Thompson-Robinson rallies No. 17 UCLA past Cal, 35-28

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

BERKELEY, Calif. – Dorian Thompson-Robinson ran for two touchdowns and passed for another as No. 17 UCLA rallied from an 11-point deficit to beat California 35-28 on Friday.

The Bruins (9-3, 6-3 Pac-12, No. 16 CFP) finished with 541 yards of offense, including 352 on the ground, and rebounded from a narrow defeat to USC the previous week that eliminated them from league title contention.

Thompson-Robinson passed for 189 yards and gained another 88 on the ground. Zach Charbonnet rushed for 119 yards and a score, and he converted a fourth-and-2 run in Cal territory late in the game that chewed up valuable time. TJ Harden added 89 yards rushing on 12 carries for the Bruins.

It was Thompson-Robinson’s ability to improvise when plays broke down that keyed UCLA’s surge after it fell behind 21-10 late in the second quarter.

“That’s Dorian,” UCLA coach Chip Kelly said. “He can beat you with both his arm and his legs. He’s a threat. Everybody knows it.”

The Bears (4-8, 2-7) got a fourth-down stop that gave them the ball back trailing 35-28 with 1:58 remaining. But Bruins linebacker Kain Medrano knocked the ball loose from Jaydn Ott after a fourth-down reception that would have converted a first down, and Carl Jones Jr. recovered to ice the game for UCLA.

Cal’s Jack Plummer threw for 294 yards and four touchdowns. Jeremiah Hunter had eight catches for 153 yards and two scores.

UCLA trailed by 11 with 58 seconds left before halftime. But Thompson-Robinson led his team on a 75-yard drive that took 40 seconds, capping it with a 19-yard touchdown scramble that brought UCLA within 21-17 at the intermission.

“Obviously we were a little frustrated, a little teed off. We’re a lot better football team than that,” Thompson-Robinson said. “But again, the resiliency and ability to fix those things. We’ve got a bunch of smart football players out on that field. If we need to make adjustments, we make adjustments.”

UCLA scored on its first possession of the second half to take the lead. But Plummer hit Ott for an 8-yard touchdown that put Cal up 28-27 with 11:16 remaining.

Then Thompson-Robinson engineered a 73-yard scoring drive capped by Charbonnet’s 5-yard touchdown. A 2-point conversion pass to Jake Bobo gave UCLA a 35-28 lead.

UCLA had 113 rushing yards in the first quarter alone and moved the ball at will. But Nicholas Barr-Mira missed a 33-yard field goal, and penalties forced the Bruins to settle for a field goal on another drive. They led 10-7 midway through the second quarter.

That gave Plummer time to find his rhythm. The transfer from Purdue threw three first-half touchdown passes, including two to Hunter, who beat one-on-one coverage for 38- and 22-yard scores.

Cal safety Daniel Scott, who played his final college game after six years in the program, said the Bears couldn’t make enough key plays throughout the season to qualify for a bowl game.

“It’s been a challenging year with ups and downs,” Scott said. “At the same time, you’ve got to look at the positives. We played a lot of close games. It’s just the small details that cost us some games.”


UCLA: The Bruins kept their poise and leaned on their ground game, ultimately wearing down an opponent that couldn’t match up on paper.

California: The Bears had control of the game late in the first half, but allowing the Bruins to score quickly before halftime snatched away what momentum they had built.


Thompson-Robinson, a senior whose athleticism makes him an intriguing NFL prospect, said he hasn’t decided whether he’ll play in UCLA’s bowl game.

“To be determined,” he said. “Some things go into that. I have to talk to my family and my agent and all that stuff.”

Plummer, a senior who transferred to Cal from Purdue before the season, has a season of eligibility left and said he will probably decide in the next two weeks whether to return.


Cal radio broadcaster Joe Starkey worked his final game after 48 seasons. Starkey is best known for his call of “The Play,” Cal’s multi-lateral touchdown on the last play of its 1982 win over Stanford.

Starkey was on the field for Friday’s pregame coin toss. He was also honored during last week’s win over Stanford, which marked the 40th anniversary of The Play.

“Very emotional. I’ve been there for a very long time,” Starkey said after Friday’s game. “We’ve gone to some wonderful places. I’ve done college games, for God’s sake, for Cal in Tokyo and Australia. What a way to spend a life. I’ve been so lucky to be able to go to those places and be part of it.”


