If there was any doubt that California Coach Bruce Snyder was excited about his team's 37-13 victory over Clemson in the Florida Citrus Bowl, he settled the issue with one silly gesture. The normally reserved coach climbed atop a 15-foot ladder, addressed the 6,000 Cal fans who traveled 3,000 miles to the game and then led the Cal band in the school's fight song.
"I don't know why I did it," Snyder said. "It just happened. But I think they could have done it without me."
If Snyder's conducting debut was less than perfect, it was one of the few things that didn't go Cal's way Wednesday.
The Bears took the opening kickoff, drove down the field and never looked back. Along the way, they impressed almost all of the 64,192 who braved an afternoon rainstorm to watch a game that lacked any suspense.
Mike Pawlawski, Cal's quarterback, had little trouble moving the ball. He completed 21 of 32 passes for 230 yards and one touchdown. In atypical modesty, he said: "It wasn't as easy as you make it sound. There was a lot of hitting going on out there."
Russell White, Cal's All-American tailback, became the first running back in 38 games to rush for more than 100 yards against Clemson's defense. White gained 103 yards in 22 carries against the nation's No. 1 defense against the run.
"People keep asking me about it, but it doesn't mean that much to me, it's more on their end," White said. "I'm used to raining on people's parades."
Apparently, it meant something to Snyder, who kept White in the game until he got 100 yards. "How big a deal was it?" Snyder asked. "Let's just say it was worth doing."
So Cal could pass and it could run. But that wasn't all. Brian Treggs, the team's leading receiver, added a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown. Clemson had allowed only 86 yards on punt returns in its previous 11 games. Treggs had 108 yards in the first quarter.
"They haven't seen anybody as quick as me," said Treggs, who had called the matchup the "thoroughbreds vs. the elephants."
"They're used to big, slow punt returners in the ACC who don't do as much as I can. . . . I just asked my team to block for me and I'd do the rest," Treggs said. "All I remember is all the Clemson players falling down."
Whatever the comparison, Clemson clearly wasn't ready for what Cal provided offensively.
"I think the best team won," said Clemson Coach Ken Hatfield, who saw his team's bowl victory streak ended at five. "They were well prepared and took control right from the get-go."
The get-go was the opening drive during which Cal (10-2) was even successful on a three-handoff flea-flicker for a 36-yard gain on a pass from Pawlawski to White. Greg Zomalt got the touchdown with a one-yard run on the 10th play of the 76-yard drive and Clemson (9-2-1) was behind, 7-0.
Doug Brien kicked a 31-yard field goal with about four minutes left in the first quarter. And Treggs left virtually no doubt as to the outcome four plays later, scoring on his punt return.
"It was really unbelievable the way they played," said Chester McGlockton, Clemson's 325-pound defensive tackle. "I didn't think anybody could do that to us. We were stunned."
Nelson Welch' 32-yard field goal for Clemson at the end of the first quarter made it 17-3 but took little of the sting away.
White scored Cal's next touchdown midway through the second quarter on a two-yard run.
One of Clemson's few bright spots came five plays later when quarterback DeChane Cameron saw his passing pocket collapse and took off on a 62-yard run down the left sideline for a touchdown.
"They came with a blitz and I saw an opening down the middle," Cameron said. "I was just able to to outrun the backside corner."
Cal came back with a 33-yard field goal by Brien just before halftime. Clemson scored for the final time early in the third quarter on a 36-yard field goal by Welch.
Cal used another trick play to set up its next score midway in the third quarter. On third and 27 on the Clemson 32, the Bears used the "fumblerooski"--an intentional fumble designed to allow a lineman to carry the ball. Eric Mahlum, a guard, was the recipient and he lumbered for 16 yards and put Cal in field goal position. Brien followed with a 34-yard field goal.
"We call that play when we can't think of anything else to call," Snyder said. "Actually, we came in with a bag of tricks. We called them early, and when they work it can be very unsettling to the other team."
Cal's final score came with about four minutes left in third quarter on a 23-yard pass from Pawlawski to Sean Dawkins.
"We had a lot to prove and we needed to show that the game we played in November was not the real Cal team," Cal linebacker Mack Travis said, referring to the Bears' 38-21 loss to Stanford. "We needed to show that we weren't some prissy team from the West Coast who was lucky to be playing a team from the East Coast. . . . I think we proved that."
The prissy question was answered, but whether Snyder will be back at Cal remains unanswered. He's said to be the leading candidate for the Arizona State job at an estimated $500,000, twice his Cal salary. He's also said to be first in line should Dennis Erickson leave Miami to go to the NFL.
He bristled when reporters asked him about it.
"Can we talk about this game?" Snyder said. "Is that OK? I think the essence of all of this is Russell White, who gained over a hundred yards on the No. 1 defense; Mike Pawlawski, the offensive player of the game; Brian Treggs, who had a lot of yards and Mack Travis, the defensive player of the game. That's the issue here today."
It was an issue that Clemson could find no answers to.