BERKELEY, Calif. - Somehow, some way, maybe it all changes when they officially become members of the Pac-12 Conference in a couple of years. But in the here-and-now, a pristine September Saturday in 2010, the Colorado Buffaloes visited Cal-Berkeley's Memorial Stadium and quickly found themselves completely out of their league.
If this was a Pac-12 preview . . . finish the sentence as you see fit.
The Bears romped and rollicked to a 52-7 win, dealing the Buffs a seriously sobering loss and extending CU's road losing streak to 13.
"It's the most embarrassing game of my life . . . I don't know how to handle it," senior captain Scotty McKnight said. "We played terrible."
Cal, which could show up again on CU's schedule most likely in 2012, showed up the Buffs in almost every way imaginable in Saturday's first half, rolling to a 31-0 lead and essentially putting an early end to CU's long, unproductive and embarrassing afternoon.
McKnight, finishing with only two catches for 14 yards, quickly answered "no" when asked if anything went right for CU offensively. And that was hardly an exaggeration. The O-line put quarterback Tyler Hansen at risk early and often; he was sacked six times, threw three interceptions and lost a fumble.
"We felt like we had a mismatch at receiver, but we just couldn't get the ball out," McKnight said, alluding to the hounding Hansen endured.
One of Hansen's picks was on a desperate left-handed attempt aimed at tight end Ryan Deehan. "A dumb play," Hansen would say later. "I was just trying to make something happen." He did - but not what he intended.
Preseason All-America left tackle Nate Solder was beaten twice by 5-foot-11, 213-pound outside linebacker Jarred Price, a speed rusher who stayed low to the ground and cruised beneath the 6-9, 310-pound Solder.
"He was under me and that just made it that much harder," Solder said. "I'm not proud of it . . . it's kind of the way life works; you start feeling good about things and it kicks you in the butt."
Saturday's kicks were swift and plentiful. The Buffs might find some solace (but probably not) in this tidbit: Cal was up on its season-opening opponent 35-0 at halftime. But that foe was, ah, UC-Davis - and at last check the Pac-10 hadn't given a thought to bringing in the Aggies, who were flayed 52-3 by the Bears.
Cal converted four of CU's turnovers into 24 points - 17 of them in the decisive first half. The Bears' last TD came on an 82-yard fumble return by senior cornerback Darian Hagan, Jr., the son of CU's former quarterback and current running backs coach. It was a punctuation mark for Cal, which undoubtedly hopes CU's Big 12 exit and Pac-10 entry comes sooner rather than later.
"I couldn't have imagined (the final score)," Hagan, Sr., said. "They just wanted it more than we did . . . and the way we started - with the penalties and giving them the short fields - we lost our 'mojo.' They jumped on us."
CU coach Dan Hawkins called the Bears "definitely athletic (but) we knew that coming in . . . we got off to a bad start and it got worse from there."
Of CU's nine penalties, eight came in the first half and cost the Buffs 68 yards. They've now been flagged 19 times in their first two games. False starts have become their calling card.
"We didn't execute and it's very disappointing. We just keep shooting ourselves in the foot . . . we can't do that," said Hansen, who completed 18 of his 34 attempts for 166 of the Buffs' 239 yards in total offense (73 rushing). Cal totaled 356 (197 passing, 159 rushing).
To open their scoring, the Bears - picked to finish in the lower third in the Pac-10 this season - capitalized on the Buffs' poor field position, a 38-yard punt by Zach Grossnickle and Jeremy Ross' 23-yard return. Quarterback Kevin Riley (15-of-24, 197 yards, four TDs) hit tailback Shane Vereen with a 13-yard scoring pass, capping a meager 19-yard drive, for Cal's first TD.
The Bears also turned two first-half Buffs turnovers into touchdowns and another CU miscue into a field goal. Hansen had a hand in all of the first-half errors, throwing two interceptions and fumbling following a blindside hit that gave Cal possession at the CU 31.
The Bears scored six plays later to go up 14-0 on a 4-yard Riley to Marvin Jones pass, then added a 31-yard field goal by Giorgio Tavecchio to move ahead 17-0 following Hansen's first interception.
"We were killing our defense, whether we turning over the ball or not creating field position," McKnight said. "We have a ton of work to do."
After forcing CU to three-and-out, Cal used its longest first-half drive - 72 yards, six plays - to take a cushy 24-0 lead on Vereen's 3-yard run with 10:29 left in the half. The Buffs held the ball for the next 8:16, driving as far as the Bears' 2-yard line before a chop block penalty called on guard Ryan Miller and a false start by Solder pushed CU back to the 23-yard line.
