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Cal Football Notebook: Justin Wilcox Dissects What Went Wrong in Nevada Loss

It's not all on the offense, but blame is across the board, Bears' coach says.

Still clearly bothered by his team’s performance in its season-opening 22-17 loss to Nevada, Cal coach Justin Wilcox declined to point a finger at any specific area of the roster.

“It came down to the number of missed opportunities,” he said. "I think that can be said for every unit throughout the game.”

The Bears (0-1) hit the road this week to play Saturday afternoon at TCU (1-0), and Wilcox said there’s lots of work to do in the meantime.

— Offense: The Bears used 24 plays —13 runs and 11 passes — to cover 135 yards on their first two possessions of the season, building a 14-0 lead with three second left in the first quarter.

Then it all came to a grinding half. “In the second and third quarters we didn’t get much rhythm at all,” Wilcox said.

Cal ran just nine plays in the second quarter — seven pass calls and two designed runs — and generated only 12 yards without a first down. The scoreless third quarter was only marginally better, as the Bears ran just one running play, managed just one first down on each of three possessions and totaled 72 yards.

“There were chances to convert and get first downs. We weren’t able to do that, unfortunately, and that kind of bled into the third quarter,” Wilcox explained.

The Bears moved the ball better in the fourth quarter, but squeezed just three points out of separate possessions with first downs at the 11 and 13.

Asked specifically if he thought quarterback Chase Garbers showed the command of a three-year starter, Wilcox said the senior had some good moments but also some plays he’d like back.

“I think there were a couple chances for us to make plays down the field,” he said. “These are learning opportunities but we also have to take the next step and take advantage of those.”

Garbers completed 66 percent of his passes, but for just 7.1 yards per completion — exactly half of what Nevada achieved. Cal had just two pass completions longer than 13 yards.

— Defense: Cal held Nevada to 2.3 yards per rush and gave up just two touchdowns to an explosive offense featuring future pros at quarterback (Carson Strong) and wide receiver (Romeo Doubs). The Bears did some good things.

But the two most dynamic players on the Cal defense — outside linebackers Cameron Goode and Kuony Deng — were not impactful. They had three tackles each and did nothing that was game-changing.

The bigger issue is that the Bears allowed three pass plays that covered more than 40 yards. Plays Cal defense knew were coming.

“The three explosive passes, we would feel a lot different if we had defended one or two of these even better,” lamented Wilcox, who said one was the result of a defensive back taking his eyes off the receiver and on the other two the Bears were simply beaten deep.

— Special teams: Nikko Remigio averaged 12.5 yards and two punt returns and was Ok on three kickoff returns, but Cal missed a field goal and allowed Doubs a 38-yard punt return.

“In the return game, we had some good returns. We also left some yards out there,” Wilcox said.

CHRIS BROOKS TO FACE TCU: Christopher Brooks, who gained 25 yards on just three carries against Nevada, left the field with an undisclosed injury in the first half and did not return. Wilcox said the Bears expect him back to play against the Horned Frogs.

HOME TO TEXAS: Sixth-year senior defensive back Josh Drayden (above) is one of 12 Cal players (five of them DBs) who grew up in Texas. Ten TCU players hail from California.

Drayden said he expects anywhere from 40 to 50 friends and family members for his first game in his home state since high school. But Drayden wants to reward his rooting section with a good showing in Fort Worth.

“That’s the most important thing,” said the native of DeSoto, Texas, 16 miles south of Dallas. “It’s like Christmas. You want to get them a present, and that would be a win. You don’t want to go all that way and lose.”

Cover photo of Josh Drayden by Troy Wayrynen, USA Today

Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo