Hibernate? No, More Like Dominate: Bears end season on high note, beat Illini 35-20 in Redbox Bowl

By Morris Phillips

SANTA CLARA, CA–The Illini moved the ball, but the Bears moved the needle, making the majority of the big plays in their 35-20 Redbox Bowl victory over Illinois on Monday at Levi’s Stadium.

The Bears captured their first Bowl victory since the 2015 Armed Forces Bowl win over Air Force, and won eight games in a season for the first time in the last four seasons. Most importantly, they seized momentum heading into what should be a promising 2020 season.

“We talked in the locker room about the 2020 team,” coach Justin Wilcox said. “The expectations should continue to rise. There’s no reason why we can’t expect more of ourselves.”

Cal could return as many as 18 starters in 2020, 10 of those on offense. Chase Garbers previewed the upcoming season with an outstanding performance against Illinois, completing 21 of 31 for 272 yards and four scores, and a rushing touchdown as well. The Bears went as Garbers did in 2019, and the month-long break leading up to Monday’s contest allowed the redshirt sophomore to be healthy and effective, as the Cal offense kept the pressure on Illinois throughout.

Garbers was named the game’s offensive MVP, another honor for the quarterback who scored the winning touchdown in the final minute that broke Cal’s lengthy losing streak to Stanford.

“We knew there would be a lot of opportunities out there,” Garbers said. “The receivers did a great job running the right routes and catching the ball. I just had to put the ball where it’s supposed to be.”

The key play of the game may have come with 25 seconds remaining before halftime, and Cal clinging to a 14-10 lead. On the previous, third down play, Garbers was stuffed at the three-yard line, setting up a fourth down decision.

The Bears elected to go for it, passing on a field goal attempt that could have established a seven-point, halftime lead. Instead, Garbers found Christopher Brown Jr. on a swing pass that put Cal up 11.

The vaunted Cal defense had struggled to that point, allowing scores on Illinois’ first two possessions. But the defense stiffened from that point, allowing just one score–a fourth quarter, Reggie Corbin touchdown run–in the second half with Cal ahead comfortably at that point, 35-13.

All-American linebacker Evan Weaver finished the game with nine tackles, falling short in his bid to break the NCAA record for tackles in a season. Weaver finished with 182, short of Texas Tech’s Lawrence Flugence’s total of 193 established in 2002.

The Bears were outgained in total yards 450-395, but they came up with the big plays, like Zeandae Johnson’s sack and strip of quarterback Brandon Peters that ended Illinois’ initial possession of the second half.  Brown contributed Cal’s lengthiest gainer, a 54-yard run in the first half, but Cal’s scoring plays were all executed in the red zone. Garbers threw touchdown passes covering just 2, 3, 4 and 6 yards.

“Our offensive staff did a great job putting a game plan together and trying to dial it up,” said Wilcox, giving a respectful nod to outgoing offensive coordinator, Beau Baldwin and offensive line coach, Steve Greatwood, who announced his retirement in the days leading up to the game. Baldwin previously was announced as the new head coach at Cal Poly.

The Bears open the 2020 season in Las Vegas against UNLV on August 29 in Allegiant Stadium, the new home of the Raiders and the Rebels.


Cal Dumps UCLA 28-18, awaits their bowl destination with a seventh win

By Morris Phillips

With a record-number of bowl eligible teams populating the FBS, Cal needed to go one step further to insure they will have one of the coveted 78 spots.

So beating UCLA in their regular season finale wasn’t icing on the cake, it was essential.

After spotting the Bruins a 7-0, first quarter lead, the Bears shut the door, methodically wearing down UCLA in a 28-18 victory. The Bears finish with a 7-5 regular-season record for the second, consecutive winning season, an achievement they haven’t had since 2009.

“Getting seven wins–be in position to win a bowl game–and have a chance to play somebody really good at a great location is really exciting,” said coach Justin Wilcox.

The Bears once again dealt with the scheduling oddity of finishing their season against someone other than Stanford. After winning the Big Game in dramatic fashion last Saturday–breaking a nine-game losing streak to the Cardinal–the Bears looked focused, and ready to play, no easy feat given the circumstances playing on the road on the holiday weekend.

The game time temperature was decidedly un-Southern California like 49 degrees, and drizzle was present throughout. With UCLA suffering through a fourth, consecutive losing season, the attendance suffered with fewer than 40,000 fans in the cavernous Rose Bowl.

