Laird's 3 TDs help California rally past Weber State 33-20
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — About the only thing California can feel good about was the final result and the play of former walk-on Patrick Laird.
Everything else needed a lot of work.
Laird ran for 191 yards and three touchdowns to help the Golden Bears overcome a lackluster performance with a late rally to beat lower-level Weber State 33-20 on Saturday.
"That level of play is going to get us beat later on during the season," linebacker Raymond Davison said. "Great for the win but we have to pick it up."
Coach Justin Wilcox's home debut for Cal (2-0) almost turned into a disaster as Weber State (1-1) of the FCS led by three points heading into the fourth quarter thanks to repeated breakdowns in the secondary that helped Stefan Cantwell throw for 431 yards.
"We like our secondary and we didn't play well in the secondary," Wilcox said. "Just unacceptable how we played there."
But after Matt Anderson tied the game with a 40-yard field goal early in the fourth, Laird took over. He carried five times on a seven-play drive following a fumble by Andrew Vollert near midfield and gave the Bears a 27-20 lead with a 1-yard run.
The Bears then got a key stop when halfback Kevin Smith barely overthrew Cantwell on a trick play that was nearly a touchdown and then Cantwell threw incompletions on third and fourth down from the 13.
"A lot of plays were there that we just missed opportunities for," coach Jay Hill said. "I think those were the mistakes that we made, just missed opportunities that we could have had."
Laird iced the game three plays later with a 73-yard run for his second long TD of the game. He scored on a 51-yard run in the first half as he picked up the load after Tre Watson left early with an injury.
"Pat's really done that since we've been here," Wilcox said. "He's a really steady guy. ... It was great to see him make some of those plays. I'm happy for Pat."
WEBER STATE: The Wildcats played aggressively all game in hopes of ending a 30-game losing streak against FBS teams and getting their first win in six meetings against a Power Five team. Cantwell had eight completions of at least 20 yards and threw for 431 yards. Weber State even tried a surprise onside kick in the first half, a fake field goal in the third quarter and the trick play late. If any of those last three plays would have worked, the Wildcats might have pulled off the upset bid.
"Quite frankly we've got to get better executing those plays," Hill said. "When we call them, those plays are only cool when we execute them and we didn't tonight."
CALIFORNIA: After an impressive debut under Wilcox that led to a 35-30 road win at North Carolina, the Bears struggled in their home opener. The secondary left receivers open downfield all game and Ross Bowers wasn't nearly as sharp as he was in his four-TD performance a week ago. He was held to 200 yards passing and took three key sacks.
BIG-PLAY RAY: Davison was one of the few bright spots on defense for the Bears. He had 11 tackles, forced a fumble on his first career sack in the first half and then caused the key fumble in the fourth quarter that helped spark the comeback. Those were his first two career forced fumbles.
BOOK WORM: Laird capped his night with an odd celebration. After his second long touchdown run sealed the win, Laird threw the ball back to the official and then pretended to read a book.
"I like to read books," said Laird, who added that he'd explain the celebration at a later time.
WEBER STATE: The Wildcats visit Sacramento State in a game that won't count in the Big Sky standings.
CALIFORNIA: The Bears host Mississippi.