Apr 23, 2022; Notre Dame, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Drew Pyne (10) looks to hand off in the first quarter of the Blue-Gold Game at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

New QB to lead winless Notre Dame against unbeaten Cal

Notre Dame will showcase a new starting quarterback when it seeks its first win of the season at the expense of visiting Cal on Saturday.

The Fighting Irish were projected to be a College Football Playoff contender but are 0-2. The Golden Bears were picked to finish near the bottom of the Pac-12 Conference but are 2-0.

Drew Pyne will start at quarterback for Notre Dame, with Tyler Buchner having undergone season-ending shoulder surgery.

Pyne, a redshirt sophomore, came on for the injured Buchner in the fourth quarter of last week’s stunning 26-21 home loss to Marshall, throwing a touchdown pass with 14 seconds left to Michael Mayer but also getting intercepted once among his six throws.

“I didn’t know when his time was going to come, but here it is,” Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman said of Pyne. “He’s always prepared like a starter; he’s prepared like a pro. That’s who Drew Pyne is. He doesn’t need to be any different than he’s always been.”

Notre Dame also lost its opener, 21-10 at Ohio State, and will take the field Saturday unranked after landing in the No. 5 spot in the preseason ratings.

Cal remains unranked even after the unbeaten start, having struggled at times to turn back UC Davis 34-13 and UNLV 20-14, both at home.

The Fighting Irish and Golden Bears haven’t met since 1967 — Notre Dame is 4-0 in the all-time series — but the hosts should be plenty familiar with Cal quarterback Jack Plummer, a transfer from Purdue.

Plummer started for the Boilermakers in a 27-13 loss to Notre Dame last season, going 25 of 36 for 187 yards and one touchdown.

He has four TD passes in the first two games of his Golden Bears career, totaling 546 yards on 51-of-74 passing with two interceptions.

Plummer recognizes his team will have to match Notre Dame’s intensity to have a chance Saturday.

“(Our) guys are going to be hungry,” Plummer said, “and we’re going to be playing a team that they’re going to be hungry. It’s going to be a good game.”

–Field Level Media

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

Dec 4, 2021; Berkeley, California, USA; USC Trojans quarterback Jaxson Dart (2) run the ball against the California Golden Bears during the first quarter at FTX Field at California Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Cal sends USC to most losses since 1991

Christopher Brooks ran for a pair of touchdowns, and Trey Paster returned a fumble 55 yards for a score on Saturday to lead Cal past USC 24-14 in Berkeley, Calif., its first home win over the Trojans since 2003.

Cal (5-7, 4-5 Pac-12 Conference) turned a pair of USC turnovers into touchdowns, including Paster’s long return of a fumble forced by Elijah Hicks, and the Golden Bears held the Trojans to conversions on just 1-of-3 red-zone opportunities.

Cal stymied one trip to the red zone with a fourth-down stop near the goal line. The other ended inside the 10-yard line when Daniel Scott jarred the ball loose from Miller Moss on a sack.

Cal nearly forced a third turnover when Lu-Magia Hearns III made a spectacular leaping grab for an interception, but an offsides penalty negated the play.

USC (4-8, 3-6) scored later on the same drive when Moss –replacing starter Jaxson Dart at quarterback in the third quarter when Dart was helped off the field following a hard hit — found K.D. Nixon for a 16-yard touchdown.

The late fourth-quarter score came too little, too late, as Cal recovered the ensuing onside-kick attempt to preserve the win.

Chase Garbers went 18-of-21 passing for 177 yards. He added 12 yards rushing on a night that Cal only gained 88 yards on the ground, led by Brooks’ 49.

Despite the lack of explosive offense and being outgained 409 yards to 265, the Golden Bears were helped by the turnovers and good field position. One of Cal’s scoring drives went 62 yards, culminating in a Dario Longhetto field goal of 22 yards, and nother covered 65 yards, ending with a 2-yard Brooks rush.

The Trojans concluded the season on a four-game losing streak and finished with eight losses for the first time since 1991, when they went 3-8.

Vavae Malepeai rushed for 107 yards on Saturday. Before coming out, Dart went 17-of-26 passing for 191 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown to Kyle Ford.

The loss of Dart compounded issues for an already depleted roster.

USC had only “about 60” players dressed for the season finale, according to the Los Angeles Times.

–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

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 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

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

Jul 27, 2021; Hollywood, CA, USA; California Bears head coach Justin Wilcox speaks with the media during the Pac-12 football Media Day at the W Hollywood. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Chase Garbers helps Cal down Sacramento State

Chase Garbers passed for two scores and ran for another on Saturday afternoon, guiding California to its first football win of the season with a 42-30 victory over Sacramento State in a nonconference game at Berkeley, Calif.

Damien Moore rushed for two touchdowns, Jeremiah Hunter and Trevon Clark hauled in scoring passes, and Nikko Remigio returned the opening kickoff of the second half 99 yards for the Golden Bears (1-2), who had opened the season with losses to Nevada and Texas Christian.

Jake Dunniway threw for 370 yards and two touchdowns and his backup, Asher O’Hara, ran for a pair of scores for the Hornets (1-2), an FCS team that lost its second straight.

Cal never trailed in the game, with Moore scoring twice from 4 yards out in the first quarter and Garber hitting Hunter for 45 yards in the second period to account for a 21-6 halftime advantage.

Remigio’s return immediately following the halftime break broke open the contest, which matched teams located 90 miles apart in Northern California.

