BERKELEY — Cal found its defense and a running game Saturday night and stayed unbeaten with a 27-16 victory over Ole Miss in front of an announced crowd of 37,125 at Memorial Stadium.
Much-maligned during in recent years, the Bears’ defense pitched a second-half shutout for the second straight week, and linebacker Cameron Goode iced victory with an interception and 31-yard return for a touchdown with 3 minutes left.
The Bears answered the Ole Miss passing attack with a ground game that produced 164 yards and allowed them to run 15 more plays than the visiting Rebels.
Patrick Laird, who came off the bench to run for a career-high 191 yards against Weber State a week earlier, had 78 yards as the starter, and Vic Enwere added 75 yards.
In their non conference finale, the Bears improved to 3-0 under first-year coach Just Wilcox and are now halfway to unexpected bowl eligibility. Fourth-ranked USC visits next Saturday.
Ole Miss (2-1) led 16-7 at halftime, thanks to a pair 70-plus yard touchdown passes by Shea Patterson.
But for the second straight week, the defense keyed a comeback victory. The Bears squelched the Ole Miss running game all night, and effectively pressed Patterson over the final two quarters. The Rebels had just 7 yards on 15 snaps in the fourth quarter before Goode’s pick-six ended the drama.
Patterson, who entered the day leading FBS at 459 passing yards per game, finished with 363 but was intercepted three times and threw for just 96 yards in the second half.
The Bears pulled within two points when Ross Bowers threw a 19-yard touchdown strike to Vic Wharton III, capping a 13-play, 72-yard drive with 11:16 left in the third quarter.
Matt Anderson’s 19-yard field goal with 2:47 left in the third vaulted the Bears into the lead. He missed a 40-yard try that could have extended the lead with 7:48 left in the game, but delivered from 41 yards with 3:44 remaining.
Patterson, who was rated the nation’s No. 1 high school quarterback prospect two years ago, delivered a 72-yard TD pass to DaMarkus Lodge in the first quarter and a 71-yarder to D.K. Metcalfe two minutes into the second period.
Those two plays accounted for 143 of the Rebels’ 285 first-half yardage total. Cal had 126 yards at halftime.
Jaylinn Hawkins and Devante Downs had first-half interceptions against Patterson, but the sophomore still had 267 passing yards by halftime.
Cal scored its only first-half touchdown on Laird’s 13-yard run with 8:17 left in the first quarter.
* The Bears played without star sophomore wide receiver Demetris Robertson, out with an undisclosed injury. Sidelined for the second straight week were linebackers Cameron Saffle and Jordan Kunaszyk and reserve defensive lineman Tevin Paul, also all due to injury.
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