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Cal Football

Bears Ride Big First Half to Win Over Colorado

October 23, 2021
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Playing as solid a half of football as they have in probably two years, the Cal Bears made it stand up for a 26-3 victory over Colorado at Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon. 

The Bears (2-5, 1-3 Pac-12) scored on every possession in the first half to build a 23-3 lead as they ended their three-game losing streak and offered some hope for the rest of the season. Their defense totally dominated the Buffs, holding them to 34 net rushing yards, eight fewer than they had in the first two quarters. That’s what a dozen tackles for loss, including six sacks will do for you.

Offensively the Bears piled up 438 yards themselves. They outgained Colorado 297 yards to 91 in the first two quarters, averaged 8.5 yards per play vs. 2.9, and had 14 first downs against six. 

Chase Garbers began the day needing just three yards to break Joe Kapp’s 73-year old record of 934 rushing yards by a quarterback. It didn’t take him long. On his first carry as he scrambled to avoid the pass rush he wound up gaining 38 yards. He finished with 96 net and his passing was even better, 22-for-29 for 225 yards and a couple of touchdowns.

© Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports
Elijah Hicks interception as Wilcox watches

“It feels really good, a lot of smiling faces in the locker room right now,” head coach Justin Wilcox said. “I want them to enjoy this. It has been a difficult stretch. I really appreciate the competitiveness, the perseverance, the guys showed coming to practice every day to be rewarded with a victory … It was a team effort.”

Placekicker Dario Longhetto, who spends most of the midweek practice time by himself on an adjoining field, was certainly part of the team effort Saturday, kicking a career high four field goals. Two were beyond 50 yards. 

“I had never kicked four field goals in a game in my life,” Longhetto said. 

In the second half, the two offenses ineffectually slogged around, managing just a field goal between them. The Bears defense turning Colorado’s offense into mush. 

The Cal offense was the picture of efficiency in the first half. The Bears had the ball for five drives and got points each time, including Longhetto’s 51-yard field goal as time expired. That finished off a lickety-split drive of 50 yards. The Bears took over on their 17 with 58 seconds left and used every one of them to move to the Colorado 33 as Garbers completed four passes and had one run for 5 yards. 

After forcing Colorado to punt on its opening possession, the Bears continued their season-long ability to score early.

The drive stalled when the Bears reached the Colorado 33 and Longhetto nailed his first field goal, this one from 50 yards out.

The next time Cal had the ball they had taken over on downs at midfield. Garbers found Trevon Clark for an 8-yard completion, Christopher Brooks carried for 18 more and on the third play Garbers hit freshman tight end Keleli Latu in the back of the end zone. 

It was Latu’s first career catch.

Early in the second quarter, the Bears were back at it and Garbers had directed them as far as the visitors’ 12. But three downs produced just a single yard from there and Longhetto came through again this time from the 20 and Cal was up 13-0.

The Cal coverage team leaked a 67-yard kickoff return by Brenden Rice, whose dad Jerry was in the house.

But the Cal defense saw to it that Colorado didn’t get much out of it, and forced a field goal try, which Cole Becker nailed from 33 yards away to get Colorado on the board.

© Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports
Keleki Latu’s TD catch

The Bears answered with another touchdown drive, going 66 yards on six plays. The score was a 31-yard pass from Garbers to Gavin Reinwald.

The only score of the second half was a field goal that concluded a bizarre sequence that saw each team have a touchdown wiped out. 

First the Bears’ Marcel Dancy apparently scored a touchdown on an acrobatic 17-yard run. But the officials ruled Dancy’s knee had touched the ground on the 20. On the next play, Longhettos’ 38-yard field goal try was blocked by Christian Gonzalez, who was clearly offside. Mark Perry had scooped up the ball and ran 70 yards to the Bears’ end zone. But he was doing it only for the exercise as Gonzalez’s infraction was called and the touchdown nullified.

Granted Colorado’s offense is one of the Pac-12’s weakest, it still was a strong showing by the Cal defense.

“I thought the defense played really well,” Wilcox said. “A number of guys contributed. It wasn’t just a one-man show. It feels reall good when you have a team effort like that and it comes out with a victory.”

The defensive effort was led by senior safety Elijah Hicks’ six tackles, including a sack and a second-half interception. 

“Elijah has played good football for us for a long time,” Wilcox said. “That might be the best game that he’s played since he’s been here.”

Hicks acknowledged the compliment but was not going to bask in it.

“I’m just doing my job within the system,” he said. “Really good to win a game. That’s why you practice and put so much time in, meetings, and practice….I’m thankful to be on the winning side. I am really proud of my teammates. We’ve been getting better each week, we just haven’t been finishing like we want to.”

 

 

 

 

 

Discussion from...

Bears Ride Big First Half to Win Over Colorado

1,504 Views | 2 Replies | Last: 1 mo ago by chazzed
BearForce2
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It's good to see a happy locker room as they should be after a win.
chazzed
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Congratulations to the Cal players.

Go Bears!
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