Cal closed out its nonconference schedule by taking on Idaho for the first time in 88 years. The Bears would stage a massive 17-point comeback, scoring 31 unanswered points to best the Vandals 31-17 and secure their second win of the season.
The early storyline of this game was the noticeable absence of sophomore running back Jaydn Ott. He had been set to start all week even after taking a heavy hit and fall in the late stages of last week’s loss to Auburn, but ended up being a gametime scratch.
The Bears’ first two drives were plagued by small mistakes that cost them scoring opportunities. Their first drive ended in a punt when veteran Monroe Young dropped what would’ve been a first down pass from quarterback Sam Jackson V. The second would end on another dropped first down pass, this time from redshirt sophomore Trond Grizzell.
Idaho scored on its first three drives with ease — picking apart Cal’s defense. In the first quarter alone, the Bears had already conceded more passing yards than they had in the entirety of the Auburn game.
Vandals quarterback Gevani McCoy was making effortless plays throughout the game. Thanks in large part to his offensive line, McCoy had enough time to connect with his receiver, marching the offense 67 yards down the field and allowing Ricardo Chavez to open up the scoring with a short 25-yard field goal.
On the next drive, McCoy would give Idaho 80 yards in just nine plays to put Anthony Woods in position to score a 19-yard rushing touchdown. McCoy was searching for — and found — a number of holes in the Cal coverage that allowed him to make big plays to his receivers.
Blue and gold fortune would begin to shift in the late stages of the second quarter as players on both sides of the ball found answers. The Bears’ offense produced back-to-back scoring plays and the defense finally came up with major stops.
Jackson would throw back-to-back touchdown passes — first to Jeremiah Hunter and then Grizzell, while Nohl Williams would come up with an interception to gain momentum entering the half, to take their trailing 0-17 to a close 14-17.
“When you got Jeremiah Hunter out there, you can pretty much just put it up there and he’ll go get it,” Jackson said.
Entering the third quarter, Cal quickly found itself with major opportunities. Isaiah Ifanse would create big chances on the ground, quickly bringing the offense past the 50-yard line. Jackson would cap this drive by showcasing his elite athleticism with a 27-yard rush to give the Bears their first lead of the game.
In the final minutes of the third quarter, fans would experience a defensive struggle between both teams, featuring three straight drives and a turnover. During this stretch, Cal would once again fall victim to the injury bug as Jackson left the field after taking a heavy hit. Ben Finley would step in as Ifanse fought his way into the end zone to extend the lead.
“Grabbing the momentum and utilizing it and capitalizing on momentum is key. We work real hard in terms of emphasizing those last four minutes of the first half and the first four in the second half,” said Cal head coach Justin Wilcox. “You can change the momentum of the game in those eight minutes.”
In the first drive of the fourth quarter, Jackson returned to the gridiron as Ashton Stredick led the Bears down into field goal range, putting the game out of reach for the Vandals.
Cal was able to get the gears moving after a slow start and will now turn its attention toward its final run in Pac-12 conference play. The blue and gold take on No. 8 Washington on the road.