Ross Bowers threw a touchdown pass and Cameron Goode returned an interception for a touchdown to seal the game as California won its third straight game to open the season under new coach Justin Wilcox, beating Ole Miss 27-16 on Saturday night.
The Golden Bears (3-0) withstood two long TD passes by Rebels quarterback Shea Patterson but didn’t allow a score over the final 43 minutes to end the nonconference season undefeated.
The loss ended a long week for Ole Miss (2-1) after interim coach Matt Luke had to miss a day of practice to attend a hearing by the NCAA’s Committee of Infractions and then the team traveled to California for the second time in school history. The Rebels are accused of 21 recruiting violations.
Ole Miss then blew a nine-point halftime lead as Cal took the second-half kickoff and drove 72 yards to cut the deficit to 16-14 on a 19-yard TD pass to Vic Wharton III. Matt Anderson added two field goals for the Bears.
The Rebels still had a chance for a comeback but Patterson was intercepted by Goode, who returned it 31 yards for the score with three minutes remaining.
Patterson, who threw for more than 400 yards in each of the first two games, hit DeMarkus Lodge on a 72-yard TD pass and D.K. Metcalf on a 71-yarder in the first half but wasn’t able to do much else. He finished 26 for 44 for 363 yards with three interceptions. Patterson missed leading receiver A.J. Brown, who left the game with a knee injury in the first quarter.
Ole Miss: The Rebels self-destructed with 16 penalties for 113 yards, including having 12 men on the field for a punt to extend a Cal drive in the fourth quarter. Ole Miss also was once again unable to generate any kind of running game, gaining just 53 yards on 29 carries. The Rebels were also hurt by a hamstring injury that sidelined kicker Gary Wunderlich early in the game. Freshman Luke Logan badly missed his first career field goal attempt from 48 yards.
California: The Bears were once again susceptible to the big play, allowing the two TD passes of more than 70 yards. But they also showed they are vastly improved defensively under Wilcox. Cal had three interceptions and forced punts on five straight drives in the second and third quarters. The Bears also had a solid ground game with Patrick Laird running for 78 yards and a score and Vic Enwere rushing for 75 yards.
Ole Miss: Visit No. 1 Alabama on Sept. 30.
California: Host No. 4 Southern California on Saturday.