Santa Clara, CA – Cal’s big three overcame a slow start to grind out a big win at Levi’s Stadium in the Redbox Bowl over Illinois 35-20.
Cal’s quarterback Chase Garbers (7) strong arm found 9 different receivers while throwing for 272 with 4 touchdowns. Makai Polk (17) was his main target when he needed a big play on 3rd down or just a chunk of yards.
Polk caught 5 passes for 105 yards, with huge sideline catch when he reached for the endzone to be called out of bounds at the 1 yard line. Garbers on the next play rushed in for 1 yard quarterback sneak for a touchdown 14-10. The Cal Bears never trailed for the remainder of the game.
The Illinois defense had to keep honest and defend both the pass and run cause Cal running back Christopher Brown Jr. (34) bruised them for 120 yards on 20 carries. Brown also caught 3 passes for 17 more yards and a touchdown catch.
“It went a lot better today than last year,” Garbers said. “It just speaks to the guys in our offensive room and the team and how hard we work. We knew playing Illinois there would be shots we needed to take. You just have to execute those shot plays.”
Mistake free football will always bring home a victory, Cal piled on 14 more points in the second half.
Illinois kept battling back but just wasn’t able to score enough to regain a lead.
“I thought it was an ultimate team win,” said Cal coach Justin Wilcox. “Guys made contested catches today.”
Illinois quarterback Brandon Peters (18) completed 22/37 pass for 273 yards with a touchdown and 1 interception for a strong performance. But once they trailed they started to go away from the running game to catch up which is not their biggest strength.
Now Cal will take this young squad and getting ready to battle next year in the PAC-12 with almost the whole offense coming back.