Sep 18, 2021; Berkeley, California, USA; California Golden Bears head coach Justin Wilcox stands on the field with crutches before the game against the Sacramento State Hornets at FTX Field at California Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Cal coach Justin Wilcox signs extension through 2027

Despite just two winning seasons in five years, California signed coach Justin Wilcox to a contract extension through the 2027 season, the school announced Thursday.

The extension tacked four seasons on to a deal that was slated to end after the 2023 campaign.

“Justin Wilcox is a football coach who shares our values and vision, and we want to ensure that he is the leader of our program for the long term,” Golden Bears athletic director Jim Knowlton said. “He is a great fit for Cal Athletics and our university, with a philosophy that places an emphasis on developing young men on the field, in the classroom and as people.

“I am confident our fans and alumni share my enthusiasm for the direction of our program, and the level of success we have seen to date has set a foundation for sustained excellence in the future.”

Wilcox, 45, has a 26-28 record in five seasons as Cal coach. The team went 5-7 in 2021.

The Golden Bears played in bowl games in 2018 and 2019. The team’s best record under Wilcox is an 8-5 mark in 2019, when it was ranked as high as No. 15.

“I appreciate the opportunity to be the head football coach at Cal and am excited about the future of our program,” Wilcox said in the news release. “I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute I have spent with the extraordinary young men who have been in our program. We are in a great position and strongly aligned with our university thanks to the leadership of Chancellor Carol Christ and Jim Knowlton.

“I thank both of them for their continued trust and confidence in me to lead a football program that will make the entire Cal community proud. We have very high expectations. I think we’ve earned the right to expect more, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

After the 2021 season, Wilcox was in the mix for the Oregon opening and reportedly turned down an offer to replace Mario Cristobal as coach. Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lenning eventually was hired by the Ducks.

Wilcox is a native of Eugene and played defensive back for the Ducks from 1996-99.

–Field Level Media

Nov 27, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Jaxson Dart (2) throws the ball against the BYU Cougars in the first half at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

USC, Cal finish losing seasons with makeup game

The regular season concludes on championship week for Southern California and Cal, though not in a conference-title matchup.

The schools will complete losing seasons when they face off Saturday in Berkeley, Calif., for a rescheduled Pac-12 Conference game.

The Trojans (4-7, 3-5 Pac-12) and Golden Bears (4-7, 3-5) were originally set to meet on Nov. 13, but COVID-19 testing protocols in the Cal program left it without enough players to compete.

Both teams were eliminated from postseason contention with losses last week. USC rallied from down two touchdowns in the second half to take a late lead over then-No. 13 BYU, but the Cougars scored a touchdown with 3:57 remaining to earn a 35-31 win.

About 14 miles away at the Rose Bowl, Cal was outscored 25-0 in the second half of its 42-14 loss to UCLA.

With bowl berths no longer at stake, Saturday offers an opportunity to send out departing seniors on a high note.

“These guys are top-notch human beings and I’ll miss them,” Cal coach Justin Wilcox said this week. Because of NCAA regulations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Wilcox noted some of the Golden Bears seniors will have the opportunity to return for 2022.

“There’s still a few guys who have decisions to make, because there could be guys (graduating) who maybe end up playing another season for us. It’s too early to determine any of that yet.”

Regardless the status of any Cal players for next season, the 2021 campaign ends with an opportunity to beat USC in Berkeley for the first time since 2003.

USC has dominated the series with Cal in the years since, winning 14 straight from 2004 through 2017 and taking 15 of the past 16 matchups. The only Golden Bears win in that stretch came in 2018 at Los Angeles, a 15-14 contest that set the Trojans on a three-game losing streak to end their last sub-.500 season prior to this year.

USC comes into the Saturday meeting on another three-game losing skid and guaranteed just its second sub-.500 finish in 20 years. The Trojans have dropped five of their past six.

