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Cal Football

Mistakes Cost Bears in Ninth Straight Big Game Loss

December 1, 2018
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Everybody say Cheez It.

That is Cal’s likely bowl destination following Saturday dispiriting. 23-13, loss to Stanford in the 112th Big Game at Memorial Stadium, in a contest that was postponed from Nov. 17 because of the unsafe air conditions. Formerly the Cactus Bowl, the Cheez It affair will be played in Phoenix, Dec. 26. The official announcement of the entire bowl schedule will come Sunday.

Bear Insider
All 24 Seniors lining up as captains before the game.

Despite the final score in the Cardinal’s ninth consecutive victory in the series, the Bears (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12)  were very much in the game until late in the fourth quarter. But their own mistakes did them in as much as anything Stanford did. Two interceptions, a lost fumble, dropped passes a costly penalty and a missed field goal all contributed to the Bears undoing.

“It’s a tough one, everybody feels like they were kicked in the gut,” head coach Justin Wilcox said afterwards. “First, how much I respect our team for how hard they play and how hard they prepare. They are an unbelievably coachable group. It hurts because they had chances and they know it. We don’t need to relive all those things. We’ll fix it on the film. 

“We know we had opportunities. We’ve grown this year as a team, on and off the field, and that’s important. There is nothing  you can tell them to make anybody feel better.”

After falling behind 10-0 early in the first quarter the Cal defense pretty much bottled up the dynamic Stanford offense, particularly running back Bryce Love. The Stanford star had 34 yards rushing on six first quarter carries, and just 43 on 16 tries thereafter. 

And the Bears, trailing just 13-6 early in the fourth quarter, had the ball inside the Stanford 20, thanks to their one turnover, a fumble recovery. But Greg Thomas, who earlier had connected from 40 and 24 yards, would missed a 36-yard field goal.

Even then the Bears had some life. On the next drive they seemingly had the Cardinal stopped on their own 34. But a roughing the passer penalty on a third-down incompletion kept the drive alive and the Cardinal eventually added a field goal  to make the margin ten points with 3:43 left.  The game was all but over then, and on Cal’s nex series Stanford’s Paulson Adebo intercepted a Chase Garbers pass, his second pick of the day, and returned in 43 yards to the Cal 3. One play later Stanford scored a touchdown for a 23-6 lead.

The final Bears score, an 11-yard pass touchdown pass from Garbers to Jordan Duncan concluded Cal’s best drive of the day, 75 yards on 13 plays, was a meaningless addition.

After the game linebacker Jordan Kunaszyk, one of the Cal seniors playing his final home game, stood on the field and was acknowleged by some teammates, one at a time.

“I was soaking up my last time playing at Memorial Stadium,” said the linebacker who finished the game with five tackles and a forced fumble. “Obviously it didn’t end the way I wanted it to, but I’m so grateful for my experience at Cal and the experiences at Memorial Stadium, the fans and alumni who come to support us. I wanted to take a step back and be grateful for this experience and really just thank God for the opportuniity to play at Cal and for this university that I love so much.”

The game began as if the Cal players had missed their early morning wake-up call. Stanford had its 10-0 lead before the first period was 11 minutes old. The Cardinal took the opening kickoff and drove to the Bears 8-yard line, before the home team knuckled down and forced a Jeff Toner field goal attempt, which was good from 26-yards.

The Cal offense did little on its first series, and before you could say Cameron Scarlett, the backup running back had taken a screen pass 46 yards to the Cal end zone. It was a play that gave the Bears problems a couple of times.

Then the defense got serious and the offense stopped dithering  and the Bears made a game of it.

“We just settled down and played better,” Wilcxox said. “Stanford’s got a really good offense, ...The key was early downs. The first two drives in the first half they were ahead of schedule. And that made it difficult. But the guys settlied down and we started getting some first and second down wins and were able to get off the field.”

Early in the second quarter the Bears drove from their 41 to the Stanford 23. They converted one one fourth down and one third down, both courtesy of Malik McMorris. On fourth-and-one from the 50, McMorris took the ball into the middle of the line and moved everybody three yards,  The third down was a 9-yard pass to McMorris and the 5-11, 290 pounder, was hit by a couple of Stanford would-be tacklers and just kept on moving. He said he read quotes from Stanford players saying they were going to try to tackle him high so he kept his arm outstretched and let it do the work.

