BERKELEY, California — Christian Stewart threw for 433 yards and five touchdowns, and BYU kept California from becoming bowl eligible with a 42-35 win over the Golden Bears on Saturday.
“I’m so happy for our team — the few, we lucky few,” BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “We knew this was a really tough opponen; it was going to take at least 30 points to win, and it played out exactly as we planned it.”
Stewart tossed a 38-yard TD pass to a wide-open Jordan Leslie with 2:39 remaining for the go-ahead score, setting off chants of “B-Y-U! B-Y-U!” at half-filled Memorial Stadium. The Cougars (8-4) stopped record-setting Cal quarterback Jared Goff one more time to finish the season with four straight victories.
Goff threw for 393 yards and four touchdowns, adding to his own school record for yards passing in a season and breaking Pat Barnes’ mark of 31 TD passes in 1996. But he threw incomplete on four straight passes to the end zone as the Bears (5-7) ended the season with three losses in a row.
The Bears blew their first two chances to become bowl eligible when they lost 38-30 at Southern California and 38-17 at home to rival Stanford last week and missed their final shot at home in even more dramatic fashion.
Goff guided Cal down the field before a five-yard false start penalty pushed the Bears back to BYU’s 14. Goff threw incomplete on the final four plays, the last one over Kenny Lawler’s head with 10 seconds left.
BYU players and coaches jumped up and down, while the Bears quietly walked off the field following the final kneel down.
Lawler tied a school record with three TD catches, and Daniel Lasco ran for 130 yards for the Bears — who had another great offensive showing to go with another shaky defensive performance.
Cal outgained BYU 566 to 540 yards.
Goff added to his own Cal record for yards passing — set last year as a freshman and eclipsed last week against Stanford — and etched his name deeper into the school record books. The sophomore brought his totals to 3,973 yards passing and 35 touchdowns this season.
BYU’s postseason plans were already set, accepting an invitation to the Miami Beach Bowl. But the Cougars came into the game with three straight wins against lesser competition — outscoring Middle Tennessee State, UNLV and Savannah State 133-30 — and wanted to finish with a road victory against a Pac-12 team.
And they did just that.
On a cool, cloudy day in Berkeley, the teams traded scores all day.
Paul Lasike ran for a short touchdown, and Stewart threw a 47-yard TD pass to Mitchell Juergens to give BYU leads of 7-0 and 14-7 in the first quarter.
Goff rallied the Bears back each time, throwing three touchdown passes in the first half to Lawler to put Cal ahead 21-14 at the break. The three TD receptions for Lawler tied a school record — done 14 times — and his career high.
The Bears nearly blew the game open when Devante Downs intercepted a pass from Stewart and returned it 52 yards for a score late in the second quarter. Instead, replay officials ruled Stewart’s right knee was down before the pass.
The decision came a week after Cal had consecutive touchdowns taken away by replay in a loss to Stanford. The Pac-12 later admitted there wasn’t conclusive evidence to overturn two of the plays.
After the Cougars tied the game again in the third quarter, Skye Povey intercepted a pass from Goff. BYU drove to the Cal 1 when Stewart’s backward pass was picked up by Stefan McClure and returned to the Bears’ 33, leading to another Cal touchdown.
Stewart guided BYU on another long drive that ended with his second TD to Juergens to tie the game at 28 heading to the fourth.
“The fans filled the whole section up there today,” Mendenhall said. “We had authentic support, loyal support, heartfelt support, and the combination was just a magical experience.”
The Cougars will participate in the Miami Beach Bowl on Dec. 22 at 2 p.m. (EST).