Tough Bears im­prove to 3-0 with come­back win

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - SPORTING GREEN - BRUCE JENKINS

One of the most ad­mired Cal quar­ter­backs of the past, Mike Pawlawski, stopped by the writ­ers’ wing of the press box Saturday night to of­fer a brief scout­ing re­port on Mis­sis­sippi. He said the team has some def­i­nite weak­nesses, but fea­tures “three re­ceivers you’ll see in the NFL.”

It sounded omi­nous, con­sid­er­ing the prodi­gious arm of Ole Miss quar­ter­back Shea Pat­ter­son, and they were words to re­mem­ber in

the early stages. You’ll watch a num­ber of teams on Sun­days and not see any­thing more pre­cise or dev­as­tat­ing than what the Rebels un­veiled over the game’s first hour.

The fact that Cal pulled this one out, 27-16, speaks highly of coach Justin Wil­cox, who cher­ishes de­fense above all, and de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Tim DeRuyter. The Ole Miss pro­gram may be trou­bled, thanks to nearly two dozen al­leged re­cruit­ing vi­o­la­tions and a self-im­posed ban on the post­sea­son, but it’s a typ­i­cal SEC team with su­pe­rior ath­letes and a cer­tain swag­ger.

Wil­cox loves noth­ing bet­ter than a tough-minded team that gives no quar­ter. He can leave the field sat­is­fied as long as Cal plays its op­po­nent straight up from a phys­i­cal stand­point. That’s ex­actly what he got from the Bears (3-0) on a sub­lime, wind­less evening in Straw­berry Canyon.

Early in the sec­ond quar­ter, one might have pro­jected the fi­nal score around 45-10 on the Ole Miss side. Al­most im­me­di­ately, Pat­ter­son threw a pic­turesque strike to D.K. Met­calf for a 45-yard gain down the left side­line, set­ting up a field goal. Later in the first quar­ter, he nailed DeMarkus Lodge with an across-the-mid­dle bul­let around the Cal 40, and Lodge out­ran ev­ery­body for a 72yard touch­down.

When Pat­ter­son threw an­other pro-style gem, to Met­calf for a 71-yard score, the Rebels had a 16-7 lead and seemed well on their way to a right­eous postgame party.

The score­board read 13:02 left in the sec­ond quar­ter. And, for Ole Miss, that’s pretty much where it ended. Matt An­der­son con­nected on a pair of sec­ond-half field goals and line­backer Cameron Goode in­ter­cepted a Pat­ter­son pass with three min­utes re­main­ing, storm­ing 31 tough yards for a game-clinch­ing touch­down.

The at­ten­dance was some­what mys­ti­fy­ing: an an­nounced 37,125 but ap­pear­ing well shy of that. Even the Cal stu­dent sec­tion wasn’t com­pletely packed, and there were thou­sands of empty seats most ev­ery­where. Credit the red-clad Ole Miss fans for a solid trav­el­ing crew, but there should have been more lo­cal in­ter­est for a Cal team play­ing a team (also 2-0 go­ing in) from the mighty SEC.

It goes with­out say­ing that 7:30 p.m. starts don’t go over too well in the Bay Area, or through­out a con­fer­ence in which day­time ac­tion was once the norm. Old habits die hard, fans es­sen­tially say­ing, “You’re forc­ing my fam­ily to watch this thing on tele­vi­sion — so that’s what we’ll do.”

Still, these home dates are pre­cious, just a half-dozen in all. We’ll prob­a­bly get a bet­ter line on things when Cal plays mighty USC next Saturday with a much-ap­pre­ci­ated 12:30 p.m. start.

So ends the non-con­fer­ence por­tion of the Pac-12 sea­son (ma­jor ex­cep­tions: those Stan­ford and USC dates with Notre Dame), and a num­ber of schools have es­caped un­scathed. Cal, Wash­ing­ton, USC, Ore­gon, Wash­ing­ton State, Utah and Colorado all stand at 3-0.

A cou­ple of sur­prises, how­ever, made next Saturday par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing for Cal and Stan­ford. USC nearly waited too late to come alive in a thrilling over­time win against a less-than-vin­tage Texas team. And UCLA, pre­par­ing to visit Stan­ford in a 7:30 p.m. start next week, ran out of Josh Rosen magic in a 48-45 loss to Mem­phis.

Cal had to play this game with­out its most im­pos­ing game-breaker, wide re­ceiver Demetris Robert­son (out with an undis­closed in­jury). But the Bears had quar­ter­back Ross Bow­ers, who tends to watch a lot of his com­pleted passes from flat on his back, hav­ing been ab­so­lutely clob­bered by an on­rush­ing line­man. (Such was the case on his 19-yard touch­down pass to Vic Whar­ton in the third quar­ter, cut­ting the Ole Miss lead to 16-14.)

And the Bears have a re­mark­able story in run­ning back Pa­trick Laird, a walk-on who only got his schol­ar­ship last month and, in the ab­sence of in­jured Tre Wat­son, car­ries huge re­spon­si­bil­ity in the of­fense.

To the de­light of Cal fans, Laird runs like an ab­so­lute mad­man, a prince of raw de­sire. The numbers weren’t over­whelm­ing — 78 yards on 22 car­ries — but when Laird scored on a 13-yard touch­down run in the first quar­ter, he steamed into a head-on col­li­sion with de­fen­sive back Julius Jalen at the goal line. Laird got his touch­down and Jalen limped off the field. A spec­tac­u­lar im­age to sum­ma­rize the evening.

San­ti­ago Me­jia / The Chron­i­cle

For­mer walk-on Pa­trick Laird was in the mid­dle of Cal’s vic­tory, scor­ing on a 13-yard run in the first quar­ter.

San­ti­ago Me­jia / The Chron­i­cle

The Cal de­fense, swarm­ing run­ning back Jor­dan Wilkins, ral­lied af­ter a slow start to shut out Ole Miss in the sec­ond half.

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