SYDNEY — Davis Webb threw four touchdown passes and ran for another score in a sensational 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.
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.
The teams provided plenty of early entertainment for unfamiliar fans, scoring two touchdowns each by midway through the opening quarter.
But Webb, the graduate transfer from Texas Tech replacing 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 Hansen on the next play gave Cal a 27-14 lead.
Webb got into the act himself, rushing three yards off-tackle for another Cal touchdown and a 34-14 halftime lead. Webb was 38 for 54 and 441 yards total passing with no interceptions.
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.
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 over three seasons 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, new coach Nick 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.