PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – So much for that new found BYU mojo.
The Cougars offense managed just one late touchdown, wasting a valiant effort by the defense in a 21-18 loss at home to Cal.
Tanner Mangum struggled for most of the game, completing 22 of 41 passes for 197 yards, two interceptions and one late touchdown pass to Brayden El-Bakri.
“Dropping the ball doesn’t help either and pass protection doesn’t help either,” said head coach Kalani Sitake. “We were really excited about the o-line, I thought we had seen some physical part of the game and that was not consistent in the seconds half. They were challenged this week and they responded and we have to be better. We feel like we can get stronger and own the line of scrimmage, there’s no proof of that from the second half in the run game and there’s no proof of that even in the pass game. We just didn’t protect the quarterback well enough and we made errors. There’s enough blame to go around.”
Cal freshman quarterback Chase Garbers threw for 176 yards and two touchdowns, while adding 45 yards rushing, to lead the Bears to victory.
Sophomore quarterback Brandon McIlwain ran for 74 yards and a touchdown while also throwing for 38 yards on 5-of-7 passing for the Bears. Kanawai Noa eclipsed 1,000 career receiving yards after tallying 93 yards and a TD on seven catches.
California (2-0) beat the Cougars in the regular season for the first time in five meetings between the teams.
California went up 7-0 near the end of the first quarter thanks to a pair of big plays. Vic Wharton hauled in a 12-yard pass to convert a fourth down and Patrick Laird followed with a 25-yard touchdown catch on the next play.
BYU got on the board with a 36-yard field goal from Skyler Southam in the second quarter.
The Cougars had 193 total yards and 13 first downs in the first half while holding California to 124 yards and seven first downs. Still, BYU struggled to finish drives, converting just 4-of-10 third downs and 0 for 2 on fourth down.
”We made way too many mistakes and we didn’t have time to fix them by the end of the game,” Sitake said.
California extended its lead to 14-3 early in the third quarter when Kanawai Noa scored on a 52-yard catch. Noa got behind a defender along the sideline, hauled in the pass and streaked untouched into the end zone.
The Cougars got a temporary spark via their defense. Dayan Ghanwoloku scooped up a fumble by Derrick Clark caused by a huge hit from Butch Pau’u, and raced 36 yards untouched for BYU’s first touchdown, cutting California’s lead to 14-10.
McIlwain ran for a 2-yard score to give the Bears an 11-point lead again early in the fourth quarter.
“We played well but we didn’t play our game,” Pau’u said. “We have some things to fix. We do believe that we’re a better team. We just have to continue to work and practice well this week. We just have to do a better job of knowing our assignments and continue to practice hard because we’re a great defense, we know that. We just have to keep a positive attitude, that’s the biggest thing.”
BYU had a chance to cut into the lead after Ghanwoloku recovered his second fumble at the California 16, but Mangum threw a third-down interception.
The Cougars finally scored an offensive TD with 51 seconds left on a 1-yard strike from Mangum to Brayden El-Bakri. Cal’s Jaylin Hawkins recovered the ensuing onside kick to prevent BYU from having a shot at a go-ahead score.
The Cougars next take on #5 Wisconsin September 15th at 1:30 p.m.