Nothing felt foreign for Justin Wilcox in his first game as ‘s coach. The same was true for first-time starting quarterback Ross Bowers.
Neither seemed surprised by winning their debuts, either.
Bowers threw for 363 yards and four touchdowns, while Cal rallied from an early deficit during a game-changing sequence and beat North Carolina 35-30 in Saturday’s opener at Chapel Hill.
“All due respect to North Carolina, we expected to win the game,” said Wilcox, a defensive coordinator the past 11 seasons at Wisconsin, USC, , Tennessee and Boise State.
Bowers, a sophomore, had never thrown a pass in a college game and had to win a preseason battle for the starting job. But he shook off two interceptions and came up with several good throws to help Cal win its first East Coast day game since 2012.
“I knew our game plan really well,” Bowers said. “I knew where we wanted to attack and who we wanted to attack. I just trusted all the training we’ve done this past fall camp and spring ball and offseason workouts and stuff like that.
“I think I was confident I wouldn’t say I was nervous. But running out for the first time I was like, `Man, it’s finally here, I finally get my opportunity.“’
As for North Carolina, this was a jarring way to start Larry Fedora’s sixth season against a team picked to finish last in its Pac-12 division.
“The problems were we made too many mistakes,” Fedora said. “You cannot win games like that or any game like it when you make that many mistakes, and that was on both sides of the ball.”
at 35, Portland State 32: Isaiah Hodgins caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Jake Luton with about a minute left as the Beavers came back to defeat the FCS-member Vikings.
Luton threw for 235 yards, with one TD and one interception, and had six completions in a row on the last drive for the Beavers (1-1), who bounced back from a season-opening loss at . Fellow signal-caller Darell Garretson ran for 29 yards and a TD as Oregon State used two quarterbacks, sometimes changing multiple times on the same drive.
Portland State backup quarterback Josh Kraght came in during the fourth quarter and scored on a one-yard run with 2:43 left to give Portland State to a 32-28 lead. He led the Vikings to within field goal range on a final drive, but a 46-yard attempt was wide right to end the game.
Kraght also had 82 yards receiving and two receiving TDs before starting QB Jalani Eason departed the game. Eason threw for 164 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions and zig-zagged his way to 95 yards rushing and two TDs for the Vikings (0-2).
The Vikings outgained the Beavers 515 yards to 389 yards, but the lack of a quality kicker proved costly.