Trevor Mew faked the handoff and spun to bootleg.
Diablo Valley College's Kyle Kragen was there to greet him.
Kragen jarred the ball loose with a bone-crunching sack and teammate Zach Preuss scooped up the fumble for a 30-yard touchdown return less than 10 minutes into Saturday afternoon's game.
It was a preview of things to come.
The Vikings' defense brought constant pressure, sacking Merced College eight times, as the Blue Devil offensive line struggled to respond.
DVC's offense didn't have any such problems, racing out to a big lead early and cruising to a 41-17 victory at Stadium '76.
"We came out flat and just didn't play very well in the first half," said MC head coach Bob Casey, whose team fell to 2-3 on the season.
"We played for 30 minutes, and you can't do that against a team this good."
The game was all-but decided in a disastrous first quarter by the Blue Devils.
CJ Best got the scoring started with a 10-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter. Preuss doubled the lead on MC's ensuing possession, returning Mew's fumble for a score.
Daniel Mouro provided the Blue Devils' lone bright spot in the opening quarter, nailing a 50-yard field goal to trim the lead to 13-3.
Any momentum MC grabbed with the kick was quickly erased as DVC responded with a six-play, 62-yard drive capped by a Vince Farrante 2-yard scoring run that made it 20-3. The Blue Devils never recovered.
Mew (19 of 26 for 205 yards) and the MC offense moved the ball, but couldn't finish drives.
The Blue Devils drove down inside the DVC (2-3) 20-yard line twice more in the first half, but came away empty, and Mouro missed a 53-yard field goal attempt to open the second half.
For the second time in three weeks, Casey summoned Rudy Monteon off the bench in an attempt to spark the offense. The sophomore quarterback from Merced was able to do just that.
With MC trailing 34-3 late in the third quarter, Monteon led back-to-back scoring drives.
Monteon hit Jarrell Davis (seven catches for 74 yards) with a 14-yard TD reception just before the end of the third quarter and, after a Brad Avila interception on the Vikings' next possession, Dallon Muse rumbled in from three yards out to trim the lead to 34-17.
"Rudy is obviously a little more mobile than Trevor," Casey said. "He was able to escape some of the pressure and make some plays. Our offensive line did not block very well today. I think we surrendered more sacks today than we had all season.
"It's hard to look for receivers down the field when there's a defender constantly in your face."
Monteon (4 of 10, 61 yards) got a taste of the pressure with just over a minute to go, when his arm was struck by a defender as he attempted to throw. The ball floated into the hands of linebacker Kenny Schrader, who returned it 55 yards for the score.
"Now that I have a few college reps under my belt, I'm feeling more comfortable out there," said Monteon. "The game definitely slowed down a bit. We just didn't give ourselves a very good chance to win. We can't keep counting on being a second-half team.
"We need to come ready to play from the opening snap and I think we'll be OK."
DIABLO VALLEY 41, MERCED COLLEGE 17
At Stadium 76
Diablo Valley 20 7 7 7 41
Merced College 3 0 6 8 17
DVC CJ Best 10 run (kick blocked)
DVC Zach Preuss 30 fumble return (Nathan Kuzbari kick)
MC Daniel Mouro 50 field goal
DVC Vince Farrente 2 run (Kuzbari kick)
DVC Best 11 pass from Quinn Kaehler (Stephane Vanier kick)
DVC Andre Lewis 20 pass from Kaehler (Kuzbari kick)
MC Jarrell Davis 14 pass from Rudy Monteon (Run failed)
MC Dallon Muse 3 run (Matt Lavender pass from Davis)
DVC Kenny Schrader 55 interception return (Vanier kick)
Records: Diablo Valley College 2-3; Merced College 2-3.