College football: Cal holds off North Texas, 23-17

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BERKELEY — Chase Garbers passed for one touchdown after using his legs to get Cal’s offense going, Greg Thomas kicked three field goals and the Golden Bears beat North Texas 23-17 on Saturday.

Christopher Brown Jr. ran for 47 yards and a touchdown while Cal’s defense had six sacks and forced two turnovers. The Bears are 3-0 for the third time in three years under coach Justin Wilcox.

North Texas quarterback Mason Fine completed 21 of 40 attempts for 210 yards and two touchdowns to surpass the 10,000-yard mark for his career but the Mean Green (1-2) fell behind big for the second straight week and couldn’t recover.

Cal dominated on both sides early in the first-ever matchup between the two schools then held on after North Texas made a late surge. The Mean Green pulled within 23-17 on Fine’s 18-yard TD to Jyaire Shorter late n the fourth quarter and got the ball back with less than two minutes remaining but turned it over on downs.

Garbers was a big factor for the Bears staying unbeaten, one week after Cal’s stunning 20-19 win over then-No. 14 Washington in a game that was delayed by weather for more than 2½ hours. Garbers repeatedly burned the Mean Green with keepers and scrambles while running for a career-high 70 yards on 18 carries despite North Texas frequently stacking the box.

Garbers’ 19-yard run on third-and-3 set up Cal’s first touchdown. He also scampered for 12 yards on a keeper later in the first quarter, three plays before finding Nikko Remigio for a 36-yard touchdown.

Remigio, who had a slicing 31-yard punt return to set up the drive, caught the ball at the 12, spun away from safety Taylor Robinson and ran into the end zone for his first career touchdown.

Thomas converted from 32, 34 and 44 yards.

BETTER START

Cal had fallen behind 10-0 in each of its first two games and won both times. The Bears didn’t have to rally against North Texas, scoring on their first four possessions to take a 20-0 lead after one quarter.

YELLOW ON THE GREEN

North Texas couldn’t get out of its own way in the first quarter. The Mean Green were called for two personal fouls on the opening drive, then had a key facemask penalty later that sustained another Cal scoring drive.

THE TAKEAWAY

North Texas: The Mean Green were outmatched and couldn’t recover from the sluggish start. There’s plenty of blame to go around, from a lack of discipline early to conservative play-calling early that failed to take advantage of Fine’s strong arm. North Texas hasn’t beaten a Pac-12 school since 1995.

Cal: The Bears very well could break into the Top 25 after being a few votes shy last week. Garbers’ running made up for an uneven day passing, something he’ll have to improve if Cal is going to make a serious push in the Pac-12. The defense was solid, and Remigio continues to give the special teams a spark.

UP NEXT

North Texas: The Mean Green return home to host UTSA on Sept. 21 in the Conference USA opener for both teams. North Texas has won the last two games in the series.

Cal: Plays at Mississippi on Saturday.

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