The 2018 Cheez-It Bowl will forever be remembered as one of the most laughable offensive performances ever seen by two teams on national television. Both offenses were unbelievably inept in a game that tallied nine total interceptions. Both Cal and TCU have relied on their defenses all season, but tonight’s matchup was more about which offense could manage to get out of their own way. The question would be answered in overtime when Cal quarterback Chase Forrest threw a devastating interception ultimately leading to a Cal defeat in the hands of TCU, 10-7.
The first quarter had Cal victory written all over it. The Bears’ defense played inspiring football like they have all season long and safety Jaylinn Hawkins caught his first of three interceptions in Horned Frog territory. Cal’s offense looked rather sharp early and QB Chase Garbers made one of his best throws of the season to WR Kanawai Noa. Cal finished the drive in the end zone to take a 7-0 lead.
Then came the barrage of interceptions. Four consecutive drives between the two teams ended in picks. One of which was a head-scratching triple pass by TCU intercepted by Hawkins and returned into the red zone. Cal followed up with a terrible read by Garbers giving it right back, costing Cal points. The half ended 7-0 Bears with each team throwing three interceptions.
After Garbers’ abysmal decision-making in the first half featuring three interceptions, Cal turned to Chase Forrest for the rest of the game. Forrest is a fifth-year senior but has not played a meaningful snap in his career. The decision would come back to haunt the Bears as Forrest had little success and threw two baffling, untimely interceptions of his own. TCU managed to tie the game capitalizing on a brilliant punt return by Jalen Reagor. Reagor is TCU’s most explosive talent but was hobbled throughout the game. The Horned Frogs took advantage of the short field to tie it 7-7.
Cal running back Patrick Laird was out for the game at halftime due to injury and true freshman Christopher Brown took the majority of the snaps in his absence. Cal’s run game did not have a lot of success and any positives in the passing game were negated by the five interceptions Garbers and Forrest combined to throw. Meanwhile, TCU had solid success in the run game with their physical RB Sewo Olonilua, but had an even worse performance in the passing game finishing with an absurd 28 yards on 21 passing attempts to accompany four interceptions.
The game transitioned from defensive, to sloppy, to comically horrific. The second half was almost unwatchable as both teams either were conservative and punted, or they were aggressive and turned it over. The Horned Frogs had an opportunity to end it in regulation after a long run by Olonilua but missed the 44-yard field goal following some confusion between their two kicking options.
Cal started with the ball in overtime and delivered one more self-destructing interception on a very poor throw by Chase Forrest into traffic. More turmoil resulted, however, as TCU was slapped with a sideline interference penalty on the return. The Frogs begun their drive at the 40 yard-line instead of the 25 but managed to set up a 27-yard field goal to put the torturous game to a close.
It will be difficult for Cal fans to look back on this 2018 winning season and not lament on how bad the Cal offense was. This performance was the epitome of a team that was stellar on one side of the ball and horrendous on the other. Justin Wilcox assembled one of the best Cal defenses of all time, but there are some real questions about how the program is developing talent on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback play has been a dumpster fire from Week 1 with no noticeable signs of improvement. While there are viable reasons to believe Cal will make significant strides on offense next season, there is no reason it should ever be this bad.