April 12, 2024
Cal's two running backs -- sophomore Jaydn Ott and transfer Isaiah Ifanse -- combined for five rushing touchdowns.

Starting quarterback Sam Jackson V was injured and lost for the game barely a minute into the second quarter, but Cal didn’t skip a beat in a 58-21 rout of North Texas in its season opener Saturday at Denton, Texas.

Jackson, the TCU transfer, appeared to injure his shoulder, although there was no immediate report on the nature of his ailment. He was wearing a sling on his left arm on the sideline during the second half.

Didn’t matter in this one as the Bears — one day after accepting an invitation to join the Atlantic Coast Conference next fall — buried the Mean Green with their highest-scoring game since a 73-14 rout win over Grambling State in their 2015 opener when Jared Goff was quarterback.

Sophomore Jaydn Ott rushed for 188 yards and two touchdowns and backup Isaiah Ifanse, a transfer from Montana State where he set a program record for career rushing yards, contributed 54 and three touchdowns.

Ben Finley, a summer arrival from North Carolina State, replaced Jackson at quarterback at completed 24 of 34 passes for 279 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown to Washington transfer Taj Davis.

Cal, which outscored UNT 25-0 in the second half, finished with 669 yards of offense, including 312 through the air and 357 on the ground.

Jackson, whose dual-threat talents earned him the starting job, was 3 for 4 for 33 yards with a 23-yard TD to Jeremiah Hunter. He also ran the ball three times for 18 yards, including the play on which he was injured.

Cal’s point total in offensive coordinator Jake Spavital’s return to Berkeley was just one shy of its season-high from all of last year. The Bears, who struggled offensively the past four years, hadn’t scored 50 points in a game since a 52-49 double-overtime win over Oregon in 2016, when Spavital served as Sonny Dykes’ coordinator.

They put up 55 points in a bowl victory over Air Force in 2015.

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Jackson’s injury marred what was otherwise a largely encouraging first half for Cal, which led 33-21 at the break.

Ott ran 14 times for 166 yards with touchdowns of 4 and 66 yards and additional gains of 41 and 38 yards. And Ifanse added 53 yards on eight attempts with TDs of 26 and 8 yards. Ifanse broke at least seven tackles on the first of those scoring runs.

Cal’s defense limited North Texas to 2.3 yards per attempt — the Bears averaged 9.2 in the half — but quarterback Stone Early hurt them with the deep pass, completing 12 of 18 for 174 yards with 3, 59 and 12 yards in the half.