Cal Bears football podcast with Morris Phillips: Cal makes the anniversary of the play proud with a comeback of their own

California linebacker Jackson Sirmon (8) celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown on a recovery of a Stanford fumble on Sat Nov 19, 2022 (AP News photo)

On Cal Bears Football podcast with Morris;

#1 The Cal Bears (4-7) trailed for a majority of this game on Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley but held onto win it as the Bears Jackson Sirmon took advantage of a fumble and returned it for a 37 yard touchdown for a Cal 27-20 win at the Big Game.

#2 The Sirmon touchdown came after the Stanford Cardinal (3-8) fumbled two balls away after leading through three quarters 17-6. Cal started chipping away at the Stanford defense with Jack Plummer throwing to Monroe Young for a one yard touchdown to close the gap 17-12 at 11:18 left in the game.

#3 Jackson Simon scored at the goal line for Cal on a fumble recovery with 9:54 left in the game and a Jadyn Ott caught the two point conversion got Cal in front 20-17.

#4 Three plays in the next offensive series for the Bears Ott capitalized again carrying for a one yard score to put Cal on top for good with a ten point lead 27-17 with 0:58 left. Stanford Joshua Karty hit a 61 yard field goal for the Cardinal’s last score in a 27-20 final.

#5 Cal hosts the UCLA Bruins (8-3) Fri Nov 25th at 1:30pm at UC Berkeley. The Bruins have lost two games in a row and lost their last game to the USC Trojans (10-1) 48-45.

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Big Game Bounce: Sirmon’s scoop and score propels Cal past Stanford, 27-20

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY, CA–Midway through the fourth quarter of the 125th Big Game, Jackson Sirmon was just another guy on either team eager to change the narrative of a dismal season, willing to do anything possible to avoid another loss.

One play later, Sirmon was a hero, forever immortalized in the rich history of the series between Stanford and Cal.

When the football inexplicably starts exchanging hands at Memorial Stadium, grab it. Just like “The Play” 40 years ago, the intertwined memories last forever.

“I was in the right place at the right time,” Sirmon said. “All I did that play is I didn’t mess it up. The ball came right to me and I ran with it.”

Sirmon’s scoop and score–after Stanford backup quarterback Ashton Daniels then Cal’s Jeremiah Earby both fumbled on the play–gave Cal its first lead of the evening, 20-17. Prior to Sirmon’s miracle play, the Bears’ defense was confounded, trailing 17-12 and likely facing some tough questions regarding Stanford’s fast start that saw them lead 10-3 after the game’s initial possessions in the first quarter.

Both Bay Area rivals came into Saturday’s showdown saddled with a second straight losing season dragged down by a bunch of injuries, and the inability to muster much offense at all.

Stanford hadn’t scored more than 16 points in any of its previous, five games, and Cal hadn’t won a game since September 24. In front of sellout crowd, and on the 40th anniversary of Cal’s miracle, 25-20 win in 1982, something had to give.

Cal trailed 17-6 to start the fourth quarter, and they didn’t exactly jump into the driver’s seat when Jack Plummer connected with Monroe Young for Cal’s first touchdown (on their 10th offensive possession) with 11:18 remaining in the game. The ensuing two-point conversion failed, and the Bears–trailing by five–were needing the unlikely combination of a second, go-ahead touchdown along with shutting down the Cardinal for the remainder of the game.

But Stanford resorted to trickery, bringing in Daniels for a designed run that saw him stripped of the football by Daniel Scott when he approached the line and tried to bounce outside.

Earby recovered Daniels fumble, but was stripped by Daniels when the pair crossed paths. That’s when Sirmon rushed up, grabbed the ball seamlessly on a bounce and raced in from 38 yards out.

“As a defensive player, you don’t get a lot of opportunities to score touchdowns and you have to enjoy them when you get them,” Sirmon said. “It was very neat especially considering the timing of it all.”

Five plays later, and after a pair of incompletions intensified the pressure on starting quarterback Tanner McKee, he was picked off by Scott, who returned the ball 18 yards, setting up Cal, first and goal at the nine.

The third, consecutive running play for freshman Jaydn Ott finished in the end zone, and Cal was in command, up 27-17 with 58 seconds remaining.

“We know how important this game is to us as a team, our administration and our support staff,” coach Justin Wilcox said. “Our fans and students were just incredible tonight. What an awesome environment.”

The game featured several, strategical twists as both teams desperate to change their fortunes, saw their coaching staffs pull out all the stops. The Bears, with an undisclosed, chain of command calling their plays after offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave was dismissed earlier in the week, completely abandoned their run game in the first half.

