Stan Szeto - USA Today Sports
BERKELEY, CA - This is what Cal fans hoped for when they hired Justin Wilcox. They just didn't think it would come this soon.
After a couple of big defensive plays, including a Cam Goode pick six, a sack forcing an intentional grounding penalty, and a resounding game ending sack by Devante Downs, Cal had turned a 16-7 deficit into a 27-16 victory, pitching a second half shutout and hanging with a team that after a tough performance in the first half, controlling Ole Miss in the second half.
Devante Downs had a fantastic game, with 14 tackles, 3 TFLs, two sacks, an interception and a QB hurry. Monster performance from him.
After allowing two quick 70+ yard scores, Cal buckled down, not allowing a score after the 13:02 mark in the second quarter. After allowing 267 passing yards in the first half, they stiffened to allow only 96 in the second half. Cal had five sacks, more than doubling their total on the season.
"That was the ultimate team win," Justin Wilcox said.
There were miscues, as the Cal wideouts didn't have their best day. There were too many penalties. Matt Anderson missed two field goals. Ross Bowers had a bad interception after the Bears got a second chance in the redzone after an Ole Miss penalty.
In all, Tim DeRuyter noted that if this team could get three turnovers per game, they could be a great defense. It already looks ahead of schedule.
"It's great to have a really good defense," Ross Bowers noted, in a bit of an understatement.
There's plenty of clutch plays that were made during this game:
- Multiple 3rd and 4th down conversions for Kanawai Noa, as he had career highs from across the board
- Cam Bynum with two monster PBUs at the end
- Vic Enwere busting on 4th and 1 for 25 yards
- Alex Funches coming around the edge for a sack
- Ray Davison forcing the intentional grounding penalty, also tipping up an INT for Jaylinn Hawkins
- Cam Goode with a monster pick 6 to end it.
"We just don't flinch, we're waiting for the adversity to hit because that's when we play our top game," Bowers said.
It's a team that's improved thoroughly, defensively outplaying an SEC team with superior talent. They're now 3-0 going into a nationally televised matchup with USC.