Story Poster
Photo by Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Cal Football

Bears Grind Out Season-Opening Win Over UC Davis

August 31, 2019

BERKELEY – The rhythm is gonna get you.

It got to UC Davis, at least.

The Cal football team overcame a nightmarish beginning and finally found its rhythm Saturday, grinding out a 27-13 victory over the Aggies in its 2019 season-opener at California Memorial Stadium.

Cal senior Ashtyn Davis fumbled away the opening kickoff. Quarterback Chase Garbers began the game 3-for-9 for 16 yards and an interception. The Bears' heralded defense yielded 107 yards of offense in the first quarter, when the Bears fell behind 10-0.

But that was pretty much if for UC Davis. Garbers completed six of his next seven passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. Cal's defense allowed just 157 yards through the final three quarters. And the Bears outscored the Aggies 27-3 the rest of the way.

"A turnover on the first play of the game is as about as bad as you can start," said Cal Justin Wilcox, who won his season-opener for the third straight season. "You could feel the first quarter. We couldn't get any rhythm on either side."

While most of the Bears were getting it together after the first quarter, sophomore Christopher Brown Jr. was Cal's one constant. In his first career start, Brown Jr. rushed for 197 yards and a touchdown on 36 carries, becoming the first Cal running back to rush for at least 100 yards in his initial start since Jahvid Best amassed 111 yards in 2009.

"We knew Chris would touch the ball a lot," Wilcox said. "He's a big, physical guy and this is his type of game – give it to him and let him break tackles. He's a hard guy to bring down."

Garbers ended up going a respectable 16-for-28 for 238 yards and two touchdowns, both to Michigan transfer Kekoa Crawford. His 37-yard scoring pass to Crawford early in the second quarter seemed to settle him down, and he added a 26-yard TD throw to Crawford early in the fourth period.

"We went down 10 and just treated it play by play," Garbers said. "You're not going to win every play. We just kept the same mindset and were true to ourselves."

Brown's 5-yard touchdown run with just over three minutes left in the third quarter put the Bears up 20-13 and Cal extended the advantage to 27-13 after Crawford hauled in a pass in the end zone that was initially tipped by UC Davis' Jaylin White.

Junior transfer Kuony Deng made an immediate impact in his Cal debut, leading the Bears with 12 tackles and two pass break-ups. All-American candidate Evan Weaver had 11 tackles.

"(Deng) was eager to get out there for his first game," Wilcox said. "Every rep he gets, he's learning something. He has some good traits. He's just going to keep getting better and better. He's eager to learn and he's a great, great kid. He just eats it up."

Cal plays its first road game of the season next Saturday when the Bears travel to Seattle to face No. 13 Washington. The game begins at 7:30 p.m. and airs on Fox Sports 1.

subscribe Verify your student status
See Subscription Benefits
Trial only available to users who have never subscribed or participated in a previous trial.