Just as predicted, California and Washington State made for an entertaining game this weekend. This year’s edition of the Pac-12 division tilt may not have been quite as explosive as last season’s clash in Pullman, but the Bears had what it took to come away with another win to remain undefeated. Cal’s 34-28 over Washington State moves the Bears to 5-0 and 2-0 in Pac-12 play, and once again its quarterback has put up stellar numbers.
The game actually got off to a rough start for Jared Goff and Cal though. Goff’s third pass attempt of the game was picked off on the opening drive, but Cal’s defense bailed him out by forcing a three-and-out on Luke Falk and the Cougars. Washington State actually moved backward four yards before being forced to punt. Cal’s second drive made more progress but ended with a turnover on downs after Daniel Lasco was stuffed on a 4th-and-1 at the Cougars’ 29-yard line. Washington State actually held the upper hand on the Bears into halftime, 21-13. Fortunately for Cal, Sonny Dykes and his Golden Bears were able to make some slight adjustments, tighten up and get rolling in the second half. Cal outscored Washington State 21-7 in the third quarter and then, surprisingly, both defenses kept the offenses off the scoreboard in the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter helped reinforce one of the main takeaways from Cal in the first month and one week. The offense from Cal was always expected to be there and pile up yards and points, but what has helped make Cal an emerging contender in the Pac-12 North has been the play of the defense. On three of Washington State’s final four possessions of the game, Cal forced a turnover (two fumbles, one interception). Do not get carried away with box score stats, as Washington State had 389 passing yards, because the Cougars tend to have some big numbers through the air. Cal held Washington State to just 403 yards of total offense and forced four turnovers. Washington state is not a team to use as a barometer for success, but good teams shut things down for their opponents to win games. On Saturday, when it was needed most, Cal’s defense locked down and made the plays needed to get the win.
Game Ball: Cal QB Jared Goff
Another week, another win, and another dose of hype for Cal’s quarterback. Jared Goff had 390 passing yards and four touchdowns, which will continue to draw the attention of award voters and NFL scouts and draft analysts. Goff continues to pile up numbers that refuse to be unnoticed, but he will have to keep producing at this level in Cal’s bigger games moving forward.
Around the Pac-12 North
Elsewhere in the division this weekend, Stanford once again looked to be one of the most complete teams in the Pac-12 with a dominating victory over Arizona. The Cardinal throttled the Wildcats 55-17 to improve to 4-1 and 3-0 in Pac-12 play. Since losing on the road at Northwestern, Stanford has been flat out dominant in Pac-12 play with convincing wins against USC, Oregon State and now Arizona. Stanford will host Cal later this season on November 21.
Oregon avoided an upset in Boulder against Colorado. The Buffs hung with the Ducks until halftime, getting to the break tied at 17-17, but Oregon pulled away in the second half of a 41-24 victory. Oregon has been showing cracks on a weekly basis and appears to be figuring out the quarterback position without Vernon Adams. If Oregon is vulnerable, Cal can take advantage. Oregon hosts Cal on November 7, so there is time to iron out some wrinkles. Another opponent in the Pac-12 North, Washington, was idle this week.
This is a big one few could have predicted coming. The last two undefeated teams in the Pac-12 will face off in a big national spotlight game this weekend when Cal visits Pac-12 South contender Utah. The Utes are off to a 4-0 start that has them climbing the polls on a weekly basis. Wins for Utah include games against a rising Michigan and a smashing of Oregon. Cal leads the all-time series, 5-4, but Utah has won three of the four most recent meetings dating back to 2003. The last time Cal won at Utah was 1963, the Bears are 0-2 in Salt Lake City since.
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.