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Bears Fall in Bowl Game Rematch With Texas Tech, 34-14

December 16, 2023
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SHREVEPORT, LA - 33,071 hearty fans at the Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl in chilly 43-degree weather saw a game that started with a bang but ended in a whimper for a Golden Bears team stuck in gear for much of the game in a disappointing and decisive 34-14 loss to Texas Tech. The game was a painful reminder of the last meeting between the two teams - a 45-31 upset loss for the 6th-ranked 2004 Holiday Bowl team.

“Defensively, we didn’t tackle very well and couldn’t get the running backs on the ground,” Wilcox said after the game. “Their receiver, number 8 was targeted I don’t know how many times but caught most of them so we had trouble covering him. 

"We didn't punt or kick the ball very well. The field position because after the first quarter,  we really were out of rhythm offensively then we weren't punting or kicking the ball very well. And so the field position for the rest of the game was not good. So I don't know what the average starting field position was outside of the first quarter. But they had really good field position, and we did not. So everything after that didn't go very well."

After a strong start, Texas Tech outscored the Bears in lopsided fashion, closing out the scoring with 27 straight points in their victory to move to 7-6 on the season after winning four of their last five games to complete their comeback season.

Total yardage didn’t tell the tale of the tape as the Red Raiders only outgained the Bears 384-353 but a lopsided turnover margin of four Bears’ miscues to two for the Red Raiders combined with six Texas Tech sacks and a woeful 35-yard average on six Lachlan Wilson punts that often left the Red Raiders in good position and the Bears in poor position throughout much of the game were decisive factors in the Bears’ loss.

QB Fernando Mendoza started well but after an early injury, turnovers plagued the redshirt frosh QB. Overall, Mendoza completed a respectable 22-for-33 passes for 284 yards but three interceptions and a lost fumble crippled the Bears comeback attempts throughout much of the game. On the other side of the ledger, bowl Offensive MVP QB Behren Morton had a solid game, completing 27-of-43 for 256 yards and 3 TDs with 1 interception.

Running back Jaydn Ott was kept in check, rushing for just 42 yards in 15 attempts in the face of a swarming Texas Tech defense. The Bears kept the nation’s #2 rushing yardage leader Tajh Brooks to 99 yards in 21 carries but as was the case throughout the season, much of his yardage game after initial contact with several critical first down carries.

The game couldn't have started better for the Bears. Cal won the toss and deferred to the second half. The opening kickoff was fumbled by Red Raiders returner Drae McCrae after a Dejuan Butler hit and recovered by kicker Michael Luckhurst at the Texas Tech 25 - Luckhurst's second straight game with a fumble recovery. A play later, Mendoza hit receiver Monroe Young - playing in his last collegiate game - for a quick 25-yard TD just 15 seconds into the game. The senior led the Bears with 7 catches for 81 yards and also picked up 13 yards on the ground in one carry.

After stopping Texas Tech on the next drive and driving 81 yards to the Red Raider 5, the Bears looked poised to broaden their lead early but Mendoza suffered what appeared to be a hyperextended knee on a 12-yard keeper and Ott was driven back 2 yards with QB Ben Finley on in relief on the fourth down conversion attempt with Texas Tech taking over on their 7.

The Red Raiders put together an impressive drive after the stop, going 93 yards in 10 plays. The Bears had a chance to keep Tech off the board on the drive but a Craig Woodson interception was nullified on an offsides penalty. Red Raider QB Behren Morton then went on the move, hitting receiver Brady Boyd for 24 yards to the Cal 47 then 17 more to receiver Coy Eakin to the Cal 30. Three plays later, Morton hit Eakin again, this time for a 27-yard touchdown to even the game with 

The Bears wasted no time going on the move after the Texas Tech score as Mendoza came back into the game and hit receiver Trond Grizzell on a 53-yard quick pass that the frosh receiver took to the 1, barely missing the TD. Running back Jaydn Ott easily walked in for the touchdown on the next play to put the Bears back in the lead with 2:20 left in the quarter, 14-10.

It was all downhill from there.

The lead didn't last for long as the Red Raiders went on a methodical 11-play, 65-yard drive to even the score, with Morton hitting tight end Mason Tharp for a 15-yard TD in double coverage to knot the score at 14 with 12:10 left in the half.

The Bears were unable to generate any offense on the next possession and a short 35-yard Wilson punt gave Texas Tech good field position at the Red Raider 41. A 41-yard Morton completion two plays later to receiver Xavier White pushed the ball to the Cal 14. Two plays later, Morton hit receiver Loic Fouonji on a 14-yard toss to go up 21-14 after the conversion with 9:49 left in the half. A25-yard Gino Garcia field goal to close out the half extended the Red Raiders lead to 24-14 at the break.