Not surprising given the Bears’ desultory offensive line play, but eye-catching because Stanford came in allowing nearly six yards per rushing attempt, ranking them dead last among 131 FBS teams.

The result? Cal unleashed a short passing game that utilized Ott as a pass catcher with success, but several drops, and a critical end zone interception thrown by Plummer saw Cal go into the half trailing 10-6. The Bears failed to convert any of their first, five third down conversion attempts, and they suffered Plummer’s pick immediately after they finally converted on a fourth down attempt.

Stanford started Mitch Leigber at running back, a converted safety with no one to back him up because of a rash of injuries decimated the Cardinal’s depth chart. Leigber was terrific with 83 yards rushing on 22 carries, but when he needed a blow, coach David Shaw elected to lift McKee and bring on Daniels as a quarterback whose sole intent was to run the ball. But on Daniels seventh rush attempt the game switched as he was stripped and fumbled.

Cal (4-7, 2-6) finishes its season on Friday afternoon with a home game against UCLA.

DWIGHT GARNER PASSES, MOEN STATUE REVEALED: A 1,500 pound Statue of Cal hero Kevin Moen was debuted in a ceremony outside the stadium on Friday with the likeness of the rugby, football star holding the football high above his head as he did after crossing the goal line, concluding “The Play” in 1982.

At the ceremony, it was announced that Dwight Garner, an Oakland native and a freshman in ’82, passed away this week after battling prostate cancer in Florida. Garner, 58, handled the third lateral on “The Play” and was nearly tackled before shuttling the ball, and prolonging the play. It was his portion of the sequence that embittered Stanford players who felt Garner’s knee was down before he released the ball.

Southern Discomfort: Bears start slow, never settle in, and fall at home to Southern U. 74-66

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY, CA–A slow start and tentative play doomed the Cal Bears again in a 74-66 home loss to Southern.

The Bears trailed 9-1 and 31-15 as the Jaquars, from the SWAC conference, came out hot, then gained confidence on a night they would shoot a blistering 52 percent from three. A dejected coach Mark Fox started with perimeter defense when trying to dissect how his team fell to 0-4.

“I can’t put a defense together that gives us a chance to win,” Fox admitted. “Twelve 3-point makes, and we repeatedly failed to guard the 3-point line.”

The visitors, coached by former Kentucky Sean Woods, weren’t necessarily brimming with confidence after starting their season with double-digit losses at UNLV, Arizona and St. Mary’s, but they did gain some traction with their competitive, first half against the Gaels on Wednesday. Their emphasis on exploiting their quickness advantage at the guard spots was spot on as their screens designed to free up shooters gave Cal fits.

“No doubt,” Woods declared when told Fox said SU’s fleet guards were problems. “We can shoot, dribble and pass and we did it tonight.”

Brion Whitley led Southern with 18 points, and P.J. Byrd and Dre’Shawn Allen each scored 13. The trio was a combined 12 for 12 from the foul stripe as Cal was made to pay when they resorted to reaching when trying to defend.

The Bears never led, but they did shoot better in the second half after trailing 38-26 at the break. After making just seven field goals in the first 20 minutes, Cal improved to 50 percent shooting the rest of the way, including 7 of 16 from three. But throughout they never appeared confident, and Southern’s defense retreated to the painted area, daring Cal to make some outside shots.

Lars Thiemann, who finished with 15 points, saw his impact lessened when Southern packed it in. Cal was left to hoist perimeter shots, some which fell, but the process kept them from gaining any rhythm offensively. Devin Askew led the Bears with 21 points, but the transfer guard had a rough evening with seven missed shots and seven turnovers.

“I’m asking Devin Askew to do everything,” Fox said. “He’s having to do too much. We’re asking him to do more than is probably fair.”

Fox wanting to put emphasis on his belief that his team’s winless start falls squarely on his shoulders, declined to make any of his players available to the media after the game.

Cal last started a season with four, consecutive losses in 1998. The Bears are 35-64 in their first 99 games under Fox, who could suffer an, unprecedented fourth, consecutive losing season with stops at Nevada and Georgia prior to coming to Cal in his 17 seasons as a head coach.

Could help be arriving soon? That’s to be determined as Cal is still without transfer DeJuan Clayton, who Fox says has yet to practice due to a lower body injury. Guard Jarred Hyder is also out, and leading, returning scorer Jalen Celestine isn’t expected to see action for another three to four weeks after off-season surgery.

