SYDNEY (AP) — After three seasons at Texas Tech, quarterback Davis Webb made quite an impression in his first game as a graduate transfer at California.
Webb threw four touchdown passes and ran for another score in a stellar debut for California, leading the Bears to a 51-31 win over Hawaii on Saturday in college football’s season opener at Sydney’s Olympic stadium.
Told he had 441 yards passing — 38 for 54, with no interceptions, Webb said dryly: “Yeah, it was OK, I’m just glad we got the victory. Hawaii threw a few blitzes at us and our offensive line played well.”
Khalfani Muhammad had 94 yards rushing and one touchdown, and Chad Hansen had 14 receptions for 160 yards and two scores to help Cal win the game played Down Under as a tourism initiative and to increase awareness of “gridiron” in the country.
“Phenomenal, I was energetic,” Muhammad said of his 34-yard TD run in the second minute of the game. “My first one, and it’s special, of course.”
Webb said it was a “very good victory” in his first game with Cal, but praised Hansen, who clicked with his quarterback from early on.
“As soon as Davis showed up at Cal, we just had a connection,” Hansen said. “I think being together, day in and day out, really helps that quarterback-wide receiver connection.”
The teams provided plenty of early entertainment for unfamiliar fans, part of a crowd of 61,247 in the 83,500-seat stadium, scoring two touchdowns each by midway through the opening quarter.
But Webb, who replaced Jared Goff — the No. 1 overall NFL draft pick by the Los Angeles Rams — helped move Cal into control in the second quarter.
Hawaii fumbled on a kickoff following Matt Anderson’s second field goal for Cal, and Webb’s 34-yard pass to wide receiver Hansen on the next play gave Cal a 27-14 lead.
“Too many mistakes and turnovers, and it cost us,” said Nick Rolovich, a former Hawaii quarterback making his head coaching debut for the Rainbow Warriors.
Webb got into the act himself, rushing three yards off-tackle for another Cal touchdown and a 34-14 halftime lead.
Hawaii was led by wide receiver Marcus Kemp with four receptions for 73 yards and one TD. Ikaika Woolsey was 17 for 34 and 234 yards passing with one TD and one interception.
Hawaii was without three key players for unspecified disciplinary reasons. A Rainbow Warriors spokesman said just before the game began that safety Daniel Lewis Jr., linebacker Jerrol Garcia-Williams and tight end Metuisela Unga were not with the team Saturday.
Cal coach Sonny Dykes said it was a good starting point for the season.
“There is still plenty of work to be done, but overall we played a very good game and never let them get back into it,” Dykes said.
He also praised Rolovich.
“I think that side is very well-coached,” Dykes said. “They made a lot of adjustments as the game went on and challenged us. He (Rolovich) will get Hawaii going.”
Rolovich might also go down as a good promoter of the sport Down Under. After losing the coin toss and Cal decided to receive, Hawaii tried an on-side kick that the Bears were able to recover at midfield.
“I wanted to make sure Australian fans got to see an onside kick, and in my first game, too.” Rolovich said, smiling. “But seriously, I hope it sends a message that we are going to play aggressively and won’t back down.”
CALIFORNIA: Webb’s strong debut reinforced the faith coach Sonny Dykes showed in him from the outset. Webb played in 23 games with 14 starts at Texas Tech and had career totals of 5,557 yards and 46 touchdowns.
HAWAII: The Rainbows Warriors need to avoid Pac-12 opponents to open their season. It’s the seventh straight year that Hawaii, part of the Mountain West conference, has opened against a Pac-12 team, and Hawaii is 2-5 in that span. Told the Golden Bears were 20-point favorites coming into the match, Rolovich said: “It’s a funny-shaped ball, it can bounce different ways.” Not Hawaii’s way on Saturday.
CALIFORNIA: The Golden Bears have another Mountain West Conference opponent — San Diego State. After a bye week, they’ll play the Aztecs at San Diego on Sept. 10. Cal beat SDSU 35-7 last year and holds a 4-3 head-to-head edge in games since 1982.
HAWAII: It gets doesn’t get any easier as the Rainbow Warriors make their first visit to the Big House when they play Michigan in Ann Arbor in Sept. 3. The Wolverines beat Hawaii 48-17 in 1998 in the only previous regular-season game between the teams.
NOTES: Two former California players— NFL running back Marshawn Lynch and punter David Lonie —were Cal honorary captains for the game.