There was relief among Cal’s football players that teammate Trevor Davis wasn’t more seriously injured Saturday, but no solace otherwise after a 36-34 loss to UCLA at Memorial Stadium.
“Bottom line: we lost the game,” linebacker Hardy Nickerson Jr. said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
After six lead changes kept a crowd of 49,257 wondering if the Bears could steal an eighth straight home victory from the Bruins, the place went silent for 10 minutes when Davis was injured on a kickoff return with 3:34 left.
The Bruins (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12) had gone ahead to stay moments earlier on a 26-yard field goal by Ka’imi Fairbairn.
Davis was taken to a local hospital for tests, but was moving his extremities and talking, coach Sonny Dykes said.
That was practically the only good news Saturday for the Bears (4-3, 2-3), who now take a two-game losing streak into a Friday matchup against No. 9 Oregon at Levi’s Stadium. The Ducks have beaten Cal five straight times, including by a whopping margin of 157-48 the past three years.
The math the Bears face in pursuit of six victories to be bowl eligible is becoming more difficult.
“Oregon’s going to be a must-win game for us,” linebacker Michael Barton said. “I think it’s going to be the defining point of our season.”
That might have come Saturday had Cal been able to finish its final drive of the game. Undaunted by the injury to their teammate, the Bears moved quickly from their own 23-yard line to the UCLA 36 when quarterback Jared Goff threw deep down the right sideline to Kenny Lawler, who was working against man coverage.
Marcus Rios intercepted the pass as he tumbled over the pylon at goal line, and Cal’s comeback bid was finished with 51 seconds left on the clock.
“Jared saw press coverage, saw the matchup he liked,” Dykes said. “The guy made a play on the football.”
Goff said it was the same play in which he threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Lawler, giving the Bears a 34-33 lead with 6:50 left.
“I thought I’d get it again,” he said. “I kind of forced it.”