“I think we came out and imposed our will on them. We had that mindset during practice all week,” said Chase Garbers, who made a second straight start after missing the previous four games with a shoulder injury. Garbers overcame a slow start, completing 17 of 29 passes for 230 yards and one touchdown. His one-yard run in the second quarter gave the Bears a 14-7 lead they would not relinquish.

Christopher Brown Jr. ran for 111 yards and two scores, putting the starting back over 100 yards for the first time since the season opener against UC Davis. Brown’s second score, a 10-yard run, put the game away with 2:33 remaining and Cal clinging to a 3-point lead at that juncture.

Record-setting linebacker Evan Weaver lead a Cal defense that shut down the Bruins, registering six sacks, and limiting UCLA to 58 yards rushing on 35 attempts. Weaver had nine solo tackles, allowing him to pass Cal great Hardy Nickerson as the all-time, season-leader in tackles with 173.

UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson kept his team in it by completing 23 of 39 passes for 271 yards, but five sacks took their toll. Thompson-Robinson failed to finish the game, getting knocked out in the fourth quarter, one week after he was unable to finish the game against USC.

The Bears (7-5, 4-5) will wait until December 8, after the completion of the conference championship games, to find out their bowl destination. Their likely landing spots are the Cheez-It Bowl at Chase Field in Phoenix, or the Redbox Bowl at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

Return Of The Axe: Garbers, Cal responds late to capture the 122th Big Game, 24-20

By Morris Phillips

STANFORD — Chase Garbers began the week as a question mark, unable to practice, and an unlikely participant in the Big Game against Stanford.

He ended the week, standing tall in the end zone after scrambling 17 yards for the winning score as Cal shocked Stanford, 24-20, with two touchdowns in the game’s final eight minutes.

“To make some of the throws that he made on the last drive and then the scramble for the touchdown, those are huge plays,” coach Justin Wilcox said of Garbers. “And I think people are going to be talking about that drive for a while.”

With Cal facing the possibility of a tenth consecutive loss to their Bay Area rival, Garbers and receiver Nikko Remigio stepped up, firmly planting their names on the face of the rivalry. Garbers started the day tentatively, throwing instead of taking an opportunity to run for a first down in the second period. He finished the Big Game as a duel threat, throwing for 285 yards, and running 13 times for 72 yards as well.

Remigio finished with nine catches for career-best 157 yards. With 7:44 remaining, and Stanford leading 17-10 while holding Cal scoreless in the second half to that point, Remigio broke free in front of the goal post and caught a 17-yard, game-tying touchdown from Garbers. Then on Garbers game-winning touchdown, Remigio’s block on Stanford safety Jonathan McGill near the goal line created space for the quarterback to score.

Ironically, Remigio had a pair of second quarter drops against USC the previous week that helped the Trojans break open a close game and go on to a 41-17 victory over Cal. On Saturday, Remigio had the best game of his career.

“Nikko did a great job,” Garbers said. “He was missing a couple of games due to injury, but he played one of his best games I’ve ever seen him play today. And awesome to have a wideout like him who is so versatile.”

Stanford’s Davis Mills played well enough to be the game’s hero, by completing 26 of 35 passes for 283 yards in place of the Cardinal’s injured K.J. Costello. But two interceptions in the third quarter hurt Mills’ effort, including the first career interception by Cal’s Daniel Scott.

Both teams came into the game with numerous injuries, and Stanford reportedly played with 25 players unavailable. But the game was competitive throughout, and well played, with Davis’ interceptions the only turnovers for either team. Both teams avoided penalties as well, committing just four each.

The win gave the Bears (6-5, 3-5) bowl eligibility for the second, consecutive year with one game remaining next weekend at UCLA. The loss insures that Stanford will finish with a losing record for the first time in 10 years. The Cardinal had made bowl appearances in each of those 10 seasons.

Stanford completes their season with a home game against No. 16 Notre Dame next weekend.

Cal fans stormed the field after the game surrounding the Axe–the game’s signature prize–as well as enthusiastically greeting the players. Evan Weaver, Cal’s record-breaking linebacker, was congratulated by his father, and Remigio got emotional when meeting his family.

“I was sitting there crying like a baby,” Remigio said. “It was an indescribable experience.”

Garbers also had the chaotic scene create an indelible memory for him as well.

“I saw a bunch of people rushing the field and a lot of people jumping. I was trying not to get knocked over. But it was awesome to see the Cal fans get up on the field and celebrate with us because it really means a lot to them and us,” Garbers said.

