BERKELEY — Quarterback Sam Jackson V didn’t start the game for Cal, but finished it.
Running back Jaydn Ott started but didn’t make it to the end.
In between, the Bears squandered a series of chances — including three missed field goals and a 51-yarder that was nullified by a penalty — all of which added up to a 14-10 loss to Auburn in front of a Memorial Stadium crowd of 44,141 and an ESPN audience on Saturday night.
The Bears (1-1) found no rhythm offensively after putting up 58 points and 669 yards in their opening victory at North Texas.
They found tougher sledding against the Tigers (2-0) of the Southeastern Conference, although Cal led until Payton Thorne threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Rivaldo Fairweather with 6:31 left.
Jackson, who injured his left (non-throwing) arm against North Texas, started the game on the bench. But he relieved Ben Finley midway through the second quarter and helped push Cal into the lead.
Ott, who rushed for 188 yards last week, gained 78 on 20 carries but the last of those sent him out of the game.
He left the game with 2:44 remaining in the third quarter after trying to jump over defender Jaylin Simpson. Ott hit the ground hard, stayed there for at least two minutes and finally walked. He did not return.
The Bears got one last chance with 4 minutes left after an official review gave Cal the ball on a fumble by Jarquez Hunter that was recovered by Ricky Correia at the Auburn 41.
But Jackson’s fourth-and-14 pass to Trond Grizzell in the end zone was intercepted by cornerback D.J. James with 1:44 to play.
The Bears had more yards than the Tigers (273-230), more plays (78-55), more first downs (19-12) and fewer turnovers (4-3). And they still couldn’t get it done.
Cal led 10-7 after a first half that featured five turnovers and a couple missed opportunities by the Bears.
Linebacker Jackson Sirmon appeared to score a touchdown for the Bears on a 31-yard fumble return on the game’s third play, but officials ruled he was out of bounds when he took possession.
After a review, Cal was awarded the ball but the return was wiped away because the whistle had blown, officially ending the play. The Bears wound up with a 39-yard field goal by Michael Luckhurst with 9:42 left in the opening period.
Benefitting from another short field after a punt, Cal settled for a second field goal try, but Luckhurst missed from 42 yards.
Auburn went in front when Payton Thorne completed a 13-yard touchdown pass to Jay Fair with 11:50 left in the second quarter. That score followed a lost fumble by Cal reserve running back Isaiah Ifanse, recovered by the Tigers at the Bears’ 17.
Auburn’s second giveaway of the half set up the Bears late in the half when safety Patrick McMorris recovered a fumble at the Tigers’ 35.
Jackson made his first appearance at that point and his presence energized the offense. He completed both of his passes for 28 yards and scrambled for 4 more yards.
tt ran 14 yards to the 14, then up the the middle for the final 14 and the TD with 4:47 left in the half.
Cornerback Nohl Williams intercepted Thorne at the Auburn 34 with 1:03 left in the half and Luckhursr delivered a 51-yard field goal as time ran out. But a holding penalty against Xavier Carlton pushed the Bears back 10 yards and they settled for the 10-7 halftime lead.