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Bears Fall in Gut-Wrenching 24-17 Loss at Notre Dame

September 17, 2022

SOUTH BEND, INDIANA -It was a game that was circled on Cal fans’ calendars the minute it was announced nearly three years ago.

Touchdown Jesus. The Basilica. The Golden Dome. It was the kind of experience and opportunity Bear fans and the program have craved for years. And even though a season-opening loss to Ohio State and an upset loss last week week to Marshall took a little luster off the upset opportunity, not a Cal fan in the country would turn up their nose at a chance to take Notre Dame to 0-3 and pull off the upset on national TV but it was not to be, as the Bears fell in a heartbreaking 24-17 loss than went down to the wire as the final seconds ticked off the venerable stadium’s clock with a tantalizingly-close ball that bounced off a prostrate Jeremiah Hunter’s chest and hands in the end zone to send the Bears to their first defeat of the season.

“Gut-wrenching,” said Wilcox of the narrow defeat. “Had a chance to win. Too many errors. Needed one or two more (plays).”

Both teams traded punches throughout the first quarter. Neither team managed as much as a first down until the Bears’ fourth drive, which ended in a Dario Longhetto field goal attempt that clanked off the left upright from 45 yards out -a familiar sight to tortured Bear fans over the years.

The Bears finally broke through in their next possession, following a cat-like Femi Oladejo theft of a Drew Pyne fumble snatched from the grasp of the new starting QB after Pyne took over for an injured Tyler Buchner -a big blow the Irish’s hopes this season.

The Bears wasted no time converting on the opportunity, as Cal QB Jack Plummer found receiver J.Michael Sturdivant for 15 before hitting the speedy receiver on the next play for an 18-yard TD reception to go up 7-0 after the Dario Longhetto PAT with 14:37 left in the half.

After the TD grab, the Bears were hit with the first of two gratuitous home-cooking penalty calls as the redshirt frosh receiver was called for a sketchy at best celebration call after the touchdown grab, forcing a kickoff from the Cal 20, and giving the Irish the ball at their 40 after a Chris Tyree 14-yard return. 

Notre Dame was unable to capitalize on the gift, as Notre Dame kicker Blake Grupe clanked a 45-yard attempt of their own off the left upright, holding the Irish off the board temporarily until an especially gratuitous offsides call against the Bears where even the announcers could not detect a move in slow motion nullified the miss and gave the Irish the ball again for a first down.

This time, Notre Dame capitalized, with Pyne hitting a wide-open Chris Tyree two plays later for a 22-yard TD to tie the game after the Grupe PAT with 8:54 left in the half.

It was a series of events that would have a major consequence on the game.

The stalemate didn’t last long as the Bears were on the move again, driving 69 yards in 10 plays, settling for a 34-yard Longetto field goal with 4:11 left in the half to take the 10-7 lead into the locker room.

MLB Jackson SIrmon was all over the field in the half, collecting 10 tackles along with a sack and a half and two TFLs. He’d finish the game with a team-leading 15 tackles overall. While Plummer wasn’t particularly sharp in the half, he did convert with the Bears' starting receiving trio of Sturdivant (4/61), Jeremiah Hunter (4/47) and Mavin Anderson (3/32) for 11 completions and 140 yards at the break. Plummer would finish the game 16-for-37 for 187 yards and a passing and rushing TD while under constant pressure much of the game. 

In Plummer’s defense, he was pummelled all day by an offensive line that was unable to protect him far too often, giving up 6 sacks for -47 yards, yet the determined Bear signal caller still managed a sack-adjusted 81 yards on the ground.

“We probably let it slip away from us,” said Plummer. “We had them. There’s no reason we shouldn’t have won. The defense played really well. The offense didn’t do our part. That starts with me. I’ve got to play better than I did.

“We can play with anybody. We’ve got a tough team. We’ve got guys who want to battle. We’ve got guys who want to show up.

“We fought. We fought hard all game.”

After holding the Bears to a 3-and-out, the Irish took their first lead of the game, putting together a 4-minute, 9-play, 60-yard drive to take a 14-10 lead with 9:14 left in the third quarter.

The Bears were not ready to fold, taking over at their 25 and stringing together an impressive 10-play, 75-yard TD drive on the strength of a Notre Dame unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and back-to-back DeCarlos Brooks runs of 10 and 24 hard-fought yards before Plummer punched in a keeper from a half-yard out as the Bears regained the lead, 17-14 after the Longhetto PAT with 4:48 left in the third quarter. The TD run was the first of Plummer’s Cal career.

