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Bears Hold on For Too-Close-For-Comfort 20-14 Win Over UNLV

September 10, 2022

MEMORIAL STADIUM - It wasn’t the way they drew it up or the way the oddsmakers expected, but in the end, the Bears used a pair of fourth-quarter defensive stands to pull out an uncomfortably close win over a seemingly-rejuvenated UNLV program, 20-14. The announced crowd of 38,180 was significantly smaller in reality in perfect high 60s September afternoon in Strawberry Canyon.

What looked like an easy non-conference tuneup when the schedule was announced with a home contest against a perpetually-bad UNLV team became a bit more of an uncertainty after the Rebels’ week zero steamrolling of an overmatched Idaho State team coached by former Cal special teams coach Charlie Ragel. At the halftime of their opener, they led the hapless Tigers 45-7 en route to their 52-21 win. QB Doug Brumfield looked particularly impressive, completing 21-of-25 passes for 356 yards, with 182 of those yards and 2 TDs going to a nearly uncoverable Ricky White, with most of the damage coming in the first half.

The Bears were led by QB Jack Plummer, who went 28-for-39 (72%) for 278 yards and one TD along with one interception on the day. On the ground, the Bears were led by frosh running back Jadyn Ott, with just 52 yards on 7 carries (7.4 ypc) along with an exciting touchdown grab. The Bears would only gain 108 yards in 25 carries (4.5 ypc) for the day, aside from Plummer’s -14 on 4 sacks and a few short runs.

Jeremiah Hunter once again led Cal receivers with 79 yards on 5 receptions, with J.Michael Sturdivant chipping in 6 receptions for 49 yards, Mavin Anderson with 5 receptions for 48 yards and TE Keleki Latu with a career-high 4 receptions for 45 yards on the day.

While giving Plummer enough of a pocket to attempt a fairly large number of downfield passes, they were often outmanned, giving up 4 sacks, an additional 4 TFLs and a stingily-scored 1 QB hurry in the win and didn’t open up consistent enough holes for the running game to really get off the ground.

“I thought we started out with a great gameplan,” said Cal right tackle Ben Coleman. “(OC Bill) Musgrave had a great game plan to attack their defense. 

“It was unfortunate what happened in the second half. We pride ourselves on finishing. That’s just not what we did. We look forward to improving on that in all aspects.”

"The goal, number one, is to win the game and it carries more weight than any other goal," said Cal head coach Justin Wilcox. "We also recognize where we need to be better."

On defense, the Bears held the dangerous duo of QB Doug Brumfield and receiver Ricky White to 18-for-33 (55%) and 1 TD with 1 INT and 4 catches for 59 yards respectively. Overall, they held the potent UNLV offense to 309 total yards, holding the Rebels to just 1-for-12 on 3rd downs and 1-4 on 4th down attempts.

The Bears got out of the gate quickly, stuffing UNLV on a 3-and-out first possession and wasting no time driving the field, putting together a 6-play 55-yard drive that eventually became a 70-yard drive after a blocking below the waist call moved the Bears back to their 30.

After completing consecutive passes to Mavin Anderson for 11 and Jeremiah Hunter for 17, Plummer fired a strike to a streaking Hunter down the sideline for another 37. Ott wasted no time, taking a handoff on the next play for an easy stroll into the end zone for the first score as the Bears took a 7-0 lead on the Longhetto PAT.

After the Bears’ defense held the Rebels to 5 plays and a punt, Plummer methodically drove the Bears 80 yards down the field, completing passes to 4 different receivers, the longest a 15-yard sideline grab by tight end Keleki Latu. Then in a play reminiscent of a scary Jahvid Best injury 13 years ago, Ott took a pass in the left flat and went airborne at the pylon and was hit by a defender, landing hard, but the talented frosh held on, giving the Bears a 14-0 lead with 3:52 remaining in the first quarter after the Longhetto PAT.

UNLV bounced back with a drive of their own, putting together a 9-play, 75-yard drive in 3:57 on the strength of a 14-yard Aidan Robbins run sandwiched between Brumfield completions to receivers White and Jeff Weimer for 23 and 17 yards respectively. The Rebels hit paydirt on the next play on a Brumfield TD pass to receiver Kyle Williams for an 11-yard score to narrow the lead to 7 after the Daniel Gutierrez PAT on the first play of the second quarter. The Rebels leading RB had a solid day, rushing for 84 yards in 14 carries (6 ypc). Overall, UNLV averaged 4.3 yards per carry with their 121 sack-adjusted rushing yards.

Though the Bears moved the ball throughout much of the second quarter, a 21-yard Longetto field goal with 1:58 remaining in the half was the only additional points either team put up in the rest of the half, with the Bears taking a 17-7 lead into the locker room at halftime while holding the seemingly potent Rebels’ offense to just 109 yards at the break.

