Latest Team Rankings
Free Text Alerts
|ShopMobileRadio RSSRivals.com Yahoo! Sports|
|College Teams||High Schools|
September 29, 2012California scored on its second play from scrimmage and never looked back in beating host Foothill-Pleasanton 36-7. Karris Johnson rushed for 144 yards and three scores and the Grizzlies gave up just a kickoff return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to cap an impressive night.
On the second play of the night, Johnson busted a 57 yards run while bouncing through defenders. The standout senior finished with 144 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries. A back with some size at 6-foot-0 and 200 pounds, Johnson was most dangerous getting outside on wide runs and consistently beating defenders to the corner. He was also tough getting yards between the tackles in rarely going down on first contact. Johnson is a different kind of back than Cal has had in recent years and could be the best non-Top 50 back we have seen this season.
"He has that big play threat every time he touches the ball. He's really built his game around his toughness, which is big. We haven't had that from him," California head coach Eric Billeci said. "Now, he's stepping out of tackles. It's impressive to watch."
Cal ended the night with 324 rushing yards on 54 carries (six yards per carry), including key pickups from Blake Bierwith and quarterback Cameron Owen. It isn't a big play attack on the ground, but the Grizzlies rarely had negative plays or busted plays in the backfield and went on three different scoring driving that were around seven minutes long. An unsung key in this efficiency was the play up front from the offensive line, which starts Kevin Leathley, Dean Heinz, Jeffrey Huttenhain, Tyler Whisenhunt and Kurt Olson.
"They continue to do their job. They train so hard day in and day out," Billeci said. "If we can just lean on them the majority of the game, it just makes our jobs a lot easier."
The Falcons were held to less than 150 yards of total offense, including two interceptions, in only moving the ball into Cal territory once on the night. In the second half, there were 44 combined offensive plays and only nine were run in Grizzlies' territory (all by Cal). Foothill tight end Ray Hudson, a Cal commit, was held to two catches for 20 yards. Sophomore wide receiver Isaiah Langley provided the highlight of the night for the Falcons with a kickoff return in the fourth quarter. He is a good athlete to keep an eye on.
Scanning the Notebook
Remember the name Mahe Fifta of California. The junior defensive line stands at 6-foot-6 and 280 pounds and was a source of problems for the interior line of Foothill. He gets off the ball and sheds blockers well to generate consistent penetration. Fifta can play too upright against blocks, but the potential is there for a sleeper in the 2014 class.
Cal's coaching staff does a nice job of play calling and mixing in different options to keep defenses off balance. A key to the attack is keeping the down and distance manageable and extending drives. A couple of plays which exemplify this are a 3rd and 10 when Owen found Austin Terry on a middle screen for a 20 yard touchdown to make it 12-0 Cal. To start the second half after they produced a Foothill punt, they called a quick give to Terry and he picked up a 3rd and 12. Finally, on 3rd and 15 on the same drive, Owen hit Blake Guardino for a catch and run of 27 yards to set up a touchdown. Cal finished 10-for-14 on third downs.
The Falcons' most successful offensive looks were getting Jamir Holland on outside runs, including the longest play of the night at 18 yards, and also showing a quick fake to fullback Griffin Gates and throwing a swing pass to Holland (3 catches for 39 yards).
Foothill quarterback Kyle Kearns has a high ceiling as a sophomore, but he struggled and faced plenty of pressure in the loss. He went 7-for-16 for 56 yards with two interceptions. Most of his throws were on shorter routes, but did have a couple of nice tosses to the sideline. He was able to get out of the pocket, but can make quicker decisions.