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September 8, 2012
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Game Day Central
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -- California cornerback Marc Anthony scored on a 61-yard interception return in the fourth quarter and the Golden Bears shook off another sluggish start at home to beat Southern Utah 50-31 on Saturday.
Keenan Allen had two touchdowns, one on a 69-yard punt return, to help Cal notch its first victory at newly renovated Memorial Stadium.
A week after losing the home-opener to Nevada, the Bears (1-1) had 518 yards of offense but couldn't shake Southern Utah, an FCS school playing its first season in the Big Sky Conference, until the fourth quarter when Cal forced two turnovers and scored 30 points.
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Anthony, who tipped a Hail Mary pass the Thunderbirds converted into a touchdown just before halftime, made the biggest play after Southern Utah receiver Henna Brown appeared to run the wrong route on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Brad Sorensen threw a short pass intended for Brown, who kept running while Anthony turned to make the interception. Anthony then worked his way downfield into the end zone to help give Cal a 34-17 lead.
The Bears piled on quickly after that.
Defensive end Aaron Tipoti recovered a fumble on Southern Utah's next possession, and Vince D'Amato's third field goal made it 37-17.
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Allen, who caught a 19-yard touchdown from quarterback Zach Maynard on the first play of the fourth quarter, made it 44-17 with a long punt return. Allen fumbled the ball but recovered it then broke free down the right sideline on his way into the end zone.
Things will get significantly more challenging for the Bears now. They go on the road to face No. 14 Ohio State next Saturday then take a trip to second-ranked USC the following week.
Maynard, making his first start of the season after being benched for the first three series in the loss to Nevada, completed 17 of 23 attempts for 229 yards and the touchdown to Allen.
C.J. Anderson and Isi Sofele both added short touchdown runs, and Daniel Lasco scored on a 77-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Two big mistakes by the Bears defense -- and an outstanding one-handed catch by the Thunderbirds' Cameron Morgan -- kept the game from being a total blowout before halftime. Sorensen's Hail Mary pass in the end zone as time expired fell incomplete, but Cal defensive back Steve Williams was called for pass interference, giving the Thunderbirds an extra play. Sorensen then heaved another long pass that Morgan pulled in for a 37-yard touchdown. Anthony tipped the ball in the air but Morgan alertly grabbed it with his left hand as he was falling out of the back of the end zone for the score.
That was one of the few things that went right for Southern Utah. Sorensen, a preseason candidate for the Walter Payton Award, passed for 292 yards and four touchdowns to become the school's career leader, though most of it came in the second half after Cal built a substantial lead.
It was a much better finish for the Bears, who fell behind early for the second consecutive week.
They committed turnovers inside their own territory on consecutive drives in the first quarter and had 10 penalties for 96 yards before halftime.
This time, Cal overcame its mistakes.
Maynard was intercepted by Southern Utah defensive end James Crowser while attempting a screen pass in the first quarter, then freshman wide receiver Chris Harper fumbled away the Bears next possession following a short completion.
Southern Utah (0-2) had its own issues on offense and couldn't take advantage of the good field position.
The Thunderbirds took a 3-0 lead on Colton Cook's 40-yard field goal then spent the rest of the afternoon playing from behind.
Cal scored on four consecutive possessions in the second quarter to go in front.
Anderson's 7-yard touchdown run capped a 94-yard drive for the Bears, Sofele scored on a 12-yard run and D'Amato added a pair of field goals to give Cal a 20-3 lead.
Southern Utah stayed close and pulled within 20-17 midway through the third quarter on Sorensen's 5-yard touchdown pass to Brown, but the Thunderbirds couldn't slow Cal down in the fourth. Sofele finished with 104 yards on 19 carries.
-- The last time the Bears returned a punt for a touchdown was in 2010, when Chris Conte returned a blocked punt. The last pure punt return for a touchdown came in 2010, when Jeremy Ross returned a 76-yarder at Washington State.
-- The last time Cal had a pick six was against Utah last season. That was returned by Josh Hill. Anthony's 61-yard pick six was the longest interception return since Mychal Kendricks' 68-yarder in 2009 against UCLA.
-- Redshirt freshman linebacker Jalen Jefferson made his first career tackle on Saturday, ending the day tied for a team-high nine stops with senior inside linebacker Robert Mullins.
-- Tight end Richard Rodgers went down with 0:27 to go in the third quarter after catching his only pass, limping off the field. He did not return, and got X-rays, but no results were given. Chris McCain went down in a heap with 4:26 left in the second quarter and did not return. Head coach Jeff Tedford said that he had a shoulder injury. Redshirt freshman Nathan Broussard played in his stead, and registered three tackles and 0.5 TFL.
-- True freshman offensive tackle Freddie Tagaloa entered the game late in the fourth quarter, helping seal off the edge on Lasco's big touchdown run. After the game, Tedford said that the 6-foot-8 first-year player will play the rest of the season.
Stay tuned for more analysis, notes, quotes and videos from today's game!