The Bears opened the half with a 14-play, 67-yard scoring drive but for the second straight time, came away from the red zone with just a field goal, with Longhetto converting from 30, pushing their lead to 20-7.

The Rebels got themselves right back in the game on the ensuing drive, going on an impressive 4-play, 75-yard drive, culminating with a 31-yard Robbins TD run up the gut to narrow the score to 6 at 20-14 with 7:04 left in the quarter. It was the second straight week where the Bears got gashed with a big TD play where they lacked gap integrity, with nothing but open field once getting past their initial would-be tacklers for a long rushing TD.

After the Rebels’ TD, they came back with a gutsy onside kick, successfully recovered by kicker Gutierrez. In danger of trailing for the first time all day, the Bears’ defense came up big, forcing a turnover on downs on a fourth-and-2  hold, forcing Brumfield out of bounds just short of the marker at the Cal 44.

The Bears' four ensuing drives were exhibits in fruitlessness, generating just 36 yards and a missed field goal in their final 18 offensive plays so it was the defense’s turn to step up and complete the job and step up they did.

In UNLV’s final two drives, where they drove to the Cal 8 before being stopped on downs with 2:46 remaining and their final possession, which went backward on consecutive sacks by OLBs Henry Ikahihifo and Myles Williams and ended on an Isaiah Young interception as the clock expired the Bears’ defense stood tall, saving a game they came perilously close to disastrously losing.

“Our outside linebackers, the goal this week was to get after the quarterback and we left a lot of meat on the bone out there,” said Ikahihifo. “When it was time for my package to get up, I made sure to take full advantage of it.”

Of his game-ending interception, Young noted: “Once we saw that first sack and we saw that the clock was running and knew that they had no timeouts, we understood that it was a 6-point game so they had no choice but to score. We all just made sure to pay attention to our coach’s call and we all acknowledged that it was coming.”

"We let that one get away," said UNLV head coach and former Cal QC Marcus Arroyo. "We've got a locker room full of guys right now that are disappointed we didn't finish that game. You've got to capitalize against quality opponents."

MLBs Femi Oladejo (10 tackles, ½ TFL) and Jack Sirmon (9 tackles, 1 forced fumble) led the Bears’ defense. Safety Daniel Scott also had a key pair of QB hurries in UNLV’s penultimate drive.

"I think it's huge for us, giving us a little bit of confidence and momentum going into a tough game," said Scott. "We've got to keep building. At the end of the day, we're 2-0 and that's the best part about it."

Next up for the Bears is a surprising 0-2 Notre Dame squad, fresh off a tough season-opening loss to Ohio State and an upset today by Marshall.

"I did hear that they lost," said Scott after the game. "They're still a really good team, one of the top caliber teams in the country. Definitely going to buckle the chin strap a little more, focus a little bit extra in the film room."


Bear Insider Ultimate Insider Podcast E34: Cal vs UNLV Preview -Video & Transcript

UNLV Rebels Next Up for Golden Bears



Discussion from...

Bears Hold on For Too-Close-For-Comfort 20-14 Win Over UNLV

4,064 Views | 4 Replies | Last: 1 yr ago by dshea650
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Great ugly win! UNLV was gifted their second TD by that nullified interception. Our young DBs held their own against some seasoned WRs. Liked how the DL stepped up in the 4th.
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For the most part, the DL didn't step up and the O line was terrible. Other than that, Plummer needs to be more accurate. Some terrific catches by the receivers saved this game. Unlike some commentators, I have no problem with the play calling. O line blocking needs to get a lot better - Ott can't continue to do it by himself.
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Worst talent and depth on both the OL and DL that I've ever seen on a Cal football team. And I've been watching Cal football for over 40 years.
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There are two big takeaways from the game. One is very obvious: Ott needs to get WAY more touches. He's our best RB and it's not even close. Moore and Brooks are not on the same level as Ott, and when they get forced into the game they are complete momentum killers. Ott should be getting 80% of the touches.

The other less obvious takeaway: Braxton Croteau is simply not it. He needs to be benched asap. In 98% of the plays he gets easily blocked out and removed from the play, sometimes by a tackle but sometimes he's even completely manhandled by a skinny tight end. And on the very rare occasion he isn't blocked, like when he came free at the QB up the middle, he whiffs the tackle and let's the QB scramble for 12 and a first down. The ONLY play he happened to make came pretty much on accident when he was blocked out of the play completely, but the rb happened to run right at him and even then he still almost missed the tackle. The guy offers nothing aside from being one of those "over the pile" guys who run to a tackle after it's been made and pretend like they were almost in on it. He's basically another Evan Tattersal...and now Tattersal is a 3rd stringer on UC Davis. I hate to trounce on a kid, but this guy has no business getting any further playing time. The reason why they get the edge? He's set's the edge and fails every time. When he's in it's like we are playing 10-11 football. Bench him and play a real play maker like Myles Jernigan.
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