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Cal Football

Bears Fall in Heartbreaking Loss to TCU

September 11, 2021

AMON G. CARTER STADIUM -Redemption was on the minds of the Bears coming into today’s showdown in Fort Worth after a highly-disappointing season opener loss at home to Nevada Saturday. And while it looked like the Bears were ready to make a big statement over the 11-point favorite TCU, they ultimately fell, 34-32 in a game that went down to the wire in defeat. 

A week after playing fairly poorly in their loss to Nevada, QB Chase Garbers was a revelation in the first half, going 10-for-12 for 227 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions and a 227 QBR. Garbers finished the game 16-for-27 for 309 yards and two tds and no interceptions along with a big 55 yards on the ground after his two sacks were deducted.

“Watching the film, we saw there were some vulnerable spots deep down the field over the middle,” said Garbers. “We decided to take those shots and we won some 50/50 balls. I think that was huge for our success today. Unfortunately, we didn't get the win but I think we took a lot of strides as an offense.”

“We knew we’d have to be aggressive and take some shots down the field,” said Cal head coach Justin Wilcox. “We knew we’d have to complete some of those shots. They play a style of defense were there’s a lot of guys nine or 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. We knew we had to do that. We took a step forward in the passing game. Unfortunately, we still had some chances out there to convert third downs and keep the chains moving and didn’t quite get it done. Ultimately, it’s my responsibility to make sure the team’s prepared to play well and I’ve got to do a better job.

The game ultimately came down to missed PAT opportunities, with the Bears failing to add points after three separate touchdown drives, including a critical 2-point attempt after the Bears’ final score that would have tied the game at 34 with four minutes remaining. 

“As soon as you miss a PAT, you’re chasing a point now,” said Wilcox. “Throughout the rest of the game, you're chasing that point somehow, some way, all the way into the fourth quarter. We all know that. 

“It’s really frustrating. We have the ability to make that play. That first play was a poor snap and we've got to find a way to make that play and get it through. It’s something we should expect of ourselves. It can impact the rest of a game, as we all saw.”

The Bears were aggressive right out of the gate, driving to the TCU 7 after taking the opening kickoff but their drive stalled on downs. But after holding on D, they picked up right where they left off, only this time closing the deal with a quick TD, culminating in a Garbers to Trevon Clark 54-yard TD pass at 4:56 in the first quarter for the 6-0 lead after the extra point snap was mishandled -yet another in a series of special teams miscues running back to last season. Clark finished with two catches for 122 yards.

“It feels regular for me, in a way,” said Clark of his two big grabs. “We knew that we could run past them. That was part of the game plan and we executed it in practice the entire week.

“I feel like this is something we can do every week and can be a regular part of our offense.”

After trading possessions, a 47-yard Jamieson Sheehan punt pinned the Horned Frogs back at their 11 and the D stepped up big. Senior safety Daniel Scott played a Max Duggan pass in the flat to perfection, stepping in front of the receiver for the INT and strolling into the end zone for six. Looking to get back the missed points on the previous score, Wilcox opted to take the converted extra point off the board after a TCU penalty, going for two. The conversion failed and the Bears led 12-0 with 10:02 left in the half.

The Bears had Duggan on the run with third and eight on the Cal 39 on the ensuing drive but let the shifty QB escaped for the first down on the scramble. TCU capitalized quickly, with Duggan hitting receiver Blair Conright for a 30-yard TD pass on the next play to pull with five at 12-7 with 6:01 left in the half.

The Bears came right back, with Garbers hitting Clark deep again with a 68-yard catch and run to the TCU 7. Wasting no time, Garbers hit senior receiver Nikko Remiggio for a 7-yard td in the corner to stretch the lead to 19-7 after the Dario Longhetto conversion with 5:03 left in the half.

The Cal D was unable to protect the 12-point lead going into the half, letting former 5 star running back recruit Zach Evans break free for a 51-yard td in the final seconds of the half to pull to within 19-14 going into the locker room.

