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Cal Football Game Summary: Bears Lose to Nevada in Opener

Cal lets early 14-0 lead slip away on Saturday night in its first game of its 2021 season

Cal lost to Nevada 22-17 Saturday night in Berkeley in both teams' season opener.

The Bears dominated play in the first quarter, and led 14-0 entering the second quarter thanks to two long scoring drives. However, the Bears' offense suddenly stopped moving the ball.

Nevada scored 22 unanswered points to take a 22-14 lead in the third quarter. 

Cal reduced the deficit to 22-17 and later had a first down at the Nevada 11-yard line midway through the fourth quarter. The Bears got to the 9-yard line, but a sack on third down forced Cal to attempt a field goal, and Dario Longhetto missed a 40-yard field goal attempt with 7:11 left.

Cal was unable to do anything offensively the rest of the game.

NEVADA 22, CAL 17

RECORDS: CAL (0-1), NEVADA (1-0)

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Nevada quarterback Carson Strong. The 2020 Mountain West offensive player of the year did not have his best game, but he rallied his team from a 14-0 deficit and completed three passes of more than 40 yards to help his team rally for the win..

TURNING POINT:  The intermission between the first and second quarter was the turning point.  Cal dominated every aspect of the first quarter, and led 14-0 after outgaining the Wolf Pack 135-6. But when the second quarter began everything changed. For no apparent reason, Cal's offense fell silent and Nevada started moving the ball, scoring the next 22 points. Cal's offense managed just 43 yards of offense on their next four possessions, which included their first drive of the second half.

KEY PLAY: With Cal leading 14-3 in the second quarter, Nevada quarterback Carson Strong threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to Romeo Doubs to reduce the Bears' lead to 14-10 with 6:15 left in the first half.

KEY PLAY II: Cal held a 14-13 halftime lead, but on Nevada's first possession of the third quarter, Carson Strong hit Tory Horton on 47-yard completion on a third-and-9 play that put the ball at the Bears' 16-yard line. The Wolf Pack scored on the next play to take a 19-13 lead.

KEY PLAY III: On a third-and-8 play from the Nevada 9-yard line midway through the fourth quarter with Cal trailing by five points, Cal's Chase Garbers was sacked for a loss. The subsequent field goal attempt was missed.

STAT OF THE GAME: Time of possession after one quarter: Cal -- 13:21. Nevada -- 1:39. Cal outgained Nevada 135-6 in that quarter and led 14-0 entering the second quarter. Cal then went three-and-out on its next four possessions, which included its first possession of the second half.

QUARTERBACK STATS: Cal's Chase Garbers was 25-of-38 for 177 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Nevada's Carson Strong was 22-for-39 for 312 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

WHAT IT MEANS: Cal suffered its first regular-season nonconference loss since Justin Wilcox became head coach.  The Bears had been 9-0 in those games. Nevada has won all three games against Cal that were played this century.  The Wolf Pack also won in 2010 and 2012. Cal lost its season opener for the second straight season.

CAL'S BOWL BAROMETER: Cal now has about a 40 percent chance of landing a bowl berth. Saturday's game, which was considered a virtual tossup, was pivotal to the Bears' bowl hopes because oddsmakers put the over/under on Cal's win total for the season at six.

NEXT GAME: Cal at TCU, Saturday, September 11. Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. Pacific time (2:30 p.m. Texas time). TV: ESPNU. TCU, picked to finish fifth in the Big 12, opened its season Saturday night with a 45-3 victory over Duquesne, an FCS program in the Northeast Conference. TCU led that game 35-0 at halftime, when the Horned Frogs had a 335-74 advantage in total yardage.

Cover photo of Damien Moore is by Neville E. Guard, USA TODAY Sports

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