Cal Football: Garbers Back as Starter, Leads Bears to Much-Needed Win

BERKELEY, CA - SEPTEMBER 15: Chase Garbers #7 of the California Golden Bears passes the ball against the Idaho State Bengals at California Memorial Stadium on September 15, 2018 in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
BERKELEY, CA - SEPTEMBER 15: Chase Garbers #7 of the California Golden Bears passes the ball against the Idaho State Bengals at California Memorial Stadium on September 15, 2018 in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

Needing a change, Cal football’s head coach Justin Wilcox went back to Chase Garbers as his starting quarterback to lead them to a win.

Yet again, the Cal football team made a quarterback change. After rolling with Brandon McIlwain for a few weeks, the Bears went back to redshirt freshman Chase Garbers as their top quarterback choice. McIlwain struggled badly in the last few games with turnovers, throwing seven interceptions in three Pac-12 games. That was a big catalyst in Cal’s abysmal 14 turnovers in those three games.

It was time for a change, and that change certainly worked against the Oregon State Beavers. Led by Garbers, the Bears put together their best total team effort of the season. The offense and defense both played at a high level, leading to a blowout win, their first conference win of the season. It was also their first conference road win since 2015, snapping a 14-game losing streak.

With Garbers at the helm, Cal’s offense moved so much smoother than it had in the last couple games. After a slow start that included a couple of overthrows, Garbers quickly settled in and began slinging the ball around. On the second drive, he made a wonderful throw to the opposite sideline, converting a third-and-seven. Garbers went deep to Vic Wharton on the next play, connecting for 55 yards, the Bears’ longest play for scrimmage this year. Garbers completed the drive with a three-yard strike to Malik McMorris to put Cal ahead 7-0.

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Garbers threw his second touchdown halfway through the second quarter, hitting Patrick Laird in stride on a wheel route to his right. His third came in the fourth quarter, finding a wide-open Noa in the middle of the field to put the Bears in front 35-7. Garbers finished the day with 17 completions in 26 attempts. He didn’t throw an interception, the first time since week one against UNC that a Cal quarterback wasn’t intercepted.

Garbers’ ability to run the play-action and the run-pass option also helped the running game. Laird, who appears to getting better and better as the weeks roll on, had another strong effort. On the first play of the second half, Laird gained 53 yards, his longest run of the year, to give him 100 yards for the first time this season. He ran through tackles, kept his feet churning, showed breakaway speed, used the stiff arm, and overall looked like the complete runner that he was last season. He finished with 193 yards, the second-biggest rushing day of his career, and scored two touchdowns on the ground.

True freshman Christopher Brown Jr. scored his first collegiate touchdown in the third quarter, and though Garbers doesn’t have the explosive play ability of McIlwain, he was able to pick up some good chunks. On eight carries, Garbers gained 54 yards.

Of course, though, there were some miscues. On Cal’s first drive of the second quarter, Cal had the ball inside of Oregon State’s 10. On a roll-out, Garbers had a wide open receiver, freshman tight end McCallan Castles in the flat, who would have likely walked into the endzone untouched. Instead, Garbers tried to force the ball to Moe Ways deeper in the endzone, and it was knocked down. A couple plays later, Cal fumbled the snap and turned the ball over at the two-yard line.

That one turnover didn’t hurt the Bears, and they didn’t allow that one misstep to snowball into a disaster. Garbers kept the offense calm and collected, and they moved relatively easily through the entire game. That wasn’t the case in past games, as one mistake seemed to lead to another, and it continued to roll downhill that way.

Defensively, Cal was as strong as ever. In the first half alone, they recorded three sacks, six tackles for loss, and an interception against Beavers’ quarterback Conor Blount, who unfortunately didn’t play in the second half after an injury late in the first. Oregon State didn’t get on the board until about three minutes left in the third quarter, at which point Cal already led by four touchdowns.

The dynamic linebacker duo of Jordan Kunaszyk and Evan Weaver continued their strong seasons. Both players recorded 10 tackles, with Kunaszyk adding a sack while Weaver recorded 1.5 sacks. Tevin Paul’s sneaky good year continued, as he collected a career-high six tackles, adding 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack. Paul’s seven TFL on the season leads the team.

Josh Drayden, who missed the first half after a targeting penalty last week, sealed the game with a pick-six in the final minutes, putting Cal ahead 49-7, which would be the final score. Traveon Beck also had an interception, while Camryn Bynum was again tough against his opposition’s top receiver.

Next. Cal Blown Out By Previously-Winless UCLA. dark

This was a big win for Cal. They beat an opponent they were supposed to beat, and they did so in convincing fashion. Now, the road gets tough for the Bears. Over the next two weeks, they will do battle with the two Washington schools, first taking on the Washington Huskies next week at home, then visiting the Washington State Cougars. After that, they visit USC, host Stanford, and end the season as hosts to  Colorado. Those are five very difficult opponents, and Cal needs to find a way to beat two of them to earn Bowl eligibility. It won’t be easy by any means, but if Cal can play the way they did in Corvallis, they will have a shot.