The lead didn’t last long as the Irish quickly responded with a 10-play, 46-yard drive culminating in a game-tying Grupe 47-yard field goal to start the fourth quarter. The Bears nearly came down with a timely interception on the final play of the drive on a Jeremiah Earby tipped ball that could not be corraled. 

After forcing a 3-and-out from the Bears and taking over at their 34 after a Jamieson Sheahan punt, the Irish put together their first consecutive scoring drive of the game, going 66 yards in 7 plays, culminating in a Pyne TD toss to a wide-open tight end Michael Mayer to give Notre Dame a 24-17 lead with 9:16 remaining the game. The projected 1st round draft pick tight end had been quiet to that point with just one catch for four yards before the TD grab, finishing with just the two catches for 10 yards overall.

On the ensuing drive, the Bears managed to move the ball to the Notre Dame 38 before facing a critical 4th-and-8 with less than 7 minutes remaining. Avoiding heat in the pocket, Plummer came up big with a 16-yard run to give the Bears a first down at the Notre Dame 22. Unable to convert on the next three pass attempts, the Bears again went for it on fourth down. Unable to recapture the magic of the last series, Plummer was sacked for the fourth time in the game, with the Irish taking over at their 30 with 6:30 left in the game, clinging to their 7-point lead.

The Bears’ defense held, forcing a punt for a fielded by Hunter at their 2 with 2:37 remaining. Again, the Bears were unable to muster any offense on the possession, forcing another Cal punt from the back of the end zone, with Notre Dame taking over at the Cal 42. 

The Bears’ D stood strong, forcing an Irish punt with the Bears taking over at their 20.

That’s where things got crazy, particularly for the win-starved Notre Dame crowd.

Taking over at their 20, on the first play of the drive, Plummer sailed a pass over running back Jaydn Ott’s head for a Clarence Lewis interception that seemingly ended the game but defender JD Bertrand was called for a targeting penalty on a hit to Ott’s head, nullifying the INT, with the ball moving the ball Cal 35.

Plummer got things rolling from there, completing consecutive passes to Hunter for 19 and Anderson for 6 before another pair of back-to-back completions to Ott for 8 and 3 yards gave the Bears the ball at the Notre Dame 29 for a first down.

A pair of incompletions sandwiched between a 6-yard sack put the Bears in a fourth-down situation on the last play of the game at the Notre Dame 34. They almost didn’t have the opportunity, as it appeared that Plummer fumbled the ball on the third down sack, with a would-be scoop and score by Notre Dame but the play was correctly ruled down by contact, giving the Bears their final shot, much to the disappointment of the Irish fans, who had seemingly game-ending plays twice wiped off the board.

With the clock expiring, Plummer lofted a pass to the end zone that was bobbled several times, landing in the hands and chest of Jeremiah Plummer before the tantalizingly-close touchdown pass fell harmlessly to the ground as the Notre Dame crowd went wild and a dejected Cal squad trudged off the field.

“It was obviously a Hail Mary, and I just felt like it was going to be tipped, so I was waiting for that to happen,” said Hunter. “I tripped but I still had a chance at it after I went to the ground. I grabbed the ball with my left hand and tried to bring it in but somehow it just slipped out.

“It was a tough way to end the game, but we just didn’t make enough plays today to win. It’s disappointing to lose this game, but I’m excited about our team and this season. I can’t wait for our next opportunity against Arizona.”

“I think we played hard today but as you guys saw, we didn’t make enough plays at the end to make it happen.

“I thought our offense and defense faced a lot of adversity today. Notre Dame played pretty well, especially in the second half.

“I think we’re a very strong group. We’ve faced adversity year in and year out. Having some of these young guys play through the adversity of these last couple games will help us build our confidence.”

The loss brings the Bears to 2-1 on the season. They will be back in action next week at Memorial Stadium with their Pac-12 opener vs. Arizona at 2:30.

Stay tuned for more quotes as available.

More stories:

Bear Insider Ultimate Insider Podcast E35: Cal vs Notre Dame Preview -Audio

Cal Visits the Golden Dome for the First Time in 55 Years

Discussion from...

Bears Fall in Gut-Wrenching 24-17 Loss at Notre Dame

2,961 Views | 2 Replies | Last: 1 yr ago by bearsandgiants
kal kommie
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Any comments from Wilcox on the offsides call? I looked around but didn't see one
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There were reports of Plummer dinging his hand on a sack and it clearly seemed to affect throws in the second half. Any follow up on that?
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