Golden Bears Bring Undefeated Record to Matchup against Cougars


It’s been a great start to the season for the California Golden Bears, and this past week may have been the best yet. With their defeat of the University of Washington Huskies, the Bears moved to 4-0, but what happened after the game got them a little more attention.

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The Golden Bears’ undefeated start through four games led them back into national rankings for the first time since 2010, as the Associated Press and Coaches’ Poll each placed them 24th in the nation, and the NCAA College Football Power Rankings left them 22nd. Also, for the first time since 2012, a Bears’ player was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week, as senior defensive end Kyle Kragen took home the honor.

Riding high on their first 4-0 start in eight years, the Bears head back home to Kabam Field at Memorial stadium after a pair of road victories to continue their trek through the Pac-12 against the 2-1 Washington State Cougars.

If this matchup is anything like last year’s between the two, it should be a shootout. When the two prolific offenses met in week six last season, the two heavyweight offenses traded haymakers throughout the contest. Jared Goff landed the final knockout blow, as his touchdown pass to Trevor Davis (his fifth scoring throw of the night) with just over three minutes left put the Bears ahead 60-59, which would eventually be the final score.

Goff enters this game tied with Kyle Boller for the school record with 64 career touchdown throws, and the next scoring strike will put him as Cal’s all-time leader in passing yards, completions, total offense, and touchdowns. And he’s only a junior.

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The Bears should get Daniel Lasco, their top running back, back for this game after he missed the past two weeks with a hip strain. He practiced fully throughout the week, and barring any unforeseen setbacks in the hours before the game, he will return to the backfield. If for any reason he is unable to go, his backups have proven to be more than capable fill-ins.

Sophomore Vic Enwere and junior Khalfani Muhammad proved to be a nice thunder and lightning combination. Enwere was the bigger, more powerful back, picking up 157 yards and three scores during Lasco’s absence. Muhammad played the role of the big play guy, as he gained 207 yards while averaging more than 12 yards per tote. The combination, along with Lasco, could be enough to make a defense’s head spin.

In the contest last year, Cougars’ quarterback Connor Halliday was masterful, as he completed 49 passes on 70 attempts for an FBS-record 734 yards, plus six touchdowns. The Bears’ defense won’t have to contend with Halliday, who graduated after last season, but his replacement this year, sophomore Luke Falk, has been quite good in his own right.

Falk is averaging over 350 pass yards per game over the first three games, and is completing 73 percent of his throws. He’s thrown eight scoring passes, and has turned the ball over just once via interception.

Cal’s defense has been much improved from last season, apart from a 650-yard outburst from the Texas Longhorns, with freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard leading the way. Against the Huskies, the Bears allowed 259 yards, and less than five yards per play. Quarterback Jake Browning was held to mostly short passes, as he threw for 152 yards on 17 completions. The Bears also forced five turnovers, including a pair of interceptions from Browning. Another strong showing from the defense will go a long way towards deciding this one.

Special teams could also play a key role. Before Davis caught the game-winning pass from Goff last year, he burned the Cougars’ kick return unit twice for a pair of touchdowns. The Cougars’ return units are still shaky this year, as they have already allowed a kick return and a punt return to go for a score through three games. Cal doesn’t have a return touchdown yet this year, but Davis, and the coaching staff, have to remember what happened last year.

The Bears lead the all-time series with the Cougars 45-26-5, and have had the upper hand in recent years, taking nine out of the past 10 matchups. It won’t be an easy game, but the Bears have a legitimate chance to move to 5-0, and keep creeping up those ranking boards, against the Washington State Cougars.

Next: Kragen Wins Award as Cal Enters Top-25