“It’s going to be a work in progress until we get another shooter on the floor,” Fox said.

The Bears host Texas State on Monday before traveling to Florida for two games over the Thanksgiving break.

Cal Bears football podcast with Michael Duca: Cal has home field for Big Game; Can Bears edge Stanford for the Ax?

California wide receiver Monroe Young (14) misses a pass from quarterback Jack Plummer during the second half of the team’s NCAA college football game against Oregon State at Corvallis on Sat Nov 12, 2022 (AP News photo)

On the Cal Bears football podcast with Michael:

#1 Cal who fired two of their assistant coaches on Sunday Bill Musgrave offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Angus McClure was this firing a matter of a poor job of coaching the offense by Musgrave and McClure or the talent on the Bears just isn’t there?

#2 Head coach Justin Wilcox said that it was in the best interest of the team and that changes in the coaching staff was necessary.

#3 After the changes in assistants how do you see the benefit of the change for the Bears offense going forward.

#4 Cal is on a six game losing streak at this rate is there a possibility if the continue to lose do you see them making a change at head coach with Justin Wilcox?

#5 Stanford has lost three straight games going into the Big Game this Saturday Cal has home field can you see a chance for a bounce back especially after the assistant coaching changes for Cal to edge this one out?

Michael does the Cal Bears football podcasts at

Still Searching For A Win: Bears Fall to 0-3 with 64-62 loss at UC San Diego

By Morris Phillips

The Golden Bears now have surprising losses to Division I newcomer UC San Diego in consecutive seasons.

And not only that: only four UCSD players returned from the 80-67 win in the season opener for both teams in Berkeley a year ago, so essentially Cal has fallen to two, different groups of Tritons.

The one constant? 6’3″ junior guard Bryce Pope.

Pope spearheaded the host’s first half surge that saw UCSD lead by as many as 18 points, then hold on for a 64-62 win. Last season, Pope laced Cal with 18 points on four threes. On Tuesday in front of a raucous, sellout crowd in La Jolla, Pope led the Tritons with 19 points including five 3-pointers, and the back breaker with 12 seconds remaining.

Coach Mark Fox didn’t like what he saw from his Bears early, as they dug themselves into a 28-10 hole, and in his opinion, didn’t follow the game plan.

“We did nothing that we wanted to do in the first half defensively,” Fox said.

At halftime, Fox admitted that he eschewed making changes, but simply asked his guys to play with greater attention to the original plan. And they did, cutting a 37-27 halftime deficit to one point twice in the game’s last three minutes. But the Bears never grabbed a lead, and they were sent home with a defeat when Pope connected from distance, increasing UC San Diego’s lead to 64-60 with 12 seconds left.

Devin Askew, who led Cal with 13 points, cut the lead in half with a driving layup, but he couldn’t connect on a desperation runner at the buzzer from 30 feet that would have given Cal the win.

Fox, beginning his fourth season as head coach, saw his record drop to 35-61, and he certainly didn’t come to Berkeley to be a conduit energizing other UC system schools. But that’s where he stands with an 0-5 record against UCLA, 0-2 against UC San Diego and a 2019 win against UC Davis, as well as an eye-opening loss 75-65 to the Aggies in this season’s opener.

His frustration was evident in post-game remarks on the Cal radio network.

“Does the bus have to run over you before you concentrate?” Fox said. “We played with much more purpose in the second half than we did in half number one.”

The Bears missed seven of their first eight shots, and committed eight turnovers in the game’s first eight minutes. Again, they played better approaching halftime, and during frantic, second half rally, but the desired result didn’t materialize.

Starters Lars Thiemann, Kuany Kuany and Grant Newell also scored in double figures for Cal, as that trio had an exemplary 18 of 21 performance from the foul line. But the Bears didn’t fare well defensively on the perimeter and they certainly missed Jalen Celestine, Jarred Hyder and DeJuan Clayton–all out with injuries–in that regard.

The Bears return home for a Friday night meeting with the Southern Jaquars from the SWAC conference in search of their first win.

Cal Bears football podcast with Morris Phillips: In order to beat Stanford, Cal needs to drum up some offense; Big Game this Saturday on tap at Cal

Cal Bears quarterback Jack Plummer looks for an intended receiver against the Oregon State Beavers at Corvallis on Sat Nov 12, 2022 (AP News photo)

On the Cal Bears podcast with Morris:

#1 A 38-10 Cal Bears (3-7) loss at Oregon State (7-3) on Saturday was the team’s sixth in a row dating back to September 24 when the Bears improved to 3-1 by blowing out Arizona.

