Berkeley, CA – The California Golden Bears (3-0) took down the North Texas Mean Green (1-2) 23-17 on Saturday, September 14, 2019, with their stout defense once again driving the team’s success and the offense doing just enough to remain in the win column.
In the first, it was all Cal with the Golden Bears jumping out to a 20-0 lead.
Sophomore running back Christopher Brown Jr. (34) earned the first score on the day with a 2-yard rushing touchdown just over four minutes into the game. Then the redshirt senior placekicker Greg Thomas (39) delivered two fields from 32, and 44 yards out before quarterback Chase Garbers (7) found Nikko Remigio (4) on a 36-yard scoring strike to cap the quarter.
The remainder of the game played out as a largely defensive battle.
The Golden Bears, led by the Week 2 National and Pac-12 defensive Player of the Week in Evan Weaver (89), held the Mean Green to just a field goal in the first half and prevented the comeback in the second half despite giving up touchdowns in the first and third quarters. Weaver finished with a team-high 11 tackles and applied ample pressure on North Texas quarterback Mason Fine (6), including a near sack that led to a momentous first-half interception by cornerback Traveon Beck (22).
Consistent defensive prowess has been key to Cal’s achievements under head Justin Wilcox throughout his tenure and they controlled the game again in this one.
Along with the interception, the Bears also recovered a fumble created by a blitzing Jaylinn Hawkins (6), who forced Fine to lose control in the pocket, giving Cal the only two turnovers in the game. For the second consecutive week, the Golden Bears finished without a turnover offensively, which coach Wilcox called the difference-maker in each of their victories over weeks two and three.
Despite Cal’s impressive defensive play, North Texas’ offensive weapons showed promise and grit, earning 329 total yards to the Golden Bear’s 278, including 210 yards through the air.
Starting the second half down 10, the Mean Green worked their way back to make things competitive again with third and fourth quarter passing touchdowns from Fine to bring North Texas back within one score in the final minutes. In the third, Fine found junior receiver Jaelon Darden (1) for a 68-yard score, and on fourth and seven in the final quarter, it was redshirt freshman Jyaire Shorter (16) bringing in the 18-yard pass up the middle to give North Texas a chance.
Ultimately, the Bears defense delivered when it had to, staunching the Mean Green’s final drive with lock-down play in the secondary to force the turnover on downs and allow their offense to run out the clock.
On offense, the Bears were led by Garbers who completed 9-of-22 attempts through the air for 129 yards and the lone touchdown, but the young quarterback also carried the load on the ground, finishing with 70 net rushing yards on 18 attempts, both team highs.
Garbers, who was sacked three times and ended up on the turf numerous times more, did point out the potential flaws in the heavy focus on the quarterback run-game after the game.
“We saw, prepping for them this week, that the QB run-game was going to be a big part of our game plan,” he said. “It’s fun to be two-dimensional. But as quarterback, you try not to take as many hits, so you just got to do what you can do for the team.”
The Golden Bears did just enough to remain undefeated through the opening three weeks of their 2019 campaign on Saturday, but coach Wilcox was clear that their overall performance must improve if they hope to remain atop the Pac-12 North standings and secure the successful season they feel they are capable of producing.
“Our guys play hard, and we have set a standard for how hard and tough we need to play,” Wilcox said in describing the biggest take away from the win. “Now the level of execution has got to match that for us to do what we want to do.”
The Mean Green return home to take on the UTSA Roadrunners on Saturday, Sept. 21, while the Golden Bears will head to Oxford, Mississippi, to close out their 2019 non-conference schedule in a matchup with Ole Miss.