Wednesday, September 16, 2009

CBS Sports: Minnesota vs. California Preview


California has certainly shown it can dominate opponents at home. If the Golden Bears are going to prove their worthy of competing for a Pac-10 title, however, they'll need to overcome their issues on the road.  Cal looks to halt a four-game road losing streak Saturday afternoon when it visits unbeaten Minnesota for the first time in 22 years.  The eighth-ranked Golden Bears (2-0) started the season with a 52-13 win over Maryland on Sept. 5 before beating Football Championship Subdivision team Eastern Washington 59-7 last Saturday.

"We've won two games. We won convincingly," quarterback Kevin Riley said. "We'll start playing some better teams now on the road. Every loss we had last year was on the road. We'll have to improve on that and win some road games."  Cal has won nine in a row at home by an average of 20.5 points but hasn't come close to that type of production on the road.  The Bears have dropped four in a row and eight of nine as the visitor, with the only victory in that span coming in a 66-3 win over Washington State on Sept. 6, 2008 - their first road game last year. They haven't lost five in a row away from home since Nov. 11, 2000-Nov. 17, 2001. This California team is considered a favorite to compete for the conference title and its first trip to the Rose Bowl since 1958.

The Golden Bears have certainly looked the part, topping 500 yards in each of their first two games while committing no turnovers and eight penalties. The defense has allowed one touchdown in each game, recording nine sacks along the way. It shut out the Eagles after the first quarter and held them to 42 yards in the second half.

"We felt like we've done a lot of great things," running back Jahvid Best said. "We still have things to clean up but we're happy with where we're at right now."  Best, considered a Heisman Trophy contender, has 291 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries while adding four catches for 42 yards and a score.  With Best controlling the ground game, the Bears are also pleased with Riley's success at running the offense. The junior completed 13 of 20 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown last week while also rushing four times for 25 yards and a score. That came after he went 17 for 26 for 298 yards and four TDs in the opener.

"Kevin's doing a nice job staying poised and didn't turn the football over," coach Jeff Tedford said. "He's running the offense the way we want him to run the offense. He has a good grasp of it and is doing a nice job. We just didn't throw the ball all that much (against Eastern Washington)."  The Bears have won three of five against the Gophers (2-0), and they haven't visited Minnesota since a loss in 1987. They took the last meeting 42-17 on Sept. 9, 2006, in the first matchup since that defeat at the Metrodome, which has been replaced as Minnesota's home field by the new $300 million TCF Bank Stadium on campus.

Minnesota won the first game there last Saturday, putting together a 17-point fourth quarter to beat Air Force 20-13. That came a week after the Golden Gophers opened the season with a 23-20 overtime win at Syracuse.  They've dropped their last 10 against ranked opponents, including the last meeting with Cal.  Adam Weber is looking to build on a strong performance after completing 20 of 29 passes for 219 yards last week. Eric Decker caught 10 of those passes for 113 yards, giving the senior wide receiver 296 yards on 19 receptions in the first two games.


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