Capitalizing on the momentum it took into the half, TCU received the second half kickoff and marched down the field for a 15-play 75-yard drive, with Duggan hitting receiver Geor’quarius Spivey for the 7-yard TD to go up 21-19. The Bears twice had TCU in third and long situations on the possession but couldn’t hold, allowing the scoring drive to give the first Horned Frogs their first lead of the game.

In danger of letting the game slip away, the Bears offense woke up from their third quarter hibernation, stringing together an impressive 9-play, 80-yard drive to retake the lead early in the fourth quarter. Garbers keyed the drive with a 12-yard scramble along with a crucial 18-yard keeper on third and long. Running back Damian Moore capitalized two plays later with a 12-yard TD run up the middle to retake the lead, 26-21 after the Longhetto PAT with 11:37 left in the game.

The lead however was short-lived, as TCU marched right back down the field on a drive of its own, culminating on a 45-yard Duggan TD pass to receiver Quentin Johnston to pull back ahead 27-26 after their 2-point pass attempt failed. 

After the Bears next possession went nowhere, The Frogs picked up where they left off, driving 75 yards in just eight plays, with Duggan bursting up the middle with an 9-yard TD run to take their biggest lead at 34-26 with 5:47 left.

The Bears were not ready to call it a game, gamely putting together a clutch 6-play, 75 yard touchdown drive of their own, with Moore pushing it in from 1 with 4:09 remaining to go down by two. Attempting to tie the game with a 2-point PAT conversion attempt that appeared to score but was ruled a fumble and recovery over the goal line, leaving the Bears behind by two with over four minutes remaining.

“We had some two point plays dialed up but that second one, they marked him down,” said Garbers, who thought Moore was in. “I don't really know what to say about that one. I saw him reach for it...Hindsite’s 20-20.”

Ultimately the Bears had every chance to get the ball back, with over four minutes and three timeouts remaining when TCU took over at their 25 but they failed to stop the TCU momentum, giving up two crucial third down conversions as the Horned Frogs salted away the clock to close out the win and run their record to 2-0 on the season.

Moore led the Bears with 73 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries (5.1 ypc). Remigio and TE Jake Tonges led the receivers with three catches a piece for 56 and 16 yards, respectively, including Remigio's td. Safety Elijah Hicks and MLB Evan Tattersall led the defense with eight tackles a piece, while Scott had seven tackles plus his pick-six. OLB Cameron Goode had two sacks and three tfl for the game.

Duggan led TCU, going 17-for-31 through the air for 234 yards and a td and an interception to go along with a critical 103 yards on the ground on 19 carries, including another td. RB Zach Evans led TCU with 184 yards and one td on the day.

The Bears got their offense going to the tune of 442 yards overall against a solid TCU defense but in the end, it wasn’t enough to get the job done.

What’s the takeaway for the Bears after the tough loss?

“The way we’ll responds is we’ll get better next week,” said Garbers. “We did so after studying the Nevada film and got a whole lot better from week one to two. That's what we plan to do from week two to week three.

“We’re not a finished product. Going 0-2 doesn't jeopardize our shot at a Pac-12 title. 0-2 sucks, it’s frustrating but it has no affect on who we are as a team. We aim to win and get better each and every week.”

Cal played much of the game without star linebacker Kuony Deng, who was on crutches from the first quarter on. There was no immediate word on the extent of his injury. The Bears were also without linebacker Trey Paster, who did not make the trip

The Bears will return to Memorial next week to take on the Sacramento State Hornets, coached by former Cal QB Troy Taylor.

Other stories:

Missed Conversion Haunts Bears in Loss to TCU

TCU Preview: Talented QB Leads Potent Offense

Discussion from...

Bears Fall in Heartbreaking Loss to TCU

3,403 Views | 2 Replies | Last: 2 yr ago by BearoutEast67
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Personally having the expectation of getting beat takes the heartbreak away.
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It really sucked to lose. However, this game left me with far more hope than did last week's game. The OL, WR, and QB play and OC's play-calling were light years above last week's performance. Wilcox needs to control his worry-wort manner and trust his team rather than choose desperate moves too early. Stay the course, Coach. We are undefeated in the Pac12 still!
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