As a freshman a year ago, Chase Garbers was benched at halftime for ineffectiveness during his first trip to a bowl game. The California quarterback made his second appearance in the postseason much more memorable for both himself and the Golden Bears.
Garbers threw four touchdown passes and ran for another score, leading California to a 35-20 win over Illinois on Monday in the Redbox Bowl.
“He’s taken that next step and he’s worked at it, whether it’s the weight room, meetings, practice” Golden Bears coach Justin Wilcox said. “He has just continued to work at it and guys respect him because of how hard he works. It really showed today.”
Garbers, who had been in and out of the lineup all season because of a shoulder injury, got going after being sacked on the first play from scrimmage and throwing an incomplete pass on the second. The offensive MVP of the game, Garbers completed 22 of 31 passes for 272 yards with TD passes of 4, 3, 2 and 6 yards. He also scored on quarterback sneak from the 1 early in the second quarter while helping the Bears set a season-high for scoring.
It was significantly different than 2018, when Garbers threw three first-half interceptions against TCU in the Cheez-It Bowl and spent the remainder of the game on the sidelines.
“It went a lot better today than last year,” Garbers said. “It just speaks to the guys in our offensive room and the team and how hard we work. We knew playing Illinois there would be shots we needed to take. You just have to execute those shot plays.”
The Bears won all seven games this season when the oft-injured Garbers played more than one half.
Christopher Brown Jr. ran for 120 yards on 20 carries, and Makai Polk caught five passes for a season-high 105 yards as Cal (8-5) won its first bowl game since 2015.
Brandon Peters passed for 273 yards and one touchdown for Illinois (6-7) in his return after sitting out the regular-season finale with a concussion. Peters, who was shaken up again after diving out of bounds following a scramble late in the fourth quarter, completed 22 of 37 passes and added a team-high 68 rushing yards.
The Illini lost despite outgaining the Bears in total yards 450-395.
“We didn’t play well enough. You have to give Cal credit for that,” Illinois coach Lovie Smith said. “Sometimes yards can be a little misleading. They got in the end zone more than we did.”
The strong showing by Garbers offset an uneven day by California’s defense.
The Bears allowed a field goal and touchdown on the Fighting Illini’s first two drives, then surrendered a late field goal before halftime.
Illinois’ offense was mostly stagnant after that, while California pulled away.
The Bears had lost three of their previous four bowl games.
California led 14-10 late in the second quarter before the teams combined for 10 points in the final 25 seconds.
After Wilcox made the decision to go for it on a 4th-and-goal, Garbers threw a short swing pass to Brown, who stiff-armed Illinois linebacker Tolson Khalan before reaching the end zone.
Peters helped the Illini answer quickly. He completed three consecutive passes for 58 yards, setting up a 30-yard field goal by James McCourt.
No. 6 Florida beats Virginia at Orange Bowl
Lamical Perine scored on a 61-yard run in the opening minute and didn’t stop until he climbed onto a platform for the postgame ceremony to receive the Orange Bowl’s most valuable player trophy.
Perine totaled 181 yards rushing and receiving with three touchdowns Monday to help No. 6 Florida beat Virginia 36-28.
Perine carried 13 times for a career-high 138 yards rushing at the end of a so-so senior season. He came into the game with only 538 yards rushing this year in the Gators’ pass-oriented offense.
But Perine was too quick and speedy for the Cavaliers, as his dash through their secondary on the first series showed. He also scored on a 10-yard run and caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Trask.
The win means Florida (11-2) will likely finish in the Top 10 in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2008-09. Second-year coach Dan Mullen credited Perine and the rest of the senior class with leading the resurgence.
“They restored the Gator standards and are building what we want to build,” Mullen said.
The Cavaliers (9-5) lost their final two games but still posted their highest win total since 2007.
Trask capped a storybook junior season by throwing for 305 yards. He was lightly recruited and in late September became a starter for the first time since ninth grade.
Florida totaled 549 yards, including a season-high 244 rushing, and didn’t punt until midway through the third quarter. The Gators exposed the weaknesses in a Virginia defense that allowed more than 23 points per game and gave up 62 to Clemson in an Atlantic Coast Conference title game loss.
Louisville beats Mississippi State at Music City Bowl
Micale Cunningham threw for 279 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 81 more, and Louisville capped coach Scott Satterfield’s debut season by beating Mississippi State 38-28 on Monday in the Music City Bowl.
The Cardinals (8-5) rallied from a 14-point deficit by scoring 31 straight to finish their big turnaround from 2-10 last season. Louisville also finally beat Mississippi State on the field for the first time in six tries, though the series now is tied 3-3 thanks to a pair of forfeits by the Bulldogs in the 1970s.
“We got down 14 points early in the game, and the kids didn’t flinch,” Satterfield said. “I mean they kept playing, they kept battling. The next thing you know you’re right back in the game. We grabbed the momentum and poured it on.”
Mississippi State (6-7) had been trying to finish the season with a three-game winning streak for the first time since 2013 and only the third time since the end of World War II. Instead, the Bulldogs go home having lost a bowl game in each of coach Joe Moorhead’s two seasons.
“This season was a book in and of itself,” Moorhead said. “Certainly 6-7 was not the outcome we desired. To get bowl eligible, win an Egg Bowl and have this opportunity to play in a bowl game to me is a credit to these seniors, a credit to these staff and credit to these leaders that we were able to battle through a lot of adversity this season.”
The Cardinals had four sacks and recovered two fumbles, one returned 31 yards for a TD by safety Khane Pass.
“It popped right in my hands, a perfect bounce,” Pass said.
Javian Hawkins led Louisville with 105 yards rushing, and he ran for a TD late. The Cardinals outgained Mississippi State 510-366.