UCLA: Awaits a bowl invitation.

California: Failed to reach last season’s total of five wins.

Justin Wilcox stayed at Cal with hopes of making Bears a contender

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

BERKELEY, Calif. — After five mostly mediocre seasons at California, coach Justin Wilcox could have been forgiven if he had decided to go after the head coaching job at his alma mater Oregon.

But instead of trying to escape to a school with more resources and a much better recent history, Wilcox chose to stay at Cal where he still believes he can turn the Golden Bears into a Pac-12 contender.

“The goal is to win the Pac-12 championship,” he said. “That’s been our goal. We work every day toward that. We know that’s a lofty goal. With the guys on the team, the people in our building, that’s what the goal is, where it’s been set. We have conviction that if we take care of the things we can control, we give ourselves an opportunity to attain it.”

The Bears haven’t come close since the heyday of Jeff Tedford about 15 years ago. Cal has a 26-28 record in five seasons under Wilcox, including a 15-25 mark in the conference as he has done a much better job rebuilding the defense than he has developing a top-flight offense.

Cal ranks last in the conference in scoring and sixth worst in the Power 5 at 23.2 points per game since the school replaced the offensive-minded Sonny Dykes with the defensive-oriented Wilcox in 2017.

Finding a way to fix that with mostly new personnel on offense will go a long way to determining whether Wilcox’s goal of competing for a conference title will ever become a reality.

“We are inexperienced on offense at a number of positions, but we feel the talent is probably greater than what we’ve had,” Wilcox said. “The skill positions, we feel like we’re going to have some more guys create explosive plays. We as coaches have to put them in position to do that.”


The Bears lost almost all of their top skill position players on offense in 2022 with the biggest change coming at quarterback where Purdue transfer Jack Plummer replaces four-year starter Chase Garbers.

Plummer threw for 3,405 yards in 17 games for the Boilermakers with 26 TD passes and 10 interceptions. He started the first four games last season with seven TD passes and no interceptions before being replaced with a 3-1 record, leading to his transfer after the season.

“He’s probably a bit better than we thought,” Wilcox said. “A very heady guy. He’s played college football at a high level. He can throw the ball. Jack is a passer. It’s very natural for him to deliver it. We’re excited about where he’s going.”


Despite the woes on offense and local COVID restrictions that hampered the team late in the season, Cal still had a chance for a much better record in 2021. Five of the seven losses last season for the Bears came by seven points or less as Cal was in nearly every game.


Cal is excited about the return of versatile defensive lineman Brett Johnson, who missed last season after suffering a serious hip injury in a car accident. Johnson has the ability to play inside and outside on the line and should anchor the front for the Bears defense.


The Bears defense should get a boost from a transfer who’s very familiar with the defensive staff. Linebacker Jackson Sirmon transferred from Washington to play for his father, Cal defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon. Jackson Sirmon had 91 tackles last season for the Huskies.


The Bears open the season with nonconference home games against UC Davis and UNLV. Then things get tough with a visit to No. 5 Notre Dame. Cal gets a break by playing Colorado instead of Utah from the old South Division. After back-to-back home games to end October against Washington and No. 11 Oregon, Cal plays three of its four November games against in-state rivals No. 14 USC, Stanford and UCLA.

Cal coach Justin Wilcox signs extension through 2027

Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

BERKELEY, Calif. – California football coach Justin Wilcox has signed an extension through the 2027 season.

Wilcox was rewarded with the extension Thursday after leading the Golden Bears to two bowls in five seasons as coach. The contract also increases the salary pool for assistant coaches.

“Justin Wilcox is a football coach who shares our values and vision, and we want to ensure that he is the leader of our program for the long term,” athletic director Jim Knowlton said in a statement. “He is a great fit for Cal Athletics and our university, with a philosophy that places an emphasis on developing young men on the field, in the classroom and as people.”

Wilcox has a 26-28 record and led the Bears to back-to-back winning seasons and bowl games in 2018 and 2019 for the first time in a decade. Cal went 5-7 this season but beat rivals Stanford and Southern California down the stretch.

The Bear have won two of the last three Big Games against Stanford after losing the previous nine matchups.

“I appreciate the opportunity to be the head football coach at Cal and am excited about the future of our program,” Wilcox said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute I have spent with the extraordinary young men who have been in our program.”