The Bears' offense struggled to gain traction throughout the third quarter, struggling to run the ball and losing the field position battle, being pinned deep on a pair of punts and repeatedly giving Tech strong field position, with all-conference punter Lachlin Wilson struggling to get anything on his kicks.

After another short Wilson punt that carried just 34 yards to the Cal 38, returner Xavier White knifed through the Cal coverage to the Bears' 15 on the return. A pair of Tajh Brooks runs for 7 and 8 yards extended the Texas Tech lead to 31-14 with 4:34 left in the third quarter on Brooks’ TD run.

After failing to convert for the second time of the game on fourth down on their next possession, the Red Raiders took over at the Texas Tech 33 - a crucial miss as the Bears were trying to get back in the game. The Bears were only able to put up 8 rushing yards in the quarter as they were unable to maintain the type of balanced offense critical to their success.

Taking over at their 21 after a missed Texas Tech field goal attempt and 10:10 left on the clock, the Bears' attempt to claw their way back in the game was foiled again, this time on a Mendoza fumble - his second of the game - that was recovered on the Cal 28 by DB Malik Dunlap.
The Bears were able to keep Tech off the board again on the next drive, with cornerback Lu-Magia Hearns pulling in an acrobatic interception in the back of the end zone before limping off the field in pain with 9:41 left in the game.

Again the Bears were unable to establish any momentum and turnovers again reared its ugly head, with Mendoza firing an interception directly into linebacker Jacob Rodriguez’s hands at the Texas Tech 25.

The Bears managed to keep the Red Raiders off the board but Mendoza was again intercepted just three plays into the driving, with DB CJ Baskerville undercutting the route and picking it off and returning it to the Cal 20 with 5:52 remaining and that was all she wrote for the Bears.

A 37-yard Garcia field goal rounded out the scoring with 4:08 remaining.

Senior safety Patrick McMorris led the Bears with 11 tackles, including 3 tackles for loss and several big hits. Frosh linebacker Cade Uluave chipped in with 8 tackles in the loss.

Discussion from...

Bears Fall in Bowl Game Rematch With Texas Tech, 34-14

3,480 Views | 7 Replies | Last: 5 mo ago by ncbears
westcoast101
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Garbage performance. Apparently Wilcox is untouchable, but we should hopefully be able to move on from this clown in a couple years.
WantARoseBowlB4IDie
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Wilcox isn't the OC. Bloesch didn't exactly display a Spav-like game plan. At times, it felt like the ghost of Musgrave... and a double-whammy for Bloesch since he is the OL coach & they looked more like the crew led by Angus last season. I give Fernando a pass; young QBs have their ups & downs, but he has a boatload of heart & kept working hard. He'll have to in order to withstand the challenge of Chandler Rogers.

I was very happy for Monroe Young, an unsung senior who balled out in his last game at Cal. Sad for Ifanse that he couldn't get back on the field one last time. Hunter had one great catch but struggled to get separation; he's not yet ready for the next level so I hope he stays. He and Grizzell would be a terrific pair next season if the offense can take a step forward.

One other level of disappointment was that they were blunted offensively by a defensive unit with primarily back-ups. Here's hoping Wilcox can maintain & even accelerate the recruiting momentum. GO BEARS!!! And Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays to all!
🐻 The Bear Will NOT Quit, The Bear Will NOT Die! 🐻
GoOskie
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Embarrassing and frustrating. But I'm used to it by now.
Blueblood
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GoOskie said:

Embarrassing and frustrating. But I'm used to it by now.
Welcome! You're now a true blue Cal Bear fan!
GoOskie
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Blueblood said:

GoOskie said:

Embarrassing and frustrating. But I'm used to it by now.
Welcome! You're now a true blue Cal Bear fan!
I've been a true blue for 44 years. I'm surprised I'm still alive.
LunchTime
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Best part of the bowl was the pre game dinner with the football crew. And the first two plays.

But, this program deserves casual support at best. If they want active support, the administration needs to lead by example.

I am convinced Saban himself could only win at Cal for a short burst before collapsing in on himself like a dying star.
ncbears
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LunchTime said:

Best part of the bowl was the pre game dinner with the football crew. And the first two plays.

But, this program deserves casual support at best. If they want active support, the administration needs to lead by example.

I am convinced Saban himself could only win at Cal for a short burst before collapsing in on himself like a dying star.

A favorite part for me was the Cal response to the "invocation" - the priest/reverend asked for an Amen and instead got a very loud "GO BEARS" (and there were some other impolite responses around me).
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