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Cal Football

Bears Can't Get Back in the Win Column in Narrow Loss in Oregon

October 15, 2021
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EUGENE, OREGON -Dressed in all-black uniforms, Oregon may have come into the game ready to stomp the 1-4 Cal Bears but in the end, they got all they could handle in a tight 24-17 battle that went down to the final play in another tough Cal defeat.

For much of the game, the Bears looked more than capable of pulling the upset, leading in two separate stretches of the game at 7-3 and 17-10 in the fourth quarter but as the game wore on, the Cal defense wore down as they were unable to stop a powerful Oregon running game late, with tailback Travis Dye gashing the Bears for 145 yards on 19 carries (7.6 ypc), not to mention several critical runs by elusive QB Anthony Brown, who picked up 44 yards on the ground to go along with an impressive 20-for-28 game through the air with one touchdown.

Cal QB Chase Garbers went 24-for-42 (57%) for 247 yards and two TDs and managed to avoid the critical interceptions he’s thrown several times this season but in the end, it wasn’t enough to put the Bears in the win column for the first time since week two.

The Ducks got on the scoreboard first after their opening drive stalled at the Cal 31, with kicker Camden Lewis converting a 49-yard field goal.

The Bears answered right back, putting together an impressive 13-play, 75 yard drive, keyed by three third down conversions -an area the Bears have struggled with mightily heading into tonight’s game. Cal punched it in on a 9-yard Chase Garbers td pass to tight end Jake Tonges, who hauled in the pass and extended it to the pylon, before diving out of bounds. After the Dario Longhetto PAT, the Bears were ahead 7-3 with 5:23 left in the first quarter.

The Bears’ lead held up till the waning minutes of the first half, when Oregon drove 67 yards in 7 plays to take a 10-7 lead on an 11-yard Travis Dye TD run . The Bears’ defense held tough in the half, recovering two fumbles and forcing a turover on downs while also putting pressure on Duck QB Anthony Brown, including an Ethan Saunders sack.

“Takeaway’s were big,” said Wilcox. “We got them into some third downs -we wanted to try and create as many third and longs as we could and make them throw the ball accurately down the field. We struggled at times with their speed with the pass or the run game or the quarterback and second half, they got us with some plays. The screen was a big one and then obviously the quarterback runs hurt us in the second half. We had a hard time getting them off the field.

“The defense competed very hard but we had to make a couple more plays to turn the tide and we didn’t do it.”

The Bears answered back to start the second half, driving 52 yards in eight plays before kicker Longhetto converted on a 45-yard field goal to knot the score three minutes into the half at 10. Center Matthew Cindric handled the short snap duties after a series of mishaps on field goals and PATs with starter Slater Zellers the first five games of the season.

The first half saw Oregon star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux on the bench finishing out the last portion of a targeting penalty in Oregon’s prior game. His return had a big impact on the game as the All-American compiled 5 tackles, a sack, a quarterback hurry and caused general havoc on the defensive side of the ball most of the half.

“He’s a very talented player,” said Wilcox. “We knew there would be times we would slide or chip, or keep guys in [to protect against him]. There were also some times we wanted to get guys out in routes and get our guys the ball quickly so they could try and make a one-on-one play. So yeah, he’s a talented player for sure.”

After putting together an impressive defensive series that had Duck fans booing at their lack of progress, the Bears put together their best drive of the night, going 80 yards in 11 plays before punching it in to go up 7 after the Longhetto PAT.

Facing 2nd-and-goal from the Oregon 4, Garbers hit tight end Gavin Reinwald on a play action pass in the flat for the go-ahead TD to put the Bears up 7 with 12:57 left in the game. Key plays included a 31-yard Jeremiah Hunter reception and a 10-yard Garbers keeper to put the Bears in scoring position.

The Ducks wasted no time getting back into the game, slicing through the Bears’ defense like butter on the ensuing possession, driving 62 yard with three big first down runs followed by a 20-yard TD pass from Brown to receiver Jaylon Redd to tie the game at 17 with 11:23 left to go. The drive took just 1:34 to even the score.

“I may sound like a broken record but there were a handful of plays in every phase that can change the outcome of the game,” said Wilcox. “We just need to make a couple more to give us that boost that we're all looking for.”

