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Cal Football

Bears Head to Palouse Seeking 2-0 Pac-12 Start

September 28, 2022

After a convincing home win over Arizona to open its conference season, California’s Golden Bear football team will take its show on the road once again this week.

Head Coach Justin Wilcox is anxious to erase as much memory as possible from a heartbreaking loss at Notre Dame, which included a phantom offsides penalty on Lu-Magia Hearns, that cost them the game, stating “We are full speed ahead.”

Ahead are the Washington State Cougars. These teams could be forgiven for just taking the field and comparing miseries before playing Saturday in Martin Stadium. No other phrase in Pac-12 lexicon has quite the poignancy as “Coug’n it”, and Wazzu may have set that bar too high to ever exceed last Saturday, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by allowing 29 fourth-quarter points, AT HOME, to Oregon. The Cougars led 27-15 entering the quarter and scored a pair of touchdowns, but lost 44-41 as Oregon QB Bo Nix managed to go 10-for-15 for 122 yards and 2 touchdowns while only having the ball a bit over 5 minutes in the period. The Ducks ran the ball 32 times for 178 net yards, a 5.6 yd per carry average.

This column predicted that Jayden Ott would burst onto the national scene against Notre Dame. We were a tiny bit premature; Ott waited until the second play against Arizona to start that process, which did not end until his final carry of a 274-yard rushing day, the 3rd best in the program’s storied history. We expect it to continue against the aggressive pass rush of the Cougars.

Entering play Saturday, Washington State leads the nation with 38 tackles for loss, 14 of them sacks. Cal’s restructured O-line was very successful against Arizona (no sacks allowed), and they may well find similar success opening holes for Ott, who is patient enough to let a play develop, but quick enough to burst through a hole and leave the second line of defenders grasping air. The unadvertised but surprising mobility shown by Cal QB Jack Plummer may also pay dividends Saturday.

Washington State ball-hawks on defense. They have forced multiple turnovers in 13 of their last 17 games, and led the Pac-12, 5th nationally, last year with 29 takeaways. Ball security will be paramount for the Bears. Wazzu linebacker Dayan Henley will be the man Cal must account for on virtually every snap, as he already has 8.5 tackles for loss this season, which leads the Pac-12.

On the offense side, like so many schools, Washington State is led by a quarterback from the transfer portal. Cameron Ward was at FCS school Incarnate Word last year and was a 2nd team All-American at that level. Ward threw for 4,648 yards and 47 touchdowns last year, and leads the Pac-12 with 104 completions this season. Ward is also #2 in the conference in TD passes with 10, and #3 in passing yardage per game at 275.5.  His leading receivers are WR Donovan Ollie, 2nd in the conference with 24 catches and WR De’Zhaun Stribling, tied for 3rd in the conference with 3 receiving TDs. Stribling led all freshmen receivers in the conference last year with 44 balls for 471 yds. and 5 TDs. Running back Nakia Watson was Ward’s favorite receiver vs. Oregon with eight  balls caught.

Cal’s recent history vs. WSU is not pretty. The last time the teams met, Oct. 2 of last year in Berkeley, current Arizona QB Jayden DeLaura threw for 3 TDs in a 21-6 pasting of the Golden Bears.  Chase Garbers had one of his worst games for the Bears, and head coach Justin Wilcox said after the game, “’We didn’t really do much of anything all that well. That’s on me, my job is to prepare our team to be successful and I failed.’’ The 2020 game was cancelled two hours prior to kickoff due to a large portion of Cal’s team being in COVID protocols. Saturday is a chance for redemption, and an opportunity to plant Cal’s flag squarely in the midst of the bowl picture – a 4-1 start (2-0 conference) would do wonders toward increasing the team’s, and their fans’, confidence.

Kickoff is at 2:40 pm Saturday, Pacific Time, on the Pac-12 Network. Roxy Bernstein and Lincoln Kennedy have the call.

Other stories:

Bear Insider Ultimate Insider Podcast E38: Cal vs Arizona Wrapup -Audio

Cal Football Tuesday Media Day

Discussion from...

Bears Head to Palouse Seeking 2-0 Pac-12 Start

2,599 Views | 2 Replies | Last: 1 yr ago by BearoutEast67
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Beating the Cougars would convince me, OK we have something going here. I think many of us thought we would be 3-1 now and so how does Cal deal with this and go 2-0 in league? After next week vs Colorado, things get tough and winning this Saturday in my mind, is huge.
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Reading the forum's negativity week after week, I'd surmise that very few predicted Cal's 3-1 record. The team will be challenged every week, but wouldn't it be sweet to see them go to and win the final Rose Bowl?
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