Golden Bears Survive Against WSU to Improve to 5-0


Last season, saying the California Golden Bears‘ defense paved the way to a win would be downright impossible. This year, the Golden Bears’ defense is paving the way to victories, and did so again on Saturday, as the Bears knocked off their Pac-12 North rivals, the Washington State Cougars, 34-28.

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The Bears’ defense gave up a lot of yards, as Washington State gained 403 total yards, but were very opportunistic and completely shut down the Cougars’ run game. On 25 carries, the Cougars’ offense picked up just 14 yards on the ground, an abysmal 0.6 yards per carry. WSU’s air attack, on the other hand, was tremendous. Sophomore Luke Falk completed 35 of his 49 attempts, piling up 389 yards and two touchdown.

As a unit, the Bears’ defense forced four turnovers, including junior safety Damariay Drew‘s second interception in as many weeks. On the Cougars’ first drive of the second half, freshman running back Zach Charme fumbled. Senior safety Stefan McClure scooped up the loose ball and returned it 45 yards for the Bears’ first fumble recovery touchdown since 2011, and to make it a one-point game at 21-20. Senior cornerback Darius White and sophomore defensive tackle James Looney also recovered fumbles, with Looney’s coming on the final play of the game as the Cougars attempted to lateral their way to a touchdown as time expired.

Falk was tormented all day, as the Bears racked up seven sacks throughout the day. Senior defensive end Kyle Kragen tallied a career-best 2.5 sacks, one week after his 1.5 sacks and forced fumble earned him the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week Award. McClure and Looney also complemented their recoveries with their first career sacks.

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The Bears’ offense started off slowly, as they trailed by two touchdowns with about two minutes left in the first half. They answered with a touchdown before the half, and then again with the fumble recovery touchdown to make it a one-point game. The Cougars added another score to push the lead to 28-20, but two touchdowns before the start of the fourth quarter would provide the Bears all the cushion they would need.

Bears’ quarterback Jared Goff struggled at the outset of the contest, as he missed five of his first eight pass attempts, including an interception by sophomore cornerback Marcellus Pippins. Goff would right the ship, and finish with another tremendous week of action under his belt, completing 33 passes in 45 attempts for 390 yards and four scores. His first touchdown pass, a 34-yarder to Bryce Treggs, marked Goff’s 65th career touchdown pass, giving him sole possession of the Cal school record.

Goff’s top target, junior wide receiver Kenny Lawler, had another fantastic day. He caught six passes for 105 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including an absurd one-handed catch in the endzone with a defender draped all over him.

The run game wasn’t very effective for Cal. Senior Daniel Lasco, making his return from a hip injury that forced him out of the last two games, carried the ball 10 times and gained just 22 yards. Khalfani Mohammad had the best overall day as a runner, as he gained 41 yards on 10 carries. Vic Enwere had the biggest play of the night for the Cal running backs.

Enwere carried the ball five times and gained an impressive 48 yards, but 42 of those yards came on one carry. About halfway through the fourth quarter, the Bears faced a third down with 36 yards to go at their own four-yard line. Faced with potentially punting away and giving the Cougars’ offense a short field to work with, the Bears went with the safe play. Enwere took the handoff up the middle, finding a lot of room in front of him. He cut left and somehow managed to keep his balance despite defensive efforts to make a shoestring tackle. He bounced towards the sideline, across the first down marker to pick up an incredibly improbable first down.

A week after entering the national rankings for the first time in five years, the Bears figure to take a step forward on those charts on the strength of their first 5-0 start since 2007.

The Bears are proving this year that their team is more complete than it was last year, and that the offense and defense are both good enough to win games. With their toughest stretch of the season coming up, including three straight games against Utah, UCLA, and USC, both sides of the ball will need to be at the top of their game.

Next: Bears Beat Huskies to Move to 4-0