Despite the lackluster closing stretch to 2021, USC ends the season on a high no matter Saturday’s result. University athletic administrators officially introduced Lincoln Riley as the program’s next head coach on Monday.

Riley went 55-10 with four Big 12 Conference championships and three College Football Playoff appearances in five seasons at Oklahoma.

Riley was tabbed to replace Clay Helton, fired after the second game of this season. Interim coach Donte Williams congratulated Riley during his Tuesday media session.

“I always told you guys the administration at USC would do the right thing and they made a splash hire. Bright, bright future for USC going ahead,” Williams said. “But right now our focus is about Cal. We still do have a game this week.”

The Trojans head to Cal a week removed from their most encouraging offensive performance since losing standout wide receiver Drake London to a fractured ankle on Oct. 30. Their 31 points against BYU marked a high since scoring 41 against Arizona a month earlier.

In his second career start, freshman quarterback Jaxson Dart completed 23 of 35 passes for 248 yards with a touchdown, and he rushed for another score. Running back Vavae Malepeai amassed 99 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.

Dart faces a Cal defense holding opposing quarterbacks to a 58.4 percent completion rate. The Golden Bears have 13 interceptions, led by Daniel Scott, Elijah Hicks and Nate Rutchena each with three.

–Field Level Media

Nov 27, 2021; Pasadena, California, USA;  UCLA Bruins running back Zach Charbonnet (24) rushes to the 9 yard line before he is stopped by California Golden Bears safety Daniel Scott (32) in the second quarter of the game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA runs away from Cal in second half, 42-14

Dorian Thompson-Robinson threw for 164 yards with three touchdowns and ran for 102 yards to lead host UCLA to a 42-14 rout of Cal on Saturday.

UCLA (8-4, 6-3 Pac-12) scored 32 unanswered points after they trailed 14-10 with seven minutes left before halftime, and they further solidified their bowl hopes with 446 yards of total offense.

Zach Charbonnet ran for 106 yards for the Bruins, who throttled the Golden Bears’ top-ranked league rush defense for 282 yards on the ground.

Cal (4-7, 3-5) saw their bowl hopes vanish, as they managed just 217 yards of total offense.

Charbonnet scored on a one-yard dive early in the fourth quarter to end a six-play, 80-yard drive that sealed the win. He then took a pass from Thompson-Robinson for the two-point conversion.

UCLA scored on its opening drive of the second half to take a 24-14 lead. Tight end Greg Dulcich made an over-the-shoulder, 29-yard touchdown catch from Thompson-Robinson to quickly culminate a three-play, 71-yard drive.

Nicholas Barr-Mila gave UCLA a 13-point cushion late in the third quarter when he boomed a 46-yard field goal, his second of the game, that pushed the Bruins’ lead to 27-14.

UCLA scored on its opening drive when Barr-Mila drilled a 41-yard field goal that gave the Bruins a 3-0 advantage with 9:33 left in the first quarter.

Charbonnet and Thompson-Robinson accounted for all of the Bruins’ 79 rushing yards in the opening quarter, as Charbonnet ran for 44 and Thompson-Robinson scampered for 35. Cal could manage only 46 total yards in the opening quarter.

The Bruins increased their lead to 10-0 when Thompson-Robinson hit Kyle Phillips in the back of the end zone with a four-yard touchdown pass with 14:10 remaining before halftime to cap a 9-play, 40-yard drive.

Cal got on the board when Christopher Brooks capped an 11-play, 75-yard drive with a 14-touchdown jaunt practically untouched into the end zone that brought the Golden Bears to within 10-7 with 8:58 before the half.

After UCLA’s Kazmeir Allen fumbled the ensuing kickoff, Bears quarterback Chase Garbers scored on a one-yard plunge that pushed the Bears back in front at 14-10.

UCLA moved back in front when Allen scored on an eight-yard sweep around the end to help the Bruins to a 17-14 halftime lead.