#2 The five losses that followed were competitive at some point during the four quarters. That wasn’t the case against the Beavers on a cold, misty night in Corvallis.

#3 Cal trailed at the half 21-7 after their offense hit a new low with just 53 yards of total offense before the break. The visitors fell in a deeper hole when Oregon State scored on their first two possessions in the third quarter to lead 31-7.

#4 “We haven’t played up to the standard that we’ve set as a team,” coach Justin Wilcox said. “We haven’t coached well enough, we haven’t played well enough. It is totally unacceptable.”

#5 Stanford and Cal match up for the Big Game this Sat at Cal Berkeley a 2:30pm kick off who’ll get the Ax this season?

Join Morris for the Cal Bears podcasts at

Cal limited to 156 yards in offense in dismal 38-10 loss at Oregon State

By Morris Phillips

The last time the Cal Bears approached the Big Game on a point this low they found the silver lining.

Can a wholely satisfying win over Stanford rescue this season like it did in 2019?

The Bears hope so.

A 38-10 loss at Oregon State on Saturday was the team’s sixth in a row dating back to September 24 when the Bears improved to 3-1 by blowing out Arizona. The five losses that followed were competitive at some point during the four quarters. That wasn’t the case against the Beavers on a cold, misty night in Corvallis.

Cal trailed at the half 21-7 after their offense hit a new low with just 53 yards of total offense before the break. The visitors fell in a deeper hole when Oregon State scored on their first two possessions in the third quarter to lead 31-7.

“We haven’t played up to the standard that we’ve set as a team,” coach Justin Wilcox said. “We haven’t coached well enough, we haven’t played well enough. It is totally unacceptable.”

Cal failed to score an offensive touchdown in the contest. They were limited to a 36-yard field goal by freshman Michael Luckhurst with 12:30 remaining in the game. Cal’s lone touchdown came with 2:33 remaining before halftime when cornerback Jeremiah Earby recovered Ben Gulbranson’s fumble and raced 33 yards for the score.

Gulbranson paced OSU with 15 of 23 passing for 137 yards and two touchdown passes. Cal’s Jack Plummer was limited to 60 yards passing in the first half, and finished with 147 yards through the air on 22 of 35 attempts.

Cal’s one offensive play of note was a 40-yard completion to J. Michael Sturdivant before halftime.

The losing streak ends any hopes the Bears (3-7, 1-6) will gain bowl eligibility. Instead the Bears will end the season with the 125th Big Game this Saturday followed by a Friday after Thanksgiving contest against UCLA. Both games will be at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley.

In 2019, Cal defeated Stanford 24-20 for the first time following nine, consecutive losses in the lengthy series between the two schools. The Bears were unlikely winners in that one after they dropped four of their previous five, but got a huge boost from the return of quarterback Chase Garbers for the 122nd Big Game.

Cal Caught in the K Zone: K-State, Keyontae knock the Bears for a loop in 63-54 loss

BERKELEY, CA–Keyontae Johnson’s rebirth rolled through Haas Pavilion Friday afternoon, and it was nothing less than inspiring regardless of the architect’s humility.

“I just thank the team for having confidence in me to let me showcase what I’m capable of,” Johnson said after his double-double led Kansas State past Cal, 63-54. “Without them, those plays would have never happened.”

Johnson is the highly-regarded NBA prospect who saw his career at Florida end nearly two years ago when he collapsed during a game at Florida State. A medically-induced coma lasting three days spoke to the anxious moments Johnson and his family endured.

Johnson recovered, but his basketball career was put on hiatus until this week. Now at rebuilding Kansas State, Johnson is back on the court and the focal point of his new team. Nine of Johnson’s team-best 16 points came in the first half as the Wildcats gave Cal fits, while building a 36-21 lead at the break.

The Bears committed 15 turnovers, made just seven baskets on four assists in a nightmare-like, first 20 minutes. The hosts recovery was dramatic as they drew within 47-46 on Sam Alajiki’s lay-in with 5:37 remaining. But K-State’s Jay Nowell scored the next six points and the Wildcats survived to move to 2-0 on the season.

“We dug too big of a hole in the first half,” coach Mark Fox said. “We’re playing a lot of young guys and they made some errors – and they’re going to make some errors – but I was proud of how we competed. I’m disappointed that we didn’t find that competitive nature earlier.”

Squandering a 42-22 lead they held with 15:31 remaining caused the visitors some anxious moments. But the defensive effort they displayed in the first half returned down the stretch.

