On a beautiful warm sunny day in Berkeley, the California Golden Bears won their 2019 debut against the UC Davis Aggies. With the win today the Bears have now won their sixth consecutive season opener.
Sophomore running back Chris Brown Jr and Junior transfer student KeKoa Crawford were difference makers. Brown, a 6’1″ 230 pound sophomore, carried 26 times for 197 yards, both career highs. He is also the nation’s third leading rusher. Crawford, the 6’1″ 190 pound transfer student from Glendale Community College, had three big catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns.
While the result was in Cal’s favor, it wasn’t the easy win most hoped for. The ballgame had quite the auspicious start as the Aggies won the toss, choosing to differ. They proceeded to strip Cal’s kickoff return man Ashtyn Davis on the 21 yard line and recovered the fumbe to take possession. Not ideal.
Then, after the turnover the Aggies went 21 yards in four plays, scoring on a 2 yard plunge by Ulonzo Gilliam.
The Aggies didn’t letup either, stifling Cal’s passing game throughout the first quarter. The Bears came out flat and the majority of the offense came from the legs of running back Chris Brown Jr.
Chase Garbers completed just two passes. Meanwhile the Aggies forced two turnovers in the first quarter, with a third coming mere seconds into the second quarter.
A win not without mistakes
Offensive mistakes came early and often including a couple Garbers throws. In back to back plays he rolled out to his right, nearly threw one interception and had the second picked.
But it wasn’t all Garbers’ fault. In the second quarter Cal receiver Jordan Duncan caught a pass, broke a tackle but fumbled the ball. The results? Another turnover.
Garbers weighed-in on what he thought attributed to the slow start.
“I think also offensively we came out too loose. I think we were lackadaisacal to start in a way, I think just getting that first game out of us and we regrouped and we came back in the second quarter and the second half and did what we do.”
Once Cal found their rhythm, however, they didn’t look back. Fortunately this took place in the second quarter.
Cranking up the pressure and going uptempo the Bears started taking it to the Aggies. Garbers started things off with a 13 yard run, followed with a three yard run by Brown Jr. After an incompletion came the chunk plays. First was a 30 yard pass to Nikko Remigio. Next was a four yard run by Brown Jr. and finally capped off by a beautiful 37 yard catch and run by Kekoa Crawford with the exclamation point dive into the end zone.
Calming the nerves
When asked about how he settled his young quarterback down, coach Justin Wilcox had this to say.
“It was calming down and trusting his preparation. We expect him t make plays. He kept his composure and didn’t panic by any means. Overall, I liked that he battled back from a slow start. It was good to see.”
Next drive Garbers completes a 30 yarder to tight end Jake Tonges on the seam route. Garbers goes three completions in a row throwing for 98 yards and appeared to find his rhythm. The Bears scored three times in the second quarter, on a touchdown and two field goals, finishing the quarter winning not only the possession battle 08:20 to 06:40 as well as amassing 177 yards to the Aggies 57.
Aggies take a knee in the end zone on the kickoff and proceed to take the ball 60 yards on 10 plays and kick a game-tying 32 yard field goal from Max O’Rourke.
On Cal’s first possession of the second half they mixed up their play calls beautifully and kept the Aggies off balance. Garbers scrambling and running with the football mystified the Aggies, and they had no answer for it. After a scramble that would have come up short the defense hit him late and the free 15 yards put Cal in position to score. Brown ran the ball in from five yards out off of a nice cutback on an outside zone run giving the Bears a 20-13 lead.
Later in the third Garbers rolled out to his right and threw a pass to Crawford in the end zone, but the pass was tipped by the Aggies Jaylin White. Crawford, made sure to get both feet down in bounds while tracking the ball on the tip drill and caught it for a 26 yard score. The last score would put the Bears up 27-13 and would be the final nail in the coffin.
Next up: Washington Huskies
Cal would finish the day with 471 yards total offense, Garbers was 16-28 for 238 yards 2 TDS and 1INT. The Bears rushed as a whole 51 times for 263 yards 1TD and an average of 4.6 yards per carry. Kicker Greg Thomas was 2/3 on field goals with makes of (44,47) missing on the last 44 yarder. Sophomore linebacker Kony Deng led the Bears in tackles with 12 total, 2 pass break ups, and 2 quarterback hits.