Cal fades late in classic defensive struggle with No. 13 Oregon, lose 17-7

By Morris Phillips

Cal’s heralded defense knew it had to be good Saturday night. Oregon’s defense quietly thought it could be that much better.

In a meeting of Pac-12 contenders, the Bears shut out quarterback Justin Herbert and the Ducks for nearly three quarters. But Oregon was even stingier, limiting Cal to 12 first downs and a touchdown in the first quarter.

Lifted by their defense, the Ducks came from behind in a 17-7 win that was hard earned as they come.

“These guys hold themselves to a high standard,” said Oregon coach Mario Cristobal of his defensive unit. “They’ve really established that amongst themselves in the locker room, through the way we walk, and the way we practice. All of us feel that we continue to elevate the status of our defense, and it’s exciting to watch.”

Devon Modster started fast in place of the injured Chase Garbers and was significantly better than his relief appearance against  Arizona State. But after the early scoring pass to Christopher Brown Jr., the Ducks pass rush quickened, and they methodically erased Cal’s receivers. The Bears were hurt significantly by the in-game injury to experienced center Michael Saffell that caused the line to shuffle.

“I thought (Modster) handled himself really well,” Cal coach Justin Wilcox said. “There were a couple of throws in there that he can make that we didn’t quite connect on, but I thought he was calm and his demeanor was good. I think he’s going to keep improving the more he plays.”

The Bears were hurt by two missed field goals by senior Greg Thomas, the second with fewer than four minutes remaining and Cal trailing by 10. But defensively, the Bears were as good as advertised, shutting out the Ducks in the first half, which hadn’t happened to the home team at Autzen Stadium since 2004.

Ashtyn Davis had a critical, red zone interception in the first half, Kuony Deng and Luc Bequette piled up the tackles as the Ducks attempted to move star linebacker Evan Weaver away from the path of the plays they ran. Camryn Bynum was outstanding in pass coverage for the Bears as well. But once, the Ducks got their big breakthrough with Cyrus Habibi-Likio’s short touchdown run to give Oregon their first lead, 10-7 with 1:38 remaining in the third quarter.


With Garbers lost to injury, ASU seizes an opportunity with big 24-17 upset win over No. 15 Cal

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY, Calif. — By the numbers, Friday Night Lights in the Pac-12 conference has been pretty predictable.

Fifteen games, 13 wins for the home team.

But if you throw a veteran coach with the pedigree of Herm Edwards into the mix, the task of going on the road–against a good team–on a short week gains some clarity.

It did for Arizona State, and the task became even clearer when Cal quarterback Chase Garbers was felled with a shoulder injury.

“We forced them to throw the ball. We had to put our best guys on their guys and go cover them,” Edwards said.

“We’re playing the 15th ranked team on the road. You can’t be afraid to win. We had nothing to lose. The pressure was on them.”

In a tight ballgame that was tied after each of the first three quarters, the Sun Devils didn’t flinch. With the exception of the opening drive of the second half, the Cal running game was shut down. Garbers kept the Bears churning, throwing a 16-yard touchdown pass to Treveon Clark, but he was finished before halftime after he was tripped up and fell hard on shoulder.

The wopening drive of the second half provided momentum for Cal. They ran the ball on all 12 plays, played at a faster pace, and took a 14-7 lead on Christopher Brown Jr.’s 1-yard run.

But Arizona State answered right back, first with a big kickoff return from Brandon Aiyuk that was aided by a 15-yard penalty on Jose Ogunbanjo for grabbing Aiyuk’s face mask. Seven plays later, the Sun Devils were tied again after Benjamin Eno’s touchdown run.

Ogunbanjo gained some redemption when he recovered ASU quarterback Jayden Daniels fumble forced by linebacker Cameron Goode. That set up the Bears at the ASU 30-yard line with 11:58 remaining. But the Bears did little offensively, settling for Greg Thomas’ 47-yard field goal.

The field goal and the 17-14 lead would be Cal’s final push of the evening. Behind the running of Benjamin, ASU responded, turning a 15-play drive into a 21-17 lead with 6:16 remaining. Benjamin challenged himself and his offensive mates on the sideline prior to the drive.

“They don’t have their starting quarterback,” Benjamin told his teammates. “We have to take advantage of it.”

The Sun Devils registered back-to-back road upsets of ranked teams in nearly 15 years by beating the Bears, and No. 18 Michigan State two weeks ago. Edwards declared that being the visitor took the pressure off his team in both cases.

“When it’s a one-score game, you’re comfortable being uncomfortable,” Edwards said of his team’s mindset.