 However, the drive stalled and the result was Thomas’ 40-yard field.

On the next Cal series the offense was at it again, this time on the feet of Patrick Laird, another senior in his Memorial Stadium finale. He broke free down the west sideline for 62 yards that took the ball to the Cardinal 13. However, the drive stalled at the 7 and another field goal was necessary.

Cal Football Twitter
Patrick Laird on his 62-yard run in the second quarter.

Cal seemed to be on the move again late in the period, but McMorris, fumbled and Stanford recovered at its 46. That was a costly turnover as two catches by Stanford’s gifted receiver JJ Arcega Whiteside, the second a leaping 31 yard grab (above) at the Cal 1. That’s as far as they could go and with one second left  on the clock Toner kicked a field goal for 13-6.

Garbers finished 22-for-39 on his passing for 197 yards and that last meaningless touchdown, 

“i thought Chase did some good things,” head coach Justin Wilcox said of the redshirt freshman who was making his sixth consecutive start. “He seemed to be more comfortable. He was in a rhythm. He seemed confident. There were some throws Chase would like to have back, I’m sure, That’s always going to be the case. But I thought he got better. That’s one of the biggest things...He’s a young player and he’s got to continue to improve, but I thought he took a step forward.”

Garbers first interception, a diving one-handed grab by Paulson in the end zone on an off-target throw, did not hurt the Bears that much. Love fumbled on Stanford’s first play and Cal had the ball on the 23. It came to naught on Thomas’ miss.

Laird, his total boosted by the 62-yard jaunt, finished with 116 yards on 19 carries. It was the seventh 100-yard performance of his career and his second this season. He leaves this morning for Arkansas as one of the three finalists for the Burlsworth Trophy awarded annually to the nation's most outstanding football player who began his career as a walk-on.

He, like Kunaszyk was a little misty about ending his career.

“It sucks to end the season like this,” he said. “We have yet toi play our best football. We will find out who and where we are playing, and hopefully come out to play our best football. I’m really proud of this team. We didn’t accomplish everything we wanted to this season, but I love playing with the guys in that locker room. 

“It’s been a blessing and a great four and half years of my life. I love this program and I love Cal. It’s tough. This is my last one at Memorial. But we will bounce back on Monday and we will play our best game in a couple of weeks.”

Notes: Cal finished seventh among bowl eligible teams in the Pac-12 and the Cheez It is the seventh ranked bowl among the conference tie-ins. However, the Bears could sneak into the Las Vegas Bowl. ...Despite the early morning storms that hit the Bay Area, rains stopped by the noon kickoff time and the game was played under dry skies....Although there were some areas of empty seats, especially near the Stanford section, the announced crowd of 57,857 was the largest for a Big Game since 2012....Stanford’s Jake Bailey, who had a tough day punting, did get off an 84 yarder, which was aided by wind and a nice roll. ...It went into the endzone for a touchback to the net was just 64. ...Evan Weaver finished the day with 15 tackles and has 143 for the year, fourth on Cal’s all-time list. ...Kunaszyk finished with 133, currently eighth on the list. ...Laird’s four receptions gave him 50 on the year, tops among all-time Cal running backs. ...The old mark was 49 by Paul Jones in 1979.

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Discussion from...

Mistakes Cost Bears in Ninth Straight Big Game Loss

Wgltke
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My older brother went to Stanford. A sister and myself attended Cal. I am so tired of us losing. His wife and their 2 daughters went to Stanford. In the seven years those girls attended Stanford they never lost the big game. You have any idea what that feels like? It sucks.
Troll
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I can only imagine....sorry Bro, I wish I could say wait till next year. But mediocrity has been our trend. It is nice to go to a bowl game but will we ever be considered a power house or just spoilers.....
Bobodeluxe
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"will we ever be considered a power house or just spoilers....."?

No, but so what? It won't change.

Who wants a sausage?
chazzed
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I would like to express my gratitude to all of the Cal seniors. Good luck in the future but, for now, go get 'em in your bowl game!!
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