BERKELEY, Calif. (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — A third straight victory to start the season wasn’t enough to satisfy California quarterback Chase Garbers, not after the Golden Bears nearly let a 20-point lead slip away.
“We executed well in the first half, especially the first quarter, then we kind of went into a lull,” Garbers said. “We have to play a lot better. It starts with me. I just have to put balls in the right spot. Everywhere else we just have to execute better.”
Garbers passed for one touchdown after using his legs to get California’s offense going, Greg Thomas kicked three field goals and the Bears beat North Texas 23-17 on Saturday.
Christopher Brown Jr. ran for 47 yards and a touchdown while Cal’s defense had six sacks and forced two turnovers. The Bears are 3-0 for the third time in three years under coach Justin Wilcox.
Cal won despite being held to three points over the final three quarters.
“For us it was all about the level of execution and we’ve just got a long way to go there,” Wilcox said. “No two ways about it. Our guys play hard and the effort’s really good. Now the level of execution’s gotta match that for us to do what we want to do. We’re not there yet.”
Cal dominated on both sides early in the first-ever matchup between the two schools then held on after North Texas made a late surge. The Mean Green pulled within 23-17 on Mason Fine’s 18-yard TD to Jyaire Shorter late in the fourth quarter and got the ball back with less than two minutes remaining but turned it over on downs.
Garbers was a big factor for the Bears staying unbeaten, one week after Cal’s stunning 20-19 win over then-No. 14 Washington in a game that was delayed by weather for more than 2½ hours. Garbers repeatedly burned the Mean Green with keepers and scrambles while running for a career-high 70 yards on 18 carries despite North Texas frequently stacking the box.
“We saw, prepping for them this week, that the QB run game was going be a big part of our game plan and we just had to go execute,” Garbers said. “It’s fun to be two-dimensional, a dual threat. But as a quarterback you try not to take as many hits. You just have to do what you do for the team.”
Garbers’ 19-yard run on third-and-3 set up Cal’s first touchdown. He also scampered for 12 yards on a keeper later in the first quarter, three plays before finding Nikko Remigio for a 36-yard touchdown.
Remigio, who had a slicing 31-yard punt return to set up the drive, caught the ball at the 12, spun away from safety Taylor Robinson and ran into the end zone for his first career touchdown.
“On film they would bite pretty hard to any stick we were giving so I gave (Robinson) a stick inside and was able to get open,” Remigio said. “I felt him coming hard to the corner over the top, which allowed me to undercut it and go under him and in the end zone.”
Thomas converted from 32, 34 and 44 yards.
Fine completed 21 of 40 attempts for 210 yards and two touchdowns to surpass the 10,000-yard mark for his career but the Mean Green (1-2) fell behind big for the second straight week and couldn’t recover.
“I thought we outplayed them in the second half but we dug ourselves a hole early and it’s hard to overcome that amount of points,” North Texas coach Seth Littrell said. “There’s a number of things we can continue to grow on.”
North Texas will now face the University of Texas at San Antonio Roadrunners next Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)