Berkeley, CA – The Cal Golden Bears (7-4, 4-4) kept their late-season momentum alive on Saturday, taking down the Colorado Buffaloes 33-21 (5-7, 2-7) with another strong defensive outing.
The Golden Bears took full control in the opening minutes with back-to-back pick sixes, taking a 14-0 lead before ever controlling the ball offensively.
First, Elijah Hicks (3) returned an interception 34 yards on the Buffaloes’ opening drive, before Ashtyn Davis (27) created a score of his own on a strikingly similar 35-yard interception return.
“Two huge plays that were the difference in the game,” Cal head coach Justin Wilcox said after the game. “The takeaways in general, the turnover margin was the difference in the game.”
The Buffaloes lead the game in rushing, passing, and total yards, as well as first downs, third-down efficiency, and penalties-against. But Cal’s five forced turnovers in the opening half would prove too much to overcome, especially with Colorado failing to force one of their own just as they had in their previous two contests.
Quarterbacks Steven Montez (12) of Colorado and Chase Garbers (7) each finished with two touchdowns through the air. Montez tallied 16-of-33 attempts for 170 yards with two interceptions while Garbers would complete 14-of-26 for 116 yards with no turnovers.
“I feel like we kind of turned it around a little bit in the second half, started making better decisions, but it was just too late,” Montez said.
Colorado’s strongest offensive weapons also displayed the kind of consistent play they’ve demonstrated throughout the season.
Buffaloes wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. (2) hauled in seven catches for 65 yards to eclipse the 1,000-yard receiving mark on the year, while running back Travon McMillian (34) finished with 58 yards on 21 attempts on the ground, pushing him past the 1,000-yard rushing mark.
Colorado had never had a 1,000-yard receiver and a 1,000-yard rusher in the same season previously.
The loss eliminates Colorado from bowl contention this year and pushes their season-ending losing streak to seven games.
Colorado interim coach Kurt Roper, who replaced head coach Mike MacIntyre less than a week ago, praised his team for their sustained effort throughout the game.
“They’re a tough team, they’re a really close team. Putting on the Colorado uniform is important to them and they’re going to fight for 60,” he said.
The Golden Bears will turn their attention to cross-bay rival Stanford for the rescheduled 121st edition of the Big Game on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018.