After Oregon forced a Cal punt on the next possession, they again drove for another easy score, ripping off consecutive runs of 9, 6, 7, 12 and 11 yards sandwiched around a quick screen pass to Dye for 39 yards after the catch. The Ducks scored again in just seven plays to take the 24-17 lead on a Brown keeper with 4:50 to go.

The Bears had plenty of time to tie the game or go for the win, going on a methodcal 18 play drive all the way to the Oregon 2.  A Garbers spike stopped the clock, followed by a narrow miss on a pass to receiver Nikko Remijio with 10 seconds left and a run stop by Bradyn Swinson and Noah Sewell to set up another fourth down. Heavy Oregon pressure forced Garbers to rush a pass that fell incomplete in the end zone to end the game.

“I thought they fought incredibly hard, just as we would expect them to,” said Wilcox of his team. “I know that’s what they expect from themselves and their teammates.

“It wasn’t a matter of not fighting. It was very competitive. We ran to the ball and gave great effort. We responded through some adverse situations. It’s extremely frustrating, there’s no other adjective to use. 

“There was a lot of fight, no quit in them. We came back from adversity throughout the game, we went down and scored there late in the game. They came back and got a big kick return on us, then went down and scored. The momentum seemed to shift a little, but I thought the guys kept with it and kept competing in every phase. That gave us a chance to win the game in the end and unfortunately, we didn’t quite get it done.”

“We’re going to go back to practice and get it right and fix what we need to fix,” said safety Elijah Hicks, who had four tackles and a forced fumble on the night. “We need to continue to improve as a team.

“If you’re wondering, everybody’s just a family here. That’s the kind of guys we have and will continue to be. At the end of the day, we need to make the plays. We have the bend but don’t break mentality but we have to make the big plays. 

“We want to win. The goal is to win. No loss is greater than the other. It doesn’t feel good to lose. What we’re going to do is continue to show up to practice and continue to work hard.

“We have a close group of guys. We’re not turning on each otter. The locker room is fine. It’s just the little details we have to pay attention to and it will turn into wins. To be honest, we’re confident that we can play with anybody.”

“Losing sucks,” said Garbers. “Nobody likes to lose. We’re right there each and every time. Every week, there’s just a few plays where you can do better.

“I think our team is very hungry. We’re very eager to learn and move on to the next opportunity. We’re very eager to play our next opponent. We’re going to learn from this game and move on.”

On the idea of the team getting down, Garbers noted: “No, that’s not who our team is. That’s not the mood in the locker room. No matter what our record is, we’re going to learn and get better and improve against our next opponent.”

Running back Christopher Brooks led the Bears on the ground with 68 yards on a tough 14 carries (4.9 ypc) against a swarming Oregon defense.

Redshirt frosh Hunter led the Bears in reception yardage with 78 yards on three catches.

“Jeremiah had a couple big ones,” said Garbers. “He did a great job on his routes, winning and going up and catching the ball. I thihk he just keeps getting better each and every week and will only continue to improve going forward.”

Senior Kekoa Crawford led the Bears in receptions with six catches for 50 yards on the night. 

On defense, the Bears were led by cornerback Colin Gamble with 11 tackles and inside linebacker Mo Iosefa with 10. Senior outside linebacker Marqez Bimage came up big with several thundering tackles and hits, totalling seven tackles, one tackle for loss and one forced fumble on the night.

Stay tuned for postgame videos as available.

More stories:

Oregon Q&A With Fox Sports Eugene Radio Host James Crepea

Oregon Preview: Ducks Staying With QB Brown

Discussion from...

Bears Can't Get Back in the Win Column in Narrow Loss in Oregon

2,725 Views | 3 Replies | Last: 1 mo ago by fat_slice
BearoutEast67
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The Bears competed well. If they play this way through the rest of the season, there should be 3-4 more wins.
upsetof86
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I felt like the team had the energy and fire you want to see. Playing on the road they looked emotionally ready to fight. Bimage is making hits that bring an identity to that D. The O had some impressive drives and strong on 3rd down. Can they build on this. Stack some effort like this together over the next remaining games will see.
fat_slice
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Yes, plenty of moral victories.
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