–Field Level Media

Nov 20, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; UCLA Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) throws a pass against the Southern California Trojans in the first half at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA, Cal look to showcase stellar offenses again

UCLA is heading to a bowl game this season, but California still has plenty of work left to secure its spot in a postseason game.

The Bruins welcome the Golden Bears to Pasadena on Saturday night in a Pac-12 matchup of teams that are playing better of late.

UCLA (7-4, 5-3 Pac-12) has posted a pair of comfortable wins in its last two games following a two-game stretch in which it lost to Oregon and Utah, allowing a combined 78 points in those two defeats. The Bruins trampled Colorado two weeks ago and then knocked off USC last week, 62-33, in their highest-scoring performance ever in 91 all-time matchups with the Trojans.

“We’re about finishing off, being resilient, and that’s the thing that I’m most impressed with today, regardless of how many points were on the board,” UCLA coach Chip Kelly said.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson stole the show for the Bruins, passing for 349 yards and four touchdowns and adding a pair of scores on the ground.

“He’s a special player,” Kelly said, “and I’ve said it since the beginning. I love the kid. He’s as tough as they come both mentally and physically — and that was just on display today.”

Thompson-Robinson may be the headliner for the UCLA offense, but Cal undoubtedly will be keeping a close eye on two others: Zach Charbonnet, who ran for 167 yards and a touchdown last week, and Kazmeir Allen, who scored on a 100-yard kickoff return and also grabbed three receptions for 115 yards and two scores.

Meanwhile, Cal (4-6, 3-4) can still reach the postseason by winning its last two regular-season contests. The Bears host the Trojans next weekend, but first they need to defeat the Bruins — and replicating last week’s effort against Stanford isn’t a bad place to start.

Cal topped the Cardinal 41-11 behind Chase Garbers’ two touchdown passes and Marcel Dancy’s pair of rushing scores. The Bears’ defense held Stanford to 282 total yards in a crisp all-around effort, but coach Justin Wilcox was particularly pleased with the play of his senior quarterback.

“I’m really glad Chase is on our team while I’ve been here to quarterback the Big Game,” Wilcox said, referencing the rivalry with Stanford. “He had another good one today. Chase is playing his best ball since being here. It’s not even close.”

UCLA has won three of the last four meetings between the teams, including a 34-10 triumph a season ago. The Bruins lead the all-time series 56-34-1.

–Field Level Media

Nov 20, 2021; Stanford, California, USA;  California Golden Bears wide receiver Nikko Remigio (4) attempts to run past Stanford Cardinal safety Jonathan McGill (2) during the first quarter at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Cal runs up 636 yards in Big Game rout of Stanford

Trevon Clark turned a short pass from Chase Garbers into a rivalry-record, 84-yard touchdown Saturday afternoon as California used big plays to roll past host Stanford 41-11 in the 124th rendition of the Big Game.

Garbers passed for 246 yards and two scores, Christopher Brooks ran 13 times for 131 yards and Clark totaled 135 yards on three receptions in the Pacific-12 Conference affair for the Golden Bears, who won at Stanford for the second time in three years.

Cal ran up a Big Game-record 636 total yards, aided by a non-scoring 75-yard run by Brooks and a 76-yard TD scamper by Marcel Dancy in the third quarter.

The Golden Bears (4-6, 3-4 Pac-12), who remained bowl-eligible with the win, also scored on a 1-yard TD pass from Garbers to Brooks in the first quarter, a 2-yard run by Dancy early in the fourth period, a 5-yard run by Chris Street with 5:00 remaining in the game and Dario Longhetto field goals of 24 and 34 yards.

Dancy just missed a 100-yard rushing game with 92 yards on just four carries.

Garbers finished 17-for-26 with one interception. He also ran seven times for 59 yards.

Cal rushed for 352 yards and had 284 passing.

Tanner McKee passed for 234 yards on 27-for-44 passing with two interceptions for Stanford (3-8, 2-7), which completes its season next week at home against Notre Dame.

Austin Jones had Stanford’s only touchdown on a 1-yard plunge early in the final period after the Cardinal had already fallen behind 27-3. Joshua Karty added a 32-yard field goal for Stanford.

Stanford’s Michael Wilson led all pass-catchers with seven that went for 73 yards. Jones was the Cardinal’s leading rusher with 28 yards on 10 attempts.

Garbers’ record-breaking connection with Clark came 2:53 into the second quarter.

Cal had suffered a fumble and an interception on its first two possessions. But each time, Stanford failed to capitalize on goal-to-go situations, turning the ball over on downs both times as the game remained scoreless.

Despite the loss, Stanford retained a 65-48-11 advantage in the all-time series.

–Field Level Media

November 27, 2020; Berkeley, California, USA; Stanford Cardinal players celebrate with The Stanford Axe after the game against the California Golden Bears at California Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Big Game arrives amid bad seasons for Cal, Stanford

Quarterback Chase Garbers looks for a second career win over rival Stanford when he leads visiting California into the annual Big Game among the San Francisco Bay Area’s two Pac-12 Conference football programs on Saturday afternoon.

The schools, separated by a bridge and just 35 miles, have alternated wins and losses the last three seasons. Stanford held on for a 24-23 victory at Cal last November when the Golden Bears missed a PAT after a touchdown with 58 seconds remaining.

That game pitted Garbers against Stanford’s Davis Mills, who has since graduated to the NFL’s Houston Texans.

The Cardinal’s quarterback situation has become a mess in the 10 games since, with opening-day backup Tanner McKee having quickly seized the starting job, only to come away with an undisclosed injury to his left leg in a home loss to Washington last month.

Jack West, Ari Patu and Dylan Plautz have shared the duties in the last two contests, in which Stanford (3-7, 2-6 Pac-12) was blown out by Utah and Oregon State.

The Cardinal totaled just 94 passing yards with two interceptions in last week’s 35-14 loss at Oregon State.

The good news for Stanford, which enters the Big Game on a five-game losing streak, is that McKee appears ready to return from his two-game absence.

“Having some guys back I think will help a lot this week,” Stanford coach David Shaw said, adding cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly and linebacker Ricky Miezan to the list of potential key returners headed by McKee.

“Right now it’s not about any of the previous games. It’s not about next week. It’s about rivalry week and that’s what these guys are focused on, trying to keep the Axe.”

Cal (3-6, 2-4 Pac-12) has had no such problems at the quarterback position, with Garbers ranking sixth in the Pac-12 in passing yards despite having played one or two fewer games than the five guys ahead of him on the list.

Cal’s contest last week against Southern California had to be rescheduled because of COVID issues among the Golden Bears. Cal was seriously undermanned, including the absence of Garbers, when it lost 10-3 the previous week at Arizona.

Cal offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave expects a big performance from Garbers this week despite the fact he hasn’t played since Oct. 30, when he threw for a season-best three touchdowns and rushed for a fourth in a win over Oregon State.

“I feel like we’re getting better as a coaching staff,” Musgrave said of a relationship he believes has kept his quarterback on an upward trajectory this season. “We’re game-planning better and putting him in better position — everybody, all 11 guys — to be successful.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 30, 2021; Berkeley, California, USA; California Golden Bears quarterback Chase Garbers (7) scrambles during the third quarter against the Oregon State Beavers at FTX Field at California Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

USC-Cal game rescheduled due to COVID-19

In what was a common occurrence a year ago, an NCAA football game has been postponed due to COVID-19. Unlike last year, this is the only FBS game moved so far in 2021, as Southern Cal’s trip to face Pac-12 foe Cal has been rescheduled from this Saturday to Dec. 4.

The Golden Bears were ravaged by a surge of players being deemed ineligible to play a week ago, helping to contribute to Cal’s ugly 10-3 loss to the Arizona Wildcats, previous losers of 20 games in a row.

Seven starters, including starting quarterback Chase Garbers, as well as 24 players and coaches overall were unavailable to Cal in the loss. The school announced Tuesday an undisclosed number of additional players have tested positive for COVID-19, necessitating a postponement.

USC and Cal negotiated a rescheduled date, and the Pac-12 approved the move.

Previously, the Pac-12 announced that teams will receive forfeits for COVID-19-related cancellations in 2021-22, but with the wiggle room to allow commissioner George Kliavkoff to have full discretion to rule differently on a case-by-case basis.

Garbers put out a statement on social media Monday, expressing frustration with Cal’s testing methodology and how it is communicated to athletes.

USC (4-5, 3-4 Pac-12) is now off this weekend before the Trojans play host to UCLA (5-4, 3-3) on Nov. 20. Cal (3-6, 2-4) will next travel to Stanford (3-6, 2-5) to take on the Cardinal Nov. 20.

–Field Level Media

Oct 30, 2021; Berkeley, California, USA; California Golden Bears fans during the third quarter against the Oregon State Beavers at FTX Field at California Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona ends 20-game skid by beating COVID-depleted Cal

Michael Wiley’s 10-yard touchdown run with 2:17 remaining was the difference in Arizona ending its 20-game losing streak with a 10-3 Pac-12 win Saturday in Tucson, Ariz., over a California team depleted by COVID-19 protocol.

Arizona, which had the longest losing streak in the nation, won its sixth straight against California. The Wildcats (1-8, 1-5 Pac-12) won for the first time since Oct. 5, 2019 at Colorado.

The Bears (3-6, 2-4) were without 24 players, including quarterback Chase Garbers, and five coaches were entered into COVID-19 protocols earlier this week.

Garbers took every snap at quarterback through Cal’s first eight games. Transfer Ryan Glover, who played last spring at Western Carolina after three years at Penn, was the starter.

Glover completed 11 of 29 passes for 94 yards.

The teams traded field goals in the third quarter to open the scoring.

Tyler Loop’s 29-yard field goal with 5:46 left in the quarter was answered by Nick Lopez, who made his first career attempt, a 34-yarder with 2:09 remaining. Lopez replaced Dario Longhetto, one of the players affected by the COVID-19 restrictions.

In that drive, Cal achieved its first third-down conversion in the game after failing in its first eight attempts.

The Golden Bears finished with 122 yards of total offense while Arizona tallied 331.

Arizona quarterback Will Plummer suffered a shoulder injury in the first half, forcing him to leave the field twice to the locker room to be examined. He went to the locker room again in the third quarter with a bloody hand.

Plummer completed 16 of 28 passes for 129 yards with two interceptions. He also rushed for 68 yards on 11 carries.

Converted receiver Jamarye Joiner and fifth-string quarterback Luke Ashworth took snaps for Arizona, which has lost Jordan McCloud (knee and ankle injuries) and Gunner Cruz (thumb) for the season.

Arizona’s best scoring situation in the first half with 9:09 left in the first quarter when the Wildcats reached the Cal 7-yard line but Plummer’s pass on third-and-goal was tipped by Nate Rutchena and fellow linebacker Evan Tattersall intercepted the pass.

–Field Level Media

Oct 2, 2021; Corvallis, Oregon, USA; Washington Huskies wide receiver Jalen McMillan (left) is tackled by Oregon State Beavers inside linebacker Avery Roberts (34) during the second half at Reser Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Tied atop Pac-12 North, Oregon State gears up for Cal

Oregon State hopes to continue its surprising run toward a potential Pacific-12 Conference football championship when the Beavers oppose Cal on Saturday afternoon in Berkeley, Calif.

Winners of five of six since an opening loss at Purdue, Oregon State (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12) got the conference’s attention last Saturday with its second shocker in the past four weeks, stunning Utah 42-34.

