Cal kicker James Langford stood on the sideline and watched as Colorado’s kicker missed three field goals. Langford himself had missed a 42-yarder earlier in the game. But after the Bears couldn’t convert on a third down in double overtime, the game rested on Langford’s shoulders.
Langford trotted onto the field with a chance to win the game. He lined up the kick and waited for the ball to be snapped. Then, he put his head down, and his cleat connected with the ball.
Straight through the uprights.
In the second overtime, the Bears won 59-56, the first Pac-12 win for the Bears since Oct. 13, 2012.
“My cheeks kind of hurt from smiling so long right now,” Langford said with a smile bigger than his head. “It’s just a huge rush of happiness, being around your friends and teammates for one of the best moments of your life, it’s just priceless.”
It was a rough win for Cal, but it was a win nonetheless. The Bears came into the game against Colorado favored by 14, but in the end were lucky to walk away with a win.
“I think I’ve aged, like, 100 years after the last two weeks,” said head coach Sonny Dykes. “It’s certainly nice to win a hard-fought football game.”
A week after Cal suffered a heartbreaking loss as a result of a defensive breakdown, the message going into this week was that the defense was ready for this Colorado team. But to start the game, the Bears’ defense looked flat. The Bears had trouble tackling, they had trouble getting pressure on the quarterback, they had trouble with penalties. In short, they just looked out of sync. Cal gave up 629 total yards, 180 on the ground and 449 in the air.
In the first half, Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau was able to pick apart the Cal defense, utilizing short passes to get five or six yards a down, keeping the chains moving. The Bears looked slow; they looked confused. Liufau was also able to run the ball himself, totaling 72 yards on the ground.
But when the Bears came back onto the field after halftime, it looked like the team had figured out some things. The offense, in their first drive of the second half, went 61 yards down the field in five plays and just 1:39. Touchdown. The Bears’ next drive — seven plays for 49 yards in 2:38 — also resulted in a touchdown. And on the Buffaloes resulting two drives, the Cal defense came up with two huge stops.
But the victory would not have been possible without the phenomenal play of running back Daniel Lasco, who had 18 carries for 108 yards. He didn’t have a rushing touchdown, but he was the recipient of a short pass he then ran into the endzone — a 92-yard completion that is now the longest connection for a touchdown in school history.
“He’s just doing so many things for us,” Dykes said. “He’s bringing us that physical element we need in the run game.”
The wide receiving corps, after seemingly struggling to create distance with the defensive backs in the first half, again showed why the Bears have one of the most talented, deep groups in the Pac-12. Stephen Anderson had the most receptions — seven — but other than him, no one had more than four, meaning quarterback Jared Goff spread the ball out really well.
Though he finished 23-41 with seven touchdowns — the most he’s ever thrown — Goff wasn’t always on point. In his first pass of the game, the first play for the Bears, Goff threw an interception, a pass too far to the inside intended for Chris Harper that Colorado safety Tedric Thompson was in better position to grab. Goff also looked a little out of sorts, struggling to hit his open receivers, both overthrowing and underthrowing them.
“The first half, everything that could have gone wrong went wrong,” Goff said.
He eventually looked like he gathered his composure, making a couple of absolutely beautiful throws — like one with 2:56 left to hit Stephen Anderson for a 75-yard touchdown or the one with 2:29 left to hit Chris Harper for a touchdown, putting the Bears up 49-42.
The defense came up with a huge stop on 4th and goal on the one-yard line, when Liufau was stuffed for a loss of three yards. It was a far cry from the defense that looked so gassed in last week’s fourth quarter. But it was still Langford who ultimately saved the day with his 33-yard field goal in double overtime.
“Our goal is to go 11-1 now,” said wide receiver Chris Harper.