FAIRMONT, W.Va. – It had been some 650 days since California University played a meaningful football game.
On Thursday night, the rust was there as the Vulcans needed to score 20 unanswered points to start the game to come away with a 23-14 victory over Fairmont State in a non-conference game.
The Vulcans have won 14 of its last 17 season openers. The Vulcans were playing their first game since Nov. 16, 2019 after the 2020 campaign was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cal’s defense saved the day, holding the Falcons to 145 total yards including 42 on the ground. Cal held Fairmont State quarterback Connor Neal to modest stats. Neal was 9 of 19 for 103 yards and was sacked five times.
His counterpart, Noah Mitchell, was 29 of 48 for 301 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
Anthony Beitko made two fiels goals and Kyle Brunson scored on a 2-yard run to make it 13-0. Mitchell hit Cam Tarrant with a seven-yard TD pass to make it 20-0 with 10:51 left in the third quarter.
The Falcons’ Buster Griffin returned the ensuing kickoff back 95 yards for a touchdown, and Fairmont State scored on a 25-yard pass from Neal to Shawn Harris eight minutes later to make it 20-14.
Cal’s defense then took over the game, shutting Fairmont State down the rest of the way. Beitko made a 31-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter to provide the winning margin.
Noah Dillow had a game-high 13 tackles and quarterback sack for the Vulcans. Tyson Hill caught nine passes for 155 yards and Tarrant had nine catches for 50 yards and the touchdown.