DENTON, Texas -- — California coach Justin Wilcox says he and his players spent “about seven seconds” talking about the school's impending move to the Atlantic Coast Conference a day before the season opener.
There's still a season to be played in the Pac-12, and it started nicely for the Golden Bears.
Cal (1-0) was playing about 40 miles from SMU, another ACC newcomer along with longtime Bay Area and Pac-12 rival Stanford.
“It’s significant,” Wilcox said. “We pay attention to it, but the team, we don’t have a lot of control over any of that. What we can control is practice and performing. When the news broke about the ACC, it was good news, but we talked about it for about seven seconds.”
On the day the ACC invitations became official Friday, the Golden Bears were at the headquarters of the Dallas Cowboys making final preparations for their first opener at a so-called Group of Five opponent since Air Force in 2004.
Cal was a 56-14 winner in that game in Colorado, and outgained UNT 669 yards to 225 while scoring the final 31 points in this one. The Golden Bears held the Mean Green to 9 yards after halftime in their highest-scoring game since 2015.
Stone Earle had three TD passes but was intercepted twice in the debut of North Texas coach Eric Morris and the first game for the Mean Green (0-1) as members of the American Athletic Conference, the league SMU will be leaving. UNT just left Conference USA.
Ott ran 41 yards on Cal's first play to set up Sam Jackson V's 23-yard scoring pass to Jeremiah Hunter. The sophomore ran 66 yards for a 27-14 lead in the second quarter after a 4-yard TD run late in the first.
Ifanse broke several tackles and kept churning in a pile inside the 5 on a 26-yard scoring run before an 8-yard score for a 33-21 lead 7 seconds before halftime.
Jackson started in his Cal debut after transferring from TCU, another Dallas-Fort Worth school, but was injured in the first half and replaced by Ben Finley, who threw for 279 yards and a TD. Wilcox didn't offer any details other than saying Jackson had an upper-body injury.
Two of Earle's TDs tosses were to Ja'Mori Maclin, who set up the first UNT score with a 58-yard catch before scoring on a 59-yarder. Maclin averaged 30.5 yards per catch (122 yards, four receptions) after finishing second in the country last year at 24.7.
“We've got to eliminate the explosive passes,” Wilcox said. “We've been talking about that a long time. It's simple in concept. Not easy to do. The other team schemes. They have good players, too.”
LONG ROAD BACK
Cal defensive tackle Brett Johnson started but didn’t record a tackle in his first game in almost three years. The junior missed the past two seasons with injuries.
Wilcox noted Johnson caused a holding penalty that stalled UNT's first possession, and the Golden Bears scored after the punt. Cal never trailed.
“In warmups, I love seeing No. 90 out there,” Wilcox said. “And when we take the field on defense, I love watching No. 90 jog out there, as does everybody else on our team. You better believe it, we're all kind of, internal fist pump.”
Cal: Ott fumbled to set up Earle's third TD pass, which pulled UNT within 27-21 late in the second quarter. But the Golden Bears responded with a 75-yard drive to score in the final seconds of the first half, starting the run of 31 consecutive points.
North Texas: Louisiana-Monroe transfer Chandler Rogers was expected to get playing time behind Earle, and it finally came late in the third quarter after Finley threw an interception. His first possession ended on downs without a first down, and Rogers threw an interception the next time out.
Cal: Auburn makes its first trip to Berkeley next Saturday. It's the first visit from an SEC team since Mississippi in 2017.
North Texas: The Mean Green visit a pair of former CUSA partners the next two weeks, going to Florida International next Saturday, then to Louisiana Tech on Sept. 16.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll