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

California   s Jake Tonges dives into the end zone for the first touchdown of the game against Oregon during the first quarter.

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Cal still confident … and still searching for first FBS win against Colorado

The Cal Bears have a losing record but with a few breaks they could be .500 or better.

The Bears (1-5, 0-3 Pac-12) have lost games by five points, two points and another in overtime. They also went on the road to No. 9 Oregon and gave the Ducks a scare before falling 24-17 last week.

So, it’s no surprise Cal is still confident heading into its home matchup with Colorado at Berkeley Saturday afternoon.

“We have a close-knit group of guys,” senior safety Elijah Hicks said. “To be honest, we’re confident we can play with anybody. The confidence isn’t going to go anywhere.”

Cal is still looking for its first win over a FBS school. The Bears’ lone win came against Sacramento State on Sept. 18.

The Buffaloes (2-4, 1-2) got a much-needed win against Arizona, 34-0, on Saturday. Colorado had opened the season strong with a win and a near upset of No. 5 Texas A&M but was then outscored 102-27 in the next three games.

Freshman quarterback Brandon Lewis has been forced to learn on the job, and the lessons have been tough at times. In his first three games, he threw for 218 yards combined. But against Arizona, he had 248 yards passing with two touchdowns.

The Buffaloes also got a strong game out of Trevor Woods, who had a blocked punt that he returned for a touchdown. He was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week on Monday.

“That was a really good win for us as a program,” CU coach Karl Dorrell said. “All three phases scored touchdowns … We had two weeks of really doing some things in detail. I just felt like the dam was going to break at some point and it did [vs. Arizona].”

The Buffaloes will be without some players against Cal. Running back Ashaad Clayton will miss his second straight game for an undisclosed injury, defensive back Nigel Bethel has a knee injury and “it doesn’t look so good,” Dorrell said.

Wide receiver La’Vontae Shenault is also still serving a suspension.

–Field Level Media

Oct 15, 2021; Eugene, Oregon, USA; Oregon Ducks running back Travis Dye (26) fights for extra yards against California Golden Bears linebacker Marqez Bimage (46) at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

No. 9 Oregon rallies past Cal, then holds on for win

In need of a defensive stand in the closing seconds, No. 9 Oregon held firm and kept California out of the end zone to secure a 24-17 win on Friday in Eugene, Ore.

The Golden Bears got the ball to the Oregon 2-yard line and faced fourth-and-goal with five seconds to play. The Ducks blitzed Cal quarterback Chase Garbers and forced an incomplete pass for a turnover on downs, sealing the win.

Quarterback Anthony Brown, booed at home when Oregon’s offense sputtered for the better part of three quarters, led a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown drives, the last one putting the Ducks on top when he ran 11 yards for a score with 4:50 to play.

Travis Dye carried 19 times for 145 yards and a touchdown, and he added 73 yards on seven receptions. Brown finished 20 of 28 for 244 yards and a score as Oregon (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12) rallied from a 17-10 fourth-quarter deficit to win.

Cal (1-5, 0-3 Pac-12) still has not beaten a Top 10 AP team on the road since a 17-14 victory at No. 10 Indiana in 1969. The Bears are winless at Autzen Stadium since 2007.

Oregon couldn’t get out of its own way in the opening quarter and early in the second, putting together lengthy drives but producing only three points. After getting into the red zone, penalties and a fumble resulted in a field goal on their first possession and a turnover on their third, and in between that, a turnover on downs inside Cal territory.

The Ducks had a chance for points late in the first half, but Brown was sacked and fumbled the ball away with 16 seconds left.

Star Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux had to sit in the first half after a targeting call against him in the team’s previous game, but he returned to action for the second half against Cal.

Thibodeaux made an impact with his pass rush, but Cal tied the game at 10 on a Dario Longhetto field goal with 8:34 left in the third quarter. Still, Thibodeaux was a factor late in the game, forcing hurried throws.

Garbers went 24 of 42 passing with two touchdowns. He completed scoring passes to Jake Tonges for 9 yards in the first quarter and Gavin Reinwald for 4 yards early in the fourth quarter.

Oregon has won 11 of the teams’ past 13 meetings.

–Field Level Media

Oct 2, 2021; Stanford, California, USA;  Oregon Ducks quarterback Anthony Brown (13) prepares to throw the football during the second quarter against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

No. 9 Oregon expected to stick with QB Anthony Brown against Cal

The Oregon Ducks had a full weekend off to rest up, heal up and try to get beyond a disappointing upset loss to Stanford on Oct. 2. That loss, coupled with results of a wild weekend in college football, sent the Ducks down to a No. 9 national ranking.

They’ll get back on the field Friday night at home against Pac-12 North rival California at Autzen Stadium, but without two key players. Leading rusher CJ Verdell is out for the season after suffering an apparent leg injury against Stanford, and defensive back Bennett Williams will also miss the rest of the season after surgery for a broken fibula.

Travis Dye looks likely to step in as the lead back with Verdell out.

Oregon (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) will also be without star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux for the first half of Friday’s game, after he was ejected for targeting late in the Stanford game, a 31-24 overtime defeat.

Offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead was not calling plays against Stanford as he was in a hospital for a non-COVID-related procedure. If he is not ready to resume duties, running backs coach Jim Mastro will do so for another game.

After the Stanford loss in which he did not throw a touchdown and was intercepted once, there had been talk of turning from starter Anthony Brown to freshman Ty Thompson going forward. But Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal didn’t seem ready to make the switch.

“(Brown) certainly gives us the best chance to win,” Cristobal told USA Today. “He’s done enough in practice, he’s done enough in games. I think a lot of times when you have a game like this and things don’t go well, it pours on people. … Anthony has shown a lot, and he’s done a lot of good things in a lot of different ways. He’s going to improve and get better.”

Brown threw his first interception of the season, but Cal’s Chase Garbers has five and is facing a ball-hawking Oregon secondary. The Golden Bears (1-4, 0-2) also had a bye last week, but lost two straight prior to that.

Still, Cal stunned the Ducks in Berkeley last season 21-17 with Garbers running the offense, and the Pac-12 has already seen its share of surprising game results in 2021.

The win over Oregon last December was the last time the Golden Bears won a conference game.

“Last year was last year, and we’re focused on playing better as a team,” Cal head coach Justin Wilcox told Sports Illustrated. “That’s what we need to do. I don’t feel like the guys are lacking confidence. We just haven’t finished games.”

Garbers has 1,245 passing yards and seven touchdown passes on the season, but the Cal defense is allowing 281.4 passing yards per game and has given up 12 passing touchdowns.

Damien Moore’s 313 yards and five touchdowns lead the rushing attack.

The Bears are 42-39-2 all-time against Oregon, but since 2009, the Ducks have dominated the rivalry. Oregon has won 10 of the last 12 meetings.

–Field Level Media

October 2, 2021; Berkeley, California, USA; California Golden Bears quarterback Chase Garbers (7) passes the football against Washington State Cougars defensive back Derrick Langford (5) and defensive end Brennan Jackson (80) and linebacker Justus Rogers (37) during the second quarter at FTX Field at California Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Washington State rebounds with road win over Cal

Washington State’s defense held California scoreless for the final 53 minutes and Jayden de Laura returned from a knee injury to throw three touchdown passes as the visiting Cougars suffocated the Golden Bears 21-6 in Pacific-12 Conference action Saturday afternoon in Berkeley, Calif.

De Laura completed 22 and 5-yard passes to Calvin Jackson for first-quarter scores and 8 yards to De’Zhaun Stribling for the only touchdown of the second half, helping Washington State (2-3, 1-2) end a two-game losing streak.

The win was the Cougars’ first at Cal since a 44-22 shootout in 2013.

Christopher Brooks ran in from 11 yards out on Cal’s first possession for the Golden Bears’ only score of a game in which they were held to 273 yards of total offense.

Led by de Laura, who was injured two weeks ago against Southern Cal and sat out last Saturday’s loss at Utah, Washington State drove 75 yards on each of its first two possessions. Jackson culminated both drives with his touchdown catches.

In between, the Golden Bears (1-4, 0-2) marched 79 yards on just seven plays leading to the Brooks TD run. But Cal failed on its PAT attempt, leaving it in a 7-6 hole.

The Golden Bears totaled just 194 yards on their last 11 possessions, as Washington State cornerback Jaylen Watson ended one drive with an interception and the Cougars stalled others with four sacks.

Stribling’s TD catch came on Washington State’s first possession of the second half, completing the game’s scoring with still 8:47 remaining in the third quarter.

De Laura finished 25-for-41 for 219 yards and three scores. He was intercepted twice by Cal’s Nate Rutchena and Daniel Scott.

Jackson had six catches for 53 yards and two TD’s, while Travell Harris added a game-high seven receptions for 46 yards.

Deon McIntosh, who shared time with Max Borghi, was the game’s leading rusher with 59 yards on 12 carries.

Cal’s Chase Garbers went just 14-for-30 for 152 yards and the one interception.

Kekoa Crawford led all receivers with 67 yards on three catches, while Chris Street was Cal’s top Cal rusher with 51 yards on eight tries.

–Field Level Media

Sep 25, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; California Golden Bears quarterback Chase Garbers (7) runs with the ball as Washington Huskies defensive back Alex Cook (5) and defensive back Mishael Powell (23) move in to make a tackle during the second half of a game at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. The Huskies won 31-24 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

Cal, Washington State eye rebound from tough losses

Two teams that watched potential Pac-12 Conference victories slip through their grasp last weekend hope to finish stronger this time when Washington State visits California on Saturday afternoon in Berkeley, Calif.

The home team has won the past five meetings in the 102-year-old rivalry, with Cal prevailing 33-20 two years ago behind three touchdown passes from Devon Modster, who was subbing for the injured Chase Garbers.

Garbers already has surpassed 1,000 passing yards in four games this season, including a season-high 319 last week in a 31-24 overtime loss at Washington.

Down seven in the extra session, Cal (1-3, 0-1 Pac-12) drove to the Washington 2 before Damien Moore fumbled at the goal line, preventing the Golden Bears from potentially either tying the score with a PAT or going for the road win with a two-pointer.

“In football you’ve got to have a short memory,” Garbers said afterward. “Obviously, losing (stinks). We’ve got to learn from it and move on.”

At least the Golden Bears came out of the game relatively healthy. The same could not be said of Washington State (1-3, 0-2), which held a 13-10 lead into the final five minutes at Utah before giving up two late scores in a 24-13 defeat.

Along the way, the Cougars saw standout running back Max Borghi sprain his left wrist, and three safeties left the game, so the visitors had only two remaining healthy safeties on the roster, according to coach Nick Rolovich.

Borghi rushed for 42 yards on six carries, with a long of 18 yards, before his injury on the first snap of the second quarter. Backups Deon McIntosh and Nakia Watson combined for 60 yards on 14 tries over the final three quarters.

“Those would be the two guys,” Rolovich said of this week’s possible replacements for Borghi, who has not been ruled out. X-rays taken over the weekend were negative. “They’re both very good in pass protection, both ready to play. It’s good to have two guys ready to go.”

Borghi was the team’s leading rusher, albeit with just 19 yards, and caught eight passes for 36 yards in the loss at Cal in 2019.

He has rushed for 259 yards and two touchdowns in Washington State’s first four games. The squad has just two other rushing TDs, one coming from quarterback Jayden de Laura, who missed the Utah game with a knee injury.

He, like Borghi, remains questionable to return this week.

–Field Level Media