Sacramento State didn’t go down without a fight, twice rallying within two scores in the third quarter on O’Hara’s second rushing touchdown, a 2-yarder, and a 34-yard pass from Dunniway to Marshel Martin.

Ahead just 35-20 after three quarters, Cal finally gave its home fans a comfort zone when Garbers ran 16 yards for the Golden Bears’ final touchdown with 12:50 to go.

Garbers went 22-of-34 passing for 288 yards with one interception, and also rushed four times for 68 yards.

Moore was Cal’s leading rusher with 87 yards on 12 carries, while Hunter was the top receiver with five catches for 78 yards.

Dunniway completed 25 of 43 passes with one interception, with eight of his completions and one of his scoring passes going to Pierre Williams, who totaled 121 receiving yards. O’Hara led Sacramento State rushers with 49 yards on 12 runs.

In a game that featured 1,001 yards of total offense, Cal outgained the visitors 534-467.

–Field Level Media

Sep 4, 2021; Berkeley, California, USA; California Golden Bears wide receiver Jeremiah Hunter (10) is tackled by Nevada Wolf Pack cornerback Isaiah Essissima (2) and defensive back JoJuan Claiborne (8) during the second quarter at FTX Field at California Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Nevada rallies for 22-17 win over Cal

Carson Strong passed for 312 yards and two touchdowns, and the visiting Nevada Wolf Pack surprised the California Golden Bears 22-17 in the non-conference opener for both teams.

The Wolf Pack held California to three points over the final three quarters.

Strong, the reigning Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year, connected with Romeo Doubs on a 43-yard touchdown in the second quarter and with Elijah Cooks from 16 yards out for the go-ahead score in the third period.

Nevada beat Cal for the third time in four all-time meetings.

Brandon Talton added 44-, 35- and 49-yard field goals for the Wolf Pack, who trailed 14-0 after Cal’s first two possessions before tightening the defensive screws on the Pacific-12 Conference team.

Seeking its first win over Nevada since 1996, Cal used a powerful running game to dominate the first period and build a 14-0 lead.

The Golden Bears scored at the end of 63- and 72-yard drives. Damien Moore plunged in from 1 yard out to open the scoring in the game’s 10th minute before Chase Garbers connected with Nikko Remigio for a 2-yard touchdown with three seconds left in the period.

But Cal’s only scoring after that came on a 24-yard field goal by Dario Longhetto with 12:59 remaining in the game, setting the stage for Nevada’s comeback.

The Golden Bears got possession of the ball twice after Longhetto’s field goal, but Isaiah Essissima intercepted a Garbers pass with 4:29 to go and Cal failed to get a first down after taking over one final time at its own 20 with 1:55 to go.

Strong finished 22-for-39 with one interception. Tory Horton was the club’s big receiver, gaining 94 yards on his three catches.

Garbers went 25-for-38 for 177 yards with one interception for Cal, which got away from a successful running game after one quarter, finishing with 11 more pass attempts (38) than runs (27).

Moore led all rushers in the game with 79 yards on 15 carries.

–Field Level Media

Dec 22, 2020; Boise, Idaho, USA; Nevada Wolf Pack quarterback Carson Strong (12) throws a pass  during the first half of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl versus the Tulane Green Wave  at Albertsons Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

Heisman hopeful Carson Strong leads Nevada against Cal

The Carson Strong Heisman Watch kicks off Saturday night when Nevada visits California in a nonconference season opener at Berkeley, Calif.

Strong, the reigning Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year, enters his junior year riding the hype of having already been named to several publications’ Maxwell Award watch lists.

He threw for 2,858 yards and 27 touchdowns last season, his first year as the Wolf Pack’s full-time starter, putting himself on the 2021 Heisman map with a 271-yard, five-touchdown finale against Tulane in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise.

Strong, who missed his senior season at Will C. Wood High in Vacaville, Calif., because of a knee injury, prompting local schools like Cal to focus their recruiting elsewhere, is focused on team goals rather than individual glory.

“Winning is the only thing that matters,” said Strong, his team coming off a 7-2 season. “At the end of the day, you have to go out there and win. That’s the only thing I’m worried about. I just want to go out there and win a championship for Nevada and play in a New Year’s Six bowl.”

He could be facing one of his toughest assignments of the season right off the bat against a Cal defense that figures to be tough against the pass.

The Golden Bears are strong both on the defensive perimeter with outside linebackers Cameron Goode and Kuony Deng and in the secondary with safety Elijah Hicks and cornerback Josh Drayden.

Cal allowed just 197.8 passing yards per game during its abbreviated 1-3 campaign last year, limiting Stanford’s Davis Mills and Oregon’s Tyler Shough to one touchdown apiece in the last two games.

Cal will counter Strong with an awards candidate of its own. Senior Chase Garbers is a veteran of 23 college starts, during which the Golden Bears have gone 14-9. The 14 wins as a starter are tops among all returning Pac-12 quarterbacks.

The 225-pounder also is a capable runner as well as a passer, having accumulated 718 rushing yards in his career, just 213 shy of Joe Kapp’s all-time school record among quarterbacks.

Cal offers good depth in its running game, with Christopher Brooks, who ran for 914 yards in 2019, and Damien Moore, who rolled up 121 yards against Stanford last season, splitting opportunities.

Bears coach Justin Wilcox offered no apologies for winding up with Garbers rather than Strong as his starting quarterback.

“Things happen in recruiting,” he said. “(Strong) has had a heck of a career. We know he’s going to be a great challenge for our defense.”

–Field Level Media