Afterwards, the Bears pointed to their lack of effort as the difference in the game.

“Can’t play very well and can’t win games when you’re not even making the simple plays, and we didn’t today. That was it,” said linebacker and defensive leader Evan Weaver.

The Bears failed to move to 5-0 for the first time since 2015. They travel to Oregon next week for a meeting with the No. 13 Ducks.

Garbers enjoys his best game, Cal improves to 4-0 with 28-20 win over Ole Miss

By Morris Phillips

This time the concern wasn’t a slow start, or an overconfident finish. The Bears survived the heat, and the early, Eastern time zone kickoff and played with the lead throughout.

But in a game this close, something had to set the Bears apart, it may have been how they caught their second wind, and smoothly transitioned into the second half. A 14-13 halftime score grew to a 28-13 Cal lead in a matter of minutes, enough for the Bears to hold on for a 28-20 victory over Ole Miss, the first time a Pac-12 school has gone to SEC country and emerged with a win since Oregon won at Tennessee in 2010.

“We talked about some things schematically on both sides, but it was really a matter of execution,” head coach Justin Wilcox said. “I think it’s a little bit over stated, but the offense came out and had a great drive, and the defense got a couple three-and-outs back-to-back. But the middle of the game, second, and third quarters, the defense played better.”

Cal’s defense forced three, empty Mississippi possessions in the third quarter. Still trailing by 15, the Rebels put together a 14-play drive, but saw that squandered when Luke Logan missed a 29-yard field goal with 9:30 remaining.

Chase Garbers keyed the Cal attack with 357 yards passing and four touchdowns. Garbers threw a pick with Cal leading 14-10 in the second quarter. That was his first turnover since the opener against UC Davis, and it allowed the Rebels to climb closer with a second quarter field goal. But Garbers responded, throwing touchdowns less than three minutes apart in the third quarter.

The Bears operated for the most part without a power running attack with Christopher Brown Jr. and Marcel Dancy combining for 20 carries and fewer than 60 yards rushing. But Garbers made the offensive imbalance less noticeable by completing nearly half of his 24 completions for more than 10 yards, and completing passes to nine teammates in the process.

Wilcox eluded to the total, roster effort in assessing the win afterwards. The head coach also hinted to injuries mounted throughout the roster, an issue that the Bears overcame by contributions from numerous players.

“The guys who are banged up, we have to work to get healthy, and these other guys have to keep growing with the reps they are getting,” Wilcox said.

Mississippi quarterback Matt Corral led an attack that amassed 525 yards in offense and didn’t commit a turnover. But the Rebels lost Corral in the fourth quarter to a rib injury, and couldn’t realize a game-changing play. With backup John Rhys Plumlee seeing the first action of his college career, the Rebels pulled within 28-20. But a game-ending drive to possibly tie the game died on the one-yard line when Elijah Moore caught a pass and was stopped at the one-yard line, then on the next play, Plumlee’s rush up the middle was stuffed by Cal’s Evan Weaver.

Weaver came up with 22 tackles, bettering his career-best effort at Washington two weeks ago. Weaver has made at least 10 tackles 11 times in his Cal career. Mississippi’s fast start that netted 10 points on their first three possessions, frequently targeted Cal’s outside backers, who were integrating some new pieces. But the unit held up in subsequent Ole Miss possessions, keeping Cal from being forced to make schematic changes.

“The young guys know what they’re doing,” Weaver said. “They’ve been through camp, they’ve been here a few years. They got in and played great. They did a great job. A few miscues like I said, but nothing we can’t fix with film.”

The Bears attempt to realize a 5-0 start to the season on Friday when Arizona State visits Berkeley in a 7:30 pm start.

All About The Coaching: Cal’s improbable 15-14 upset win over USC rooted in strategy and adjustments

By Morris Phillips

How to end a 14-game losing streak in 60 easy steps. If it sounds complicated, that’s because it is.

What isn’t complicated is this: Normally stoic Cal head coach Justin Wilcox richly deserved to cut it all the way loose with his emphatic gesturing as his Bears put the finishing touches on their improbable comeback win at USC Saturday night.

And USC coach Clay Helton might want to skip listening to sports radio on his lengthier than usual drive home after the game.

Wilcox’s Bears ended their 14-game losing streak to USC at the Los Angeles Coliseum with a performance that was literally all over the place. But regardless of the methods, Wilcox predicted it, scripted it and willed it, giving creedence to his mandate that his football team win at least six games this season and go bowling for the first time since 2015.

