Elijah Hicks and Ashtyn Davis scored on interception returns for touchdown in the first quarter to lead a defense that forced a season-high five turnovers, and California rolled past Colorado 33-21 on Saturday night.
Chase Garbers passed for 116 yards and two touchdowns while absorbing several big hits early as the Golden Bears (7-4, 4-4 Pac-12) clinched their first winning season since 2015 despite nearly blowing a 17-point lead.
The Bears were already assured of a bowl bid and can improve their prospects next week against Stanford in a game that was delayed due to unhealthy air conditions stemming from the deadly wildfire in Northern California.
Colorado, on the other hand, will begin a coaching search after ending the season with seven straight losses. The skid cost coach Mike MacIntyre his job a week earlier and the Buffaloes (5-7, 2-7) showed little improvement in his absence.
The Bears have improved steadily in two seasons under Justin Wilcox, most significantly on defense, a point that was driven home emphatically in the first two minutes of the game.
Hicks put Cal ahead with a 34-yard pick-6 off Colorado quarterback Steven Montez. Davis followed with a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown 45 seconds later. Davis added another interception late in the second quarter
Garbers threw touchdown passes of one and seven yards. The second came after the Buffaloes cut the Bears lead to 27-21.
Montez passed for 170 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Kyle Evans added a 1-yard touchdown run for Colorado.
Colorado: The Buffaloes have a lot of work to do in a short amount of time. With recruiting already in full swing, it's imperative that the administration decide on a full-time replacement for MacIntyre. A handful of names have been thrown around but there is no clear front-runner. Whoever takes the job will inherit a program in flux. Colorado has 25 seniors, including eight starters, but will return most of the key starters on offense and defense.
California: The Bears set the tone early with their defense, which was key in a game when their offense sputtered much of the day. Garbers had a pretty efficient game and showed some grit with his running. That was critical because the Buffaloes made running back Patrick Laird mostly a non-factor. Greg Thomas helped bail out Cal's offense with a pair of field goals.
Colorado: The Buffaloes season is over.
California: The Bears host Stanford on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.