BERKELEY, Calif. — Jahvid Best rushed for 144 yards and scored two touchdowns to make sure No. 10 California avoided a letdown against Eastern Washington with a 59-7 victory Saturday.
Best caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from Kevin Riley in the first half and scored on a 1-yard run in the third quarter for the Golden Bears (2-0). Riley also ran for a touchdown and Shane Vareen had three short TD runs as Cal posted its second straight blowout to open the season.
After starting off with a 52-13 victory over a Maryland team that handed the Bears their first loss last season, Cal remained focused against the Eagles, who play in the lower-division Football Championship Subdivision.
The schedule gets tougher for Cal beginning next week with a trip to Minnesota next week. The Bears then open the Pac-10 season the following week at Oregon before hosting No. 3 Southern California on Oct. 3 in what should be a showdown between the conference’s top two teams.
Best should be well-rested considering he’s only had to carry the ball 27 times the first two games. That hasn’t limited his production much as he has run for 281 yards and scored four touchdowns.
He almost had one of his now-routine lengthy runs late in the first quarter but he stepped on the sideline turning a 75-yard touchdown into a 30-yard gain. His biggest highlight came on a broken play. With Riley being pulled down by a defender, the quarterback one-hopped the ball to Best well behind the line of scrimmage.
Best turned a would-be sack into a 15-yard gain on his final carry of the game. Three plays later, Vareen scored his second touchdown from 2 yards out to make it 38-7.
Best’s other highlight came when he beat linebacker J.C. Sheritt on a decided mismatch in speed and easily got open on the 22-yard touchdown catch that gave the Bears a 24-7 lead.
Knowing his team was overmatched, Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin twice went for it on fourth-and-short in his own territory in the first 35 minutes only to be stopped. In the second quarter, Matt Nichols threw an incompletion on fourth-and-1 from his 38. Three plays later, Best caught his TD pass.
Eastern Washington was then stopped on fourth-and-1 from its 42 in the third quarter, setting up Vareen’s second touchdown run.
Riley completed 13 of 20 passes for 148 yards.
The Eagles nearly upset an FBS team last season before giving up two late touchdowns in a 31-24 loss at Colorado. This game didn’t get off to such a good start for Eastern Washington, when kick returner J.T. Leggin slipped on the opening kick, forcing the Eagles to start the game at their own 6.
All they managed on the first drive was to avoid a safety. Nichols just managed to fight out of the end zone on a sack by Eddie Young. Taiwan Jones got stuffed on the next play and a delay of game backed them up even further. After a punt, Cal started its first drive on the Eagles 35. Four plays later, it was 7-0 on a 1-yard keeper by Riley.
But instead of portending a blowout, the Eagles held with the Bears for the first quarter. Nichols completed eight of his first nine passes, beating Cal star cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson on a 36-yard pass to Aaron Boyce and throwing a 4-yard TD to Grant Williams to tie the score midway through the first quarter.
Nichols finished 23 for 31 for 195 yards and the touchdown.