“I appreciate what it means to be bowl-eligible. It’s hard to win in this conference and it’s hard to win at USC,” Wilcox said. “It’s a big deal for all the Cal Bears out there.”

To make it happen, Cal played dead in the first half, came roaring back into the game in the third quarter, and stay focused–if not productive–to seal the deal in the fourth.

Firstly, kick returner Ashtyn Davis flubbed the opening kickoff, briefly losing the ball, only to recover it at the three-yard line with a knee on the turf where he was ruled down. On the first play from scrimmage, Patrick Laird was dropped after a 2-yard gain, and Chase Garbers threw a pair of incomplete passes, forcing Cal to punt.

Inauspicious start for the Bears? Yes. It would continue.

Confident that it could key on Laird, and stop the Cal receivers in their tracks, the Trojans defense shined in the first half, limiting the Bears to three first downs and 60 yards in total offense. Meanwhile, USC would recover from failing to capitalize on excellent field position afforded by Cal’s poor first position. After seeing a fake field goal turned pass to the kicker blow up in playcaller Helton’s face, the Trojans stayed patient, scoring touchdowns on two of their four second quarter possessions to lead 14-0 at the half.

Helton, who assumed play-calling duties from offensive coordinator Tee Martin following back-to-back losses in the final two games in October, dialed up a pair of touchdowns that overcame the absences of reveiver Michael Pittman Jr. and running back Stephen Carr. With quarterback J.T. Daniels back from missing a game due to a concussion, the Trojans functioned admirally. After Daniels 23-yard pass to Tyler Vaughns for a touchdown, USC led 14-0 with more than half of the second quarter to go.

But things would change dramatically in the third quarter when a snap over Daniels’ head would result in a safety with Aca’Cedric Ware recovering the ball in the end zone with a pair of Cal defenders in proximity for a possible touchdown. The Bears trailed 14-2 at that point.

But superior field position would set up Cal’s first touchdown, and Traveon Beck’s interception would set up Cal’s second touchdown. After Garbers scampered in from five yards out, the Bears led 15-14 with time remaining in the third.

Over Cal’s next three possessions–all in the fourth quarter–Cal would run just 12 plays and gain 36 yards, jeopardizing their lightning rally in the third. But Cal’s defense made it work, coming up with a pair of sacks and timely pass breakups to keep the Trojans sinking in mud. As soon as USC reached midfield and approaching position for a lead-changing field goal try, Evan Weaver would come up with a sack of Daniels to force a punt.

Weaver would record a game-best 12 tackles and a second sack on USC’s previous possession.

With Cal needing first downs to bleed out the clock, they did just that, running 10 plays that evaporated the game’s final 4:50, and setting off a wild celebration on the Cal sideline while the majority of the Coliseum fell silent.

The Bears improved to 6-4 with games at home against Stanford and Colorado remaining that could turn Cal’s season from encouraging to extraordinary.

Meanwhile, the Trojans again blew a lead, falling to 5-5, and increasing the chatter across Southern California that Helton should be fired. If the Trojans can’t beat UCLA next week and/or Notre Dame after Thanksgiving, the rumblings will grow even louder.

The Great Escape: No. 8 Washington State avoids Cal’s upset bid with a touchdown in the game’s final minute

By Morris Phillips

Preparation, effort and playmaking put the Cal Bears on the precipice of the biggest upset in the Pac-12 Conference this season. But ultimately, the Bears were let down Saturday night by late-game execution in a frustrating 19-13 loss at No. 8 Washington State.

Aesop Winston Jr. caught a 10-yard touchdown pass with 32 seconds remaining to break a 13-13 stalemate, and the Cougars escaped with their Pac-12 title and national championship aspirations intact.

The improving Bears remain one game short of bowl eligibility, and the Cougars stay on track for possibly the biggest season in their program’s history, but it almost didn’t turn out that way.

“I think it’d be a war, and it was,” coach Mike Leach said. “It came down clear to the end and I was proud of our guys for sticking in there and finding a way to win when it’s tough.”

“We knew we could have won that game,” Cal’s Brandon McIlwain said. “Today it just didn’t go that way. Out team fights. We compete and we put ourselves in the position to win.”

The biggest component to Cal’s upset bid was their approach to limiting WSU quarterback Gardner Minshew, who had thrown for at least 319 yards in every game this season. While Cal gave up 334 yards passing to Minshew, they dictated how and when the graduate transfer got those yards with an intricate gameplan.

