Photo Credit: Neville E. Guard/USA TODAY Sports – California Golden Blogs
Seven turnovers and nine sacks cost No. 8 Washington State (6-1, 3-1) in its stunning loss to Cal (4-3, 1-3) on Friday night. Cal’s defensive line was aggressive and routinely beat WSU’s offensive line off of the snap throughout the Golden Bears’ 37-3 victory.
Quarterback Ross Bowers would score the dagger when he scrambled seven-yards and then somersaulted into the end zone to give Cal a 27-3 lead early in the fourth quarter. The touchdown came after a physically dominating drive by the Golden Bears that saw them impose their will over an exhausted Washington State defense — Cal ran the ball on seven plays during the drive. It was the type of drive that Cal had been looking for throughout the third quarter but they hadn’t been able to find.
Matt Anderson would kick a 41-yard field goal to give Cal a 30-3 lead; the Golden Bears would add another seven points when WSU quarterback Luke Falk was stripped on their ninth sack of the game and Gerran Brown would return loose rock to the end zone.
The Cougars fourth turnover of the game would come when James Williams failed to haul in a shovel pass and it bounced into the hands of Raymond Davis III. Cal would be forced to punt after a chop block on third down forced them out of field goal range.
Falk would throw his fifth interception of the game when Tavares Martin Jr. would tip the ball into the hands of Quentin Tartabull. Head coach Justin Wilcox’s squad would run out the clock down to 51 seconds left, but they were unable to pick up one more first down. At this point, Washington State’s backup quarterback Tyler Hilinski would enter the game to run the last few plays of the game.
On the next possession Falk would throw his fourth pick — and WSU’s fifth turnover — when his pass sailed behind Isaiah Johnson-Mack and was picked up by Jordan Kunaszyk before it bounced off of the ground. WSU’s defense would step up on and force a field goal attempt, which Anderson would nail to give the Golden Bears a 20-3 lead with a little over five minutes left in the third quarter.
Cal would score a touchdown as time expired in the first half when Bowers escaped an all out blitz to hit Kyle Wells with a floater pass into the end zone. The score came three plays after it appeared that Washington State’s defense had seemingly stopped the Golden Bears with a 15-yard sack by Hercules Mata’afa. Bowers did a fantastic job of hitting receivers with nearly perfect passes along the side lines to his wide receivers and WSU couldn’t stop it; Wilcox’s squad entered halftime with a 17-3 lead.
Falk would make throw his second interception of the game when he’d attempt to hit Martin Jr. in the end zone after he had his man beat, but cornerback Camryn Bynum would race in for his second interception of the game. Two players prior to the interception, Calvin would get wide open in the end zone on a post route, but Falk wouldn’t see him on first and 10; instead the redshirt senior would dump it off to Williams for a two-yard gain. On the next play, Cal would send an extra man on the blitz and Falk would get sacked for the fourth time in the first half…the third down play would be disastrous.
Martin Jr. would hall in an 11-yard touchdown pass on a circus catch, but it would be called back when he was called for a ticky-tack (one-arm push-off) offensive PI call to place WSU into third and goal at its own 26-yard line. Falk would then get sacked by Cameron Goode for a nine yard loss to force WSU into a 52-yard field goal attempt on fourth down…which Erik Powell nailed to get the Cougs within seven.
Washington State’s defense wouldn’t be able to hold Cal after a great 31-yard return by Vic Wharton III set Cal up with the ball on the Cougar’s 23-yard line. Bowers would hit Gavin Reinwald for 17-yards to pick up a first down on the Golden Bears’ first play after the punt return; then he’d hand it off twice. The first handoff was stuffed for no gain, but Vic Enwere would punch it into the end zone on the next play.
Falk did not look sharp early on as he threw an interception on the Cougars first possession of the game. He was trying to hit Bell on the curl route, but Bynum beat the wide receiver to the ball. Fortunately the Cougar defense would hold after giving up a third and 15 to force a field goal, giving Cal a 3-0 lead early on.
The interception came three plays after Bell returned the opening kickoff to the house, but it was negated by a holding penalty on Daniel Okuale.
Unfortunately for Washington State, the pick wasn’t the only early turnover in the first quarter as Jamire Calvin would fumble after he was hit trying to pick up the first down. Calvin would leave the game with an injury after the play, but he’d come back in a couple of drives later. Again, the WSU defense would shut down the Golden Bears offense to force a three and out on their possession immediately following the turnover.
To add insult to injury, Powell would miss a 49-yard field goal attempt wide right that would have been WSU a chance to tie the game at three. The missed field goal came after WSU’s best drive of the first quarter that saw the Cougars average a little over five yards per play. It was frustrating that Washington State was unable to come up with points after that drive because the offense looked somewhat competent.