Cal Football Takes Advantage of Constant Stream of Colorado Miscues

Raiders (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Raiders (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

Colorado made mistake after mistake on Saturday night, and the Cal football team took advantage to win their seventh game of the season.

The Colorado Buffaloes beat themselves on Saturday night, and the Cal football team were able to put another tick in the win column because of it.

This season has turned into a disaster for Colorado. After a roaring start that saw the Buffs win each of their first five games, their fortunes turned and they turned hard. They lost the next six games, leading to the dismissal of head coach Mike MacIntyre ahead of their regular season finale with Cal.

Despite all that, they still needed just one win with interim coach Kurt Roper to earn bowl eligibility and finish a disappointing year on something of a high note. Instead, the disaster just got worse.

Colorado continuously shot themselves in the foot in a wide variety of ways. On the first two possessions of the game, it was quarterback Steven Montez that got the turnover party started. Montez, who left Colorado’s previous game because of an ankle injury, was picked off on each of his team’s first two drives. Both times, Cal’s defenders were able to run it back to the house for touchdowns.

On drive number one, corner Elijah Hicks made the interception, and he turned his first career pick into his first career touchdown. After that, it was safety Ashtyn Davis that stepped in front of Montez’s throw and ran it back for the score. Cal didn’t take their first offensive snap until there was 11:17 left in the first quarter, and they were already working with a 14-0 lead.

Cal was forced to punt after three plays on that first drive, but Colorado immediately gave the ball back. On the punt return, Traveon Beck forced a fumble against returner Ronnie Blackman, and safety Quentin Tartabull fell on top of the loose ball for Colorado’s third giveaway in the first six minutes. The Bears turned that short field into a touchdown, with head coach Justin Wilcox and his crew going for it twice on fourth down.

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Colorado answered with their first touchdown as running back Kyle Evans finished a nine-play, 69-yard drive in the endzone, and their defense forced another three-and-out and punt. Instead, returner K.D. Nixon muffed the punt and Cal’s Daniel Scott recovered it. They added a field goal, with Greg Thomas making it a 24-7 lead.

Before the half, Colorado turned the ball over for the fifth time. Montez threw another interception to Davis, and was visibly and understandably frustrated as he fought blockers on the return.

Colorado’s offense was abysmal in the first half. Besides the three interceptions from Montez, the Buffalos had eight negative plays. Montez was sacked three times, and they had an additional fives run or pass plays that lost yardage. Cal linebacker Evan Weaver was again his disruptive, playmaking self. He had 10 tackles, two for loss, in the first 30 minutes, including a sack.

Cal’s offense wasn’t much better. They didn’t have the backbreaking mistakes like Colorado did, but there were very few positive things for their offense. They gained just 91 yards and picked up only three first downs in the first half, and Garbers was 6-for-14 passing with 38 yards.

In the second half, Colorado began to chip away at Cal’s lead. They scored on their first drive to make it a two-possession game, then scored again a little later to make it a one-score game. They had plenty of momentum and Montez seemed to have put the first half behind him. He was slinging the ball around the field and finding all of his playmakers. Colorado looked poised to overcome all the first-half mistakes.

And then they started to make second-half mistakes. It wasn’t turnovers that doomed Colorado in the second half, it was penalties. They committed three costly, 15-yard personal foul penalties in the second half, twice giving Cal extra yardage when they were already in Colorado territory, and twice keeping drives that should have been over alive.

After the Buffaloes first touchdown of the second half, the Bears were able to pick up a rare first down. Quarterback Chase Garbers hit receiver Vic Wharton for a gain that moved the chains, but after the play, Colorado’s Dante Wigley hit Wharton late out of bounds. That extra 15 yards put Cal in field goal range, and after the drive stalled, they were able to add three more on another Thomas kick.

Colorado made up for that first mistake and scored on their ensuing drive, with Montez finishing the drive with a touchdown to Juwann Winfree. At that point, Cal’s lead was down to 27-21.

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  • After getting the ball back, the Bears finally had a big play, with Garbers and Moe Ways hooking up for a 30-yard gain through the air. They picked up three more first downs on the drive, but with goal to go, they began moving backwards. On third-and-goal from the 18-yard line, Garbers ran for four yards and went out of bounds.

    Cal was going to settle for another field goal, but another late hit out of bounds, this time called on Drew Lewis against Garbers, gave them a free first down. On the very next play, Garbers threw a nice rainbow pass into the endzone, where Ways came down with a diving grab for his first career touchdown, making it 33-21 Cal.

    After Colorado punted, the Bears were trying to run out the clock, but Colorado was going to get the ball back with about four minutes to play. Steven Coutts punted for Cal, but his plant-leg was run into by Alex Fontenot. Another 15-yard penalty allowed Cal to eat more than an extra minute off the clock before Colorado got it back.

    Colorado wouldn’t just go away, but a player that had a big first half for Cal made the final play. After a couple first downs, Montez and the Colorado offense faced a fourth-and-six from midfield. Montez launched a pass to Winfree down the sideline, but Ashtyn Davis came across the field to the sideline. He got his hand on the ball, knocking it away and sealing Cal’s seventh win of the season.

    Defense again led the way for the Bears. The incredible linebacker duo of Evan Weaver and Jordan Kunaszyk combined for 33 tackles, with Weaver leading the way with 19 total. Kunaszyk added a pass breakup, and went over 10 tackles for the eighth time in 11 games.

    Outside linebacker Alex Funches had the best day of his career on senior day. He had a career-high six tackles, and set a new personal best with 2.5 tackles for loss. He also picked up his fourth sack of the season. Evan Rambo added a career-high two tackles for loss, coming on back-to-back plays in the first quarter. Luc Bequette, who was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week after Cal’s win against USC, picked up his fifth sack of the year, most on the team.

    The star of the day, though, was Davis. His two interceptions give him four on the season, taking the Bear lead and tying for the most in the Pac-12. Davis’ pass-breakup in the fourth quarter was the play that sealed the game. His touchdown return on his first interception was his second touchdown of the season, adding onto a kickoff return in week three.

    Next. 5 Game-Changing Plays from the USC Win. dark

    The Bears have seven wins in 11 games, brining coach Wilcox’s career record at Cal to 12-11. Next week, they have a chance to win their eighth regular season game, something they haven’t done since 2009 under Jeff Tedford. To reach that number, they’ll need to bring the Axe home, something they also haven’t done since 2009. The Stanford Cardinal are also 7-4 on the season, and Cal’s defense will need to bring their A-game again to break another long in-conference losing streak.