The Bears’ defensive line eschewed a powerful pass rush on Minshew in order to put themselves in position to limit big plays and tackle pass catchers in front of them. The byproduct of the unusual approach was numerous pass deflections at the line of scrimmage, and Evan Weaver’s interception that set up Cal’s first and only touchdown in the second quarter.

That strategic wrinkle alone put the WSU crowd on edge, mindful of Cal’s upset of the Cougars in Berkeley last November. The Bears supplemented the approach with a time-consuming pace on offense that moved the chains and kept Minshew and the Washington State offense on the sidelines.

The Bears finished the game with 69 offensive snaps, while the Cougars were limited to a season-low 66 along with an average of only 6.5 yards per pass attempt. But Cal needed to fortify their approach with a couple of timely big plays on both sides of the ball, and that never transpired.

Instead, with the Bears in position to take a fourth quarter lead, McIlwain threw an interception at the goal line, and prior to that Garbers was picked off as well. Garbers avoided disaster by stripping WSU defensive back Willie Taylor III on his interception return near the goal line. When the stripped ball miraculously bounded past several defenders and out of the back of the endzone, Cal retained possession.

That led to Greg Thomas’ 42-yard field goal to bring Cal even at 10 just 36 seconds before halftime.

Winston’s game-winner came after both teams squandered opportunities to break a 13-13 tie in the fourth quarter. The former San Mateo Serra and CCSF star was one of 11 receivers to catch at least one ball for WSU in the game, and the final drive proof that the Cougars depth wore on the Cal secondary. The drive covered 69 yards in six plays, following a Cal three-and-out.

Minshew completed passes to three, different receivers on the drive.

WSU improved to 8-1, 5-1 in conference, Cal fell to 5-4, 2-4. The Cougars remain on track to represent the Pac-12 North in the conference championship game, and if they win out, could gain a berth in the National Championship bracket.

Cal needs a win against USC, Colorado or Stanford to gain bowl eligibility with six wins.

Cal’s come a long way: Defense shines in surprising 12-10 upset win over No. 15 Washington

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY, Calif. — Jake Browning passed for nearly 400 yards and six touchdowns on his previous trip to Memorial Stadium. With his pair of fleet receivers repeatedly making big plays, an overmatched Cal defense was completely taken apart, allowing 66 points for only the second time in school history.

Flash forward two years, and Browning’s field of dreams morphed into a house of horrors, as the senior quarterback was intercepted, and benched briefly in Cal’s jaw-dropping, 12-10 upset win.

One touchdown allowed as opposed to nine? Browning on top of the world, then benched in the return engagement? Clearly, Cal’s defense has come a long way in a short period, just ask Coach Petersen and the Huskies.

“Obviously, they had good players and I just think we just did not execute in a lot of stuff,” said UW’s Drew Sample. “We missed some blocks from a tight end perspective. We just, as a whole, were not in good positions so you know it showed. We couldn’t sustain drives. We couldn’t get in rhythm and we had shots at the end. We couldn’t execute.”

Still, Washington led at the half, 7-6, in part due to Cal’s Greg Thomas missing a 41-yard field goal attempt on the final play before halftime. But when Petersen saw his offense sputter on two possessions in the second half, the one-point lead mattered little. Browning, the senior leader with 90 career touchdown passes, was briefly benched.

“That had more to do with me trying to do something to help this offense way more than it did with Jake,” said Petersen. “Jake is a competitor. Jake does everything we ask. But, you know, we got to try help this offense out somehow, someway.”

Instead redshirt freshman Jake Haener helped Cal’s defense. On his second pass attempt, Haener overthrew his man and was picked by Cal’s Evan Weaver. Weaver deftly worked his way to the end zone, reaching for the corner pylon.

Cal assumed the lead, 12-7, add stubbornly held on even as their offense managed just 245 yards the entire game. And that’s after Browning missed just two series before Petersen relented, and put his senior quarterback back in the game.

Cal’s defense never snapped, erased the issues stopping the run they experienced against UCLA, and did it from the start. The Huskies–again without top runner Myles Gaskin–scored just seven points in the opening, their fewest this season. The Bears allowed three points in the second half, the fewest they’ve surrendered after halftime this year.

“It’s a great environment in the locker room as you would expect but I also don’t think anybody’s surprised,” coach Justin Wilcox said. “We weren’t perfect but found a way to win.”

Cal embarks on a brief, two-game road trip starting with a Saturday, November 3 matchup against No. 10 Washington State at 7:45 pm PT on ESPN.