Aric Goodman missed a 42-yard field goal attempt from there, and a series later Cal linebacker Mike Mohamed returned a Hansen interception 41 yards for the Bears' final TD of the half. It was 31-0, and most of the 7,000-plus CU fans sat in stunned silence.
"We weren't demoralized," senior cornerback Jalil Brown said. "But we knew we hadn't played well. We started out pretty good; we thought we were a lot better than we were. But this is real embarrassing."
CU finally scored with 2:37 to play in the third quarter when Hansen ran 4 yards on a keeper to finish a nine-play, 60-yard drive. He suffered a hyper-extended knee on the play but returned for the fourth quarter - in time to throw his third interception with 10:18 to play.
Cal outscored CU 21-0 in the fourth quarter, getting a pair of TDs on throws by Riley (8 yards to receiver Keenan Allen, 1 yard to backup tailback Isi Sofele) and Darian Hagan Jr.'s dash down the sideline in the final minute in front of the wildly celebrating Cal bench.
"We got kicked in the teeth . . . we'll see," Hawkins answered when asked how the Buffs will rally from the brutality. They have a week to figure something out; Hawaii, a 31-28 winner Saturday at Army, visits Folsom Field on Sept. 18 for CU's home opener.
FEELING IT OUT: CU went into the game unsure of what Cal would show defensively, making the first half a read-and-react session for Buffs offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau. In their 52-3 rout of UC-Davis in last weekend's opener, the Bears had to reveal almost nothing that new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast would favor in a more competitive game.
Kiesau said some tendencies were gleaned from watching Pendergast's defenses run by the Kansas City Chiefs, but until Saturday's first quarter CU still didn't have a handle on what Pendergast might do against a more potent offense.
"We were ready for their pressure," Kiesau said. "We were trying to protect (Hansen) as best we could."
He said he didn't believe Hansen was trying to do too much at his position: "He was trying to make reads and the game was moving fast."
PAC-12 UPDATE: Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott said weekend conversations with CU Chancellor Phil DiStefano and Athletic Director Mike Bohn left him to believe the odds of the Buffs joining his league in 2011 are "worse than 50-50."
Speaking to reporters before Saturday's game, Scott said after visiting with DiStefano at a reception Friday night in San Francisco and with Bohn on Saturday, "It sounds like some discussion (with the Big 12 Conference) is going on, but they're pessimistic (about 2011) and are thinking 2012."
Scott said the Pac-10 is looking at a "self-imposed" deadline of mid-October to address 2011 scheduling, but could remain flexible if CU "is still jostling with the Big 12. But I think we're going to hit a point in time when we're planning for a football championship game (and) television scheduling would become problematic."
Scott wouldn't say his league would rule out helping CU with any exit fee from the Big 12, but he added, "We can't anticipate new revenue until we enter TV agreements . . . before we start a football championship. There's too many unknowns right now; we couldn't commit to anything concrete up front. If they work out a deal and they come to us, we'll see what the situation is at that stage."
On Friday night in San Francisco, Scott said he got "a glimpse" of the atmosphere CU playing Pac-10 opposition would bring to the Bay Area. A reception drew about 1,000 CU fans and there were "Buffs all over the place," he said. "What's clear is that Colorado fans across the country - not just in the Bay Area - are excited about this."
IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Former Buffs linebacker Jordon Dizon made a Friday night stop by CU's hotel near the Oakland airport to see his former coach, Brian Cabral.
Dizon, who played for Cabral four seasons ago, was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 2008. He suffered a serious knee injury in a preseason game last month and underwent surgery to repair anterior cruciate, posterior cruciate and medial collateral ligament damage. Dizon's surgery was Wednesday in San Francisco.
Dizon said his doctor wouldn't let him attend the game, but several other former Buffs players were there, including Adam Bledsoe, Rashidi Barnes and Patrick Devenny.
BUFF BITS: Saturday's attendance was 55,440, marking Cal's 39th consecutive game to draw 50,000-plus fans . . . . Cal ran 60 offensive plays - the same number CU had in its 24-3 opening win against Colorado State. CU's play total Saturday was 76 . . . . FWIW: The Buffs led in possession time 32:15 to 27:45 . . . . The Buffs' net yardage on six punts was 31.3 . . . . After getting three turnovers in the opener (all interceptions), CU got none in Game 2 . . . . Deehan, who didn't have a reception in the opener, caught four passes Saturday for 51 yards . . . . Safety Anthony Perkins was CU's leading tackler with 11 (four solo) . . . . Cal is now 16-20-1 against Big 12 competition, CU is 38-35-1 vs. the Pac-10 . . . . The Bears are 35-6 at home since 2003. The only teams to defeat Cal at home during that time are Oregon State and Southern California.