The Beavers won 45-27 at Southern California on Sept. 25.

Oregon State enters play this week tied with No. 7 Oregon atop the Pac-12 North. The rivals are scheduled to meet Nov. 27, but the Beavers must deal with Cal (2-5, 1-3), Colorado, Stanford and Arizona State in between.

Oregon State is catching Cal as it rides the momentum of its most impressive effort of the season, a 26-3 home shellacking of Colorado. The Golden Bears had fallen inches short a week earlier in a 24-17 loss at then-No. 9 Oregon.

The game matches Cal quarterback Chase Garbers against Oregon State defensive standout Avery Roberts.

Garbers completed 22 of 29 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Colorado. The senior did serious damage on the ground as well, rushing 10 times for 96 yards.

Along the way, Garber broke Joe Kapp’s Cal career rushing record for quarterbacks.

“All of the credit goes to the other 10 guys on offense,” Garbers said. “They’re the reason why I can run, why I can throw, the reason why I’m successful at this school and in this offense.”

When Garbers runs Saturday, he’d be wise to run away from Roberts, who had 16 tackles in the Beavers’ win over Utah, an effort for which he earned Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honors.

The junior linebacker ranks third in the nation with 11.1 tackles per game.

Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith credits the guys in front of Roberts.

“The (defensive) line of scrimmage has been better this year,” Smith said, “and that’s allowed the linebackers like Avery Roberts to have the production he is. We’re doing some things at the line of scrimmage keeping him free.”

Oregon State has beaten Cal in the past two meetings, including 21-17 in 2019 when the schools last tangled in Berkeley.

–Field Level Media

Oct 23, 2021; Berkeley, California, USA; California Golden Bears quarterback Chase Garbers (7) scrambles for the first down and passes the school record held by Joe Kapp for the most rushing yards by a quarterback for the last 60 years against the Colorado Buffaloes during the first quarter at FTX Field at California Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Chase Garbers helps California rout Colorado

Chase Garbers was 22-of-29 passing for 225 yards and two touchdowns and also rushed for 96 yards, and California beat Colorado 26-3 in Pac-12 play in Berkley, Calif., on Saturday.

Keleki Latu had three catches for 36 yards and a score and Gavin Reinwald caught a 31-yard touchdown pass for the Bears (2-5, 1-3 Pac-12).

Cal held Colorado to 104 total yards, sacked quarterback Brendon Lewis six times and intercepted him once.

The Bears struck first on the first of four field goals by Dario Longhetto, this one from 49 yards out.

On the ensuing possession the Buffaloes (2-5, 1-3) went for it on fourth-and-one at midfield but were stopped.

The Bears took advantage of the field position when Garbers connected with Latu on a 24-yard scoring strike to put Cal ahead 10-0 with 6:05 left in the first quarter.

Colorado was forced to punt again on its next possession and the Bears took 7:08 to drive 88 yards to the Buffaloes 12-yard line. Longhetto made it 13-0 with a 30-yard field goal.

Colorado finally got on the board on its next possession. The Buffaloes drove to the Cal 13 but couldn’t convert on a third-and-two, settling for Cole Becker’s 33-yard field goal that made it 13-3.

The Bears padded their lead before halftime. After Colorado kicked off, Garbers took Cal down the field and hit Reinwald on a 31-yard touchdown pass with 3:21 left in the second quarter.

The Buffaloes got one first down on their ensuing possession before punting to the Bears’ 17. Garbers completed four passes and ran for a first down in the final 58 seconds, and Longhetto hit a field goal from 51 yards out as time expired to make it 23-3.

Neither team scored in the third quarter but Cal added some insurance in the fourth after a wild sequence. Longhetto had his 38-yard field goal attempt blocked and Colorado returned it for an apparent touchdown.

However, the Buffaloes were offside, giving Longhetto another chance, and he hit from 33 yards.

–Field Level Media