Instant analysis/reaction: Cal takes care of business against Idaho State

Karen Chow/Senior Staff
Karen Chow/Senior Staff

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Electrified by another stout defensive display, a special team’s bolt of lightning and a variety of standouts on the offensive side, Cal football took care of business against Idaho State, 45-23.


Key takeaway

Cal’s offense got off to yet another slow start, but the defense pitched a shutout in the first half. For the third consecutive time in 2018, the Bears’ opposition failed to find the end zone in the opening 30 minutes — a remarkable feat for a defense once deemed historically poor just a couple of seasons ago.

Once the offense did get going, it was the Jordan Duncan show as the Bengals defense did an impressive job slamming the door shut on Patrick Laird. With the running game bottled up, Duncan became Chase Garbers’ go-to receiver, recording two touchdown catches in a game for the first time in his career.

Brandon McIlwain, the star of the latter half of Cal’s win over BYU a week ago, saw minimal playing time outside of a few drives in the second half. Ross Bowers received a second straight DNP.

Cal’s game MVP

Ashtyn Davis picked up his second interception of the season midway through the first quarter. But that was just the beginning of his eventful afternoon. After receiving minimal chances to get loose in the open field over the past season and change, Cal’s track phenom-turned-football star busted out an 89-yard kickoff return, the Bears’ first return touchdown since Trevor Davis took it to the house twice against Washington State in 2014.

Nearly three years later, it was another Davis who sprinted down the opposing team’s sideline. Cal has scored every which way in 2018, with Cameron Goode’s Week 1 interception return being the only defensive score thus far.

Eye-opening stat

Chase Garbers’ final stat line: 20 of 25, 224 yards, three touchdowns, one interception.

Despite a somewhat inauspicious beginning to the game, Garbers did what he had to do this afternoon — carve up a weak Bengals secondary. Although many speculated that McIlwain would split reps with Garbers, the redshirt freshman displayed poise in the pocket.

On a day in which several Cal players established career highs, it’s worth giving a shoutout to Marcel Dancy, the Bears’ backup running back. After seeing the field for less than five snaps heading into Week 3, the junior transfer dazzled with 80 yards on 11 carries and his first collegiate touchdown.

Looking ahead

With a bye week on deck for the blue and gold, the Bears will head into conference play with a lot of confidence on defense and a number of things to still figure out on offense. Can Chase Garbers hang tough with the pace of opposing Pac-12 schemes? Is Cal’s defense, as dominant as it has been, utilized all of its magic in the early going? All questions should be answered as September football transitions into conference play.

Josh Yuen is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @joshcal2020.