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California Is Running Strong, Thanks to Smith

Nonconference: He has 174 yards rushing and four touchdowns in 42-37 victory over San Diego State that improves Bears' record to 2-0.

September 15, 1996|From Associated Press

BERKELEY — California junior running back Tarik Smith rushed for 174 yards and scored four touchdowns as California defeated San Diego State, 42-37, Saturday in a nonconference game.

San Diego State (1-1) was playing without standout running back George Jones, who was suspended indefinitely Friday because of possible violation of NCAA rules. Jones rushed for 1,842 yards last season, including 147 in a victory over Cal.

That left quarterback Billy Blanton to carry the San Diego State offensive load and he responded by completing 22 of 40 passes for 438 yards and four touchdowns. Wide receiver Will Blackwell caught all of Blanton's touchdown passes and finished with 11 receptions for 280 yards.

"Cal shut down our running game," Blanton said. "They brought the blitz and mixed it up a lot."

Smith became the second Cal player to record consecutive rushing games of 150 or more, joining Russell White, who played at Cal from 1990-92. Smith gained 183 yards against San Jose State last week.

"Maybe some day he'll be considered a great back," Cal Coach Steve Maricucci said. "Two games can't do that, but he's starting off real well."

Cal (2-0) had 11 sacks, including three each by Andy Jacobs and Sakou Sanyika.

"They pretty much beat us physically," San Diego State Coach Ted Tollner said. "They ran the ball, we didn't. They had the sacks, we didn't. Their front played more physical than we anticipated. We were getting whipped."

After Smith gave Cal a 42-24 lead early in the fourth quarter with a 13-yard run, the Aztecs responded with an 80-yard touchdown pass from Blanton to Blackwell to close the gap to 42-31.

San Diego State scored on a 20-yard pass play from Blanton to Blackwell to close to within 42-37 with 4:04 remaining. A two-point conversion failed.

A fumble recovery by Cal's Evan Collins set up a touchdown early in the second half. Andre Rhodes knocked the ball out of Blanton's hands at the Aztec 17-yard line.

The Bears capitalized one play later when Pat Barnes, who threw for 278 yards on 15-of-29 passing, and tight end Tony Gonzalez connected on a touchdown pass. That gave Cal a 31-21 lead 47 seconds into the third quarter.

The Aztecs scored on a 36-yard field goal by Peter Holt at the end of the third quarter. That was set up by a fake punt and 39-pass from Noel Prefontaine to Julius McChristian.

Smith put Cal on the board three minutes into the game when he broke loose for a 90-yard run, the third-longest run in Cal history and the longest touchdown run since Joe Kapp ran 92 yards in a 1958 against Oregon.

Smith gave the Bears a 14-0 lead when he caught a screen pass from Barnes and went 34 yards with 8:59 left in the first quarter.

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