarik Smith, who returned to Memorial Stadium for the first time since suffering a season-ending knee injury against Nevada in last years third game, was Cal's leading rusher with 20 yards on 90 carries and a touchdown.
Despite giving up 348 yards, the Cal defense came up big when it needed to, forcing three Oklahoma turnovers and shutting down the Sooner offense for the final 12 minutes of the game.
Oklahoma scored first, only 0:49 seconds into the game, as the Sooners went 80 yards in two plays for the game's first score. Oklahoma quarterback Eric Moore hit Jarrail Jackson for 40 yards on the game's first play. After a holding penalty, running back De'Mond Parker broke through the Cal defense and raced 54 yards down the right sideline for the touchdown and a 7-0 Oklahoma lead. The touchdown was the longest run from scrimmage the Cal defensed had surrendered since UCLA's Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scampered 50 yards on Oct. 28, 1995.
The Bears were unable to get anything on their first possession, but after a 53 yard punt by Nick Harris, Cal cornerback, Kato Serwanga, intercepted a Moore pass on first down, returning the ball 11 yards to the Sooner 40 yard line and Cal was in business.
Four plays later, Vedder hit Shaw for a 16 yard touchdown and the Bears first score of the game. The ensuing extra point attempt was blocked, and the Oklahoma lead had been trimmed to 7-6.
After trading punts, the Bears took their first lead of the afternoon, 9-7, on an Ignacio Brache 32-yard field goal. The Cal possession started at the OU 42 courtesy of a shanked Oklahoma punt and a 15 yard personal foul penalty. But the Bears could only drive to the Oklahoma 25 yard line before settling for the field goal.
The Cal defense again held the Sooners following the ensuing kickoff and after an 11 yard punt return by Bobby Shaw to the Oklahoma 40 yard line, the Bears were again in Sooner territory. Cal would have to settle for another Brache field goal at the start of the second quarter, this time from 35 yards out, and the Bears were up, 12-7.
Cal had a chance to take control of the game as Oklahoma's Chris Lewis fumbled the resulting kickoff, but Oklahoma intercepted a Vedder pass at the goal line to stop the threat.
Cal's next scoring opportunity came after a Harris 20-yard run from punt formation set the Bears up at the Oklahoma 27. Marcus Fields capped the three play drive with a four-yard run, and the Bears had 19-7 lead.
Cal moved ahead, 26-7, when Vedder found tight end, A.J. Kunkle touchdown for a 12 yard touchdown pass 2:42 left before intermission.
With just under two minutes left in the half, the Cal defense handed the Bears another scoring opportunity with Derrick Gardner interception of Oklahoma quarterback Justin Fuente at the Sooner 36 yard line. It looked like the rout was on for the Bears. However, on the next play from scrimmage Vedder threw his second interception of the game which was returned 65 yards for a touchdown by Oklahoma's Travian Smith. OU's extra point attempt failed but the Sooners had narrowed the Cal lead to 26-13 as the teams headed into halftime.
O'Neal got the Bears rolling in the second half, taking the kickoff 53 yards to the Oklahoma 47. A Sooner penalty on the play tacked on 15 yards to the run and Cal's first possession of the second half started at the OU 32. Smith registered the Bears third touchdown of the day on a 10-yard run. Smith then scored on the two-point conversion and Cal had increased its lead to 34-13.
This is when the momentum of the game changed in a big way. Oklahoma narrowed that lead to 34-20 two series later on a 73 yard touchdown pass from Moore to Chris Blocker.
With 3:59 remaining in the third quarter, Oklahoma scored again, this time on a Fuente to Mo Little pass over the middle that covered 34 yards. The extra point was good and the Sooners were now within a touchdown of Cal at 34-27.
The Sooners defense again stiffened, forcing the Bears to punt on their next possession. With the game's momentum now swung clearly in the Oklahoma direction, the Sooners drove the ball 68 yards in 8 plays, and opened the fourth quarter with a Germaine Fazande three-yard run to tie the ball game at 34-34.
Neither team's offenses could get untracked over the next 10 minutes until a short Oklahoma punt again gave Cal great field position at the OU 49 with just five minutes left on the clock. A 23-yard run by Smith on first down moved the Bears to the Sooner 26. Two plays later, Vedder found Shaw for 16 yards and Cal had a first-and-goal at the Oklahoma 10. Vedder and Shaw gave the Bears a 40-34 lead, connecting on a third-and-goal form the 16 yard line with 2:33 remaining in the game. Cal's celebration was short lived, however, as Oklahoma blocked the extra point attempt and returned it for two points, shaving the Cal lead to 40-36.
Oklahoma got one first down on its final drive, but Brandon Whiting ended any suspense with a 4th down sack of Oklahoma quarterback Justin Fuente with just over a minute left in the game and Cal ran out the clock.