“We (tried) to get as many stops as possible within five minutes,” Nowell said of the final minutes. “We just came together and talked it out and figured out the way that we needed to do to win.”

The Bears fell to 0-2 with the loss and diversifying their offense likely will be their focus heading into Tuesday’s trip to UC San Diego for their meeting with the Tritons of the Big West Conference. Cal has averaged just 59 points in their first two contests.

The Bears are currently without the trio of Jalen Celestine, Jarred Hyder and DeJuan Clayton due to injuries and none appear ready to return as soon as next week.

“We found a little grit to us in the second half, and that’s important for us because until we get healthy we’re going to have to win some gritty games,” Fox said.

33-1: Cal’s first-ever loss to UC Davis, 75-65, comes in the season opener

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY, CA–When the moment of decision presented itself Monday night, the UC Davis Aggies seized it.

And with that the unprecedented happenings within the Cal basketball program multiplied.

Cal’s 75-65 loss to UC Davis in the season opener for both teams was their first in the 34-game series that dates back to 1917.

The Bears lost their season opener at home for the second, consecutive year on the heels of their 80-67 loss to UC San Diego last year.

And most significantly, the Bears, picked to finish 11th in the Pac-12 coach’s pre-season poll might not exceed expectations and suffer an unprecedented, sixth consecutive losing season, and their fourth under coach Mark Fox.

After trailing the Aggies for 26 minutes, including halftime, the Bears gained a 54-53 lead with 11:32 remaining with Devin Askew and center Lars Thiemann leading the way. Kuany Kuany’s 3-pointer and Grant Newell’s layin following a Thiemann offensive rebound gave Cal its biggest advantage at 60-54.

Then as quickly as Cal was engaged and whole, they splintered.

The Aggies put together a 17-1 run over the next seven minutes that muted the host’s crowd and decided the contest. Robbie Beasley Jr., Ty Johnson and leading, returning scorer Elijah Pepper combined for 15 of the 17 points, and UC Davis was in command leading 71-61 with 2:53 remaining.

“When we came back and took the lead, we just had a couple awful possessions that led to baskets for them, and we never recovered,” Fox said.

“We got sped up and didn’t take the right shots,” Thiemann said.

While playing at a quicker pace, and attacking the basket aggressively, the Aggies had success from the opening tip, building a 27-21 lead while shooting 68 percent from the field through the first 10 minutes. Cal steadied at that point as Thiemann and Askew kept them within reach, down 41-35 at the break.

Both of Cal’s leaders would go on to record career bests with Askew scoring 19, and Thiemann 17. The Cal center also contributed eight rebounds, two blocks and two steals.

Christian Anigwe, younger brother of record-breaking Kristine Anigwe from the Cal’s women’s program, led UC Davis with 21 points.

All of the Pac-12 teams hosted non-conference opponents on opening night, and only Cal and USC suffered losses. The Trojans fell 74-61 to Florida Gulf Coast. With the loss, Mark Fox has a 35-59 record at Cal in his three plus seasons at the helm.

The Bears host Kansas State on Friday at 4pm.

Cal Bears football podcast with Morris Phillips: Cal hopes to rebound from USC loss head to Washington State for Saturday kickoff

California’s Jeremiah Hunter makes a reception against Southern California defensive back Ceyair Wright at USC in second half action in Los Angeles on Sat Nov 5, 2022 (AP News photo)

On the Cal Bears football podcast:

#1 Lots of scoring by the Cal Bears (3-6) against the USC Trojans (8-1) as the Trojans gave up four touchdowns in the second half where Cal almost caught up with the Trojans at the end of the contest last Saturday.

#2 For the Bears they pulled off 28 points for 290 yards in second half action. Cal quarterback Jack Plummer going 35-49, for 406 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

#3 Morris, in spite of the rough second half USC quarterback Caleb Williams threw for 360 yards, had one keeper, threw to receiver Michael Jackson for two touchdowns out his four touchdown passes.

#4 Morris it was close down the stretch as the Bears Jaydn Ott carried for his second touchdown with 2:31 left in the game and a two point conversion made got the Bears within a touchdown but time just ran out in the 41-35 USC win.

#5 Cal gets ready this Saturday for a trip to Oregon State (6-3) the Cougars have won three of their last four games. They were on a three game win streak until they dropped last Saturday’s game to the Washington Huskies 24-21. Morris how do you see Cal and Oregon State matching up this Saturday.

Join Morris for Cal football podcasts at