OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — Chase Garbers threw for four touchdowns, but No. 23 California needed a game-saving tackle at the 1-yard line from linebacker Evan Weaver on the game’s final play to defeat Mississippi 28-20 on Saturday.
Cal (4-0) was in control until the final six minutes, when reserve quarterback John Rhys Plumlee led Ole Miss (2-2) on a late rally to wipe out a 28-13 deficit. Plumlee was stopped by Weaver for no gain on fourth down at the 1-yard line as time expired.
Garbers completed 23 of 35 passes for 357 yards, including TDs of 9 and 60 yards to Jordan Duncan and Jake Tonges on the opening two possessions of the third quarter, setting up the late defensive heroics.
“Weaver has 22 tackles. When was the last time we didn’t talk about what a great player he is? He produces every week,” California coach Justin Wilcox said. “Chase was awesome. It’s not even close. That’s the best game he has played.”
The Rebels got strong performances from quarterbacks Matt Corral and Plumlee, who led the final two possessions. Corral had a 1-yard scoring run and was 22-of-41 passing for 266 yards before leaving with a rib injury. The Rebels had 525 yards of total offense but failed on two scoring opportunities with missed field goals.
Plumlee went 7 of 7 for 82 yards in the final six minutes. Jerrion Ealy scored on a 15-yard run with 4:29 left to cap Plumlee’s first series. The Rebels went 89 yards in 10 plays in the final 2:45, finished by the game-saving stop from the Golden Bears’ defense.
“We had a great opportunity today, but we just didn’t make enough plays to win the game,” Mississippi coach Matt Luke said. “Matt did well, but we’ve got to look at the rib injury. John Rhys made the most of his opportunity.”
Cal finished with 433 yards of total offense, including first-half touchdown passes by Garbers of 6 and 13 yards to Trevon Clark and Christopher Brown Jr. The Golden Bears were efficient offensively, going 6 for 12 in third-down situations and 3 for 3 in the red zone, capped by touchdowns.
California: The Bears overcome a cross-country road trip, an early kickoff time — especially for a Pac-12 team — and a serious late charge to earn the decision. This win should raise expectations about Wilcox’s team after flying under the radar nationally early this season.
“When you come down here and play in this environment, against those coaches and athletes and win like we had to win, it builds confidence,” Wilcox said. “This is important to us and definitely is a step in the right direction.”
Ole Miss: Any margin for error in a bid for postseason play was erased in a second nonconference loss; the first was at Memphis. The Rebels, while showing flashes of improvement, are still a work in progress as the most difficult section of the schedule remains.
Winning on the road against an SEC opponent, along with the first 4-0 start since 2015, should be good enough for the Bears to move up a few spots.
California: The Bears return to Pac-12 play by hosting No. 24 Arizona State on Saturday night.
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