BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Ross Bowers found a way to overshadow California’s opportunistic defense that forced seven turnovers and had nine sacks.
An acrobatic flip into the end zone will do just that.
Bowers scored on the touchdown leap and the Golden Bears used a dominant defensive performance to stun No. 8 Washington State 37-3 Friday night for their first win in 14 years against a top 10 team.
“I didn’t think I could go left or right so why not over the top,” Bowers said. “Luckily I was able enough to land safely and all that stuff.”
Camryn Bynum had two of California’s five interceptions against Luke Falk, and the Bears (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) overwhelmed the Cougars (6-1, 3-1) for a signature win under first-year coach Justin Wilcox.
Cal was just 1-52-1 against top 10 teams since 1978 with the only win coming over No. 3 Southern California in 2003 before breaking through against mistake-prone Washington State.
“There’s no bright spot. We were pathetic,” Cougars coach Mike Leach said. “We’re a bunch of pathetic front-runners.”
The Bears used short fields on their first four scoring drives before Bowers delivered the highlight of the night with his touchdown run early in the fourth that left the crowd gasping in amazement.
Bowers scrambled and then bounded off two feet from just outside the 2. He did a front flip over Justus Rogers and fell in the end zone following the 7-yard run that made it 27-3.
“That was 11 out of 10,” Bynum said. “That was really nice. That’s crazy.”
Bowers, whose mother used to be the gymnastics coach at Washington, had scored on a similar flip in a high school game, and his mother once again was hoping for even more.
“She said the same thing to me after the game: ‘Why didn’t you do a double,'” Bowers said. “It was the same thing. It’s like deja vu. It keeps her coming to the games.”
The game was played in smoky conditions because of the wine country fires that had killed at least 35 people and destroyed at least 5,700 homes and businesses about 50 miles north of Cal’s campus.
The tone for this game was set when Falk was intercepted on Washington State’s third play from scrimmage, setting up a field goal by Matt Anderson.
The Cougars committed three turnovers in the first half, missed a field goal and had a 1-yard punt in the final minute of the half that set up a touchdown that made it 17-3 at the break.
Washington State: Falk entered the game with two interceptions in 262 passes before throwing five against the Bears. He had one on his first pass, one in the end zone, another in the red zone on a botched shovel pass and two more overall. It was a rough day all around for Falk, who was repeatedly battered by Cal’s rush and lost a fumble that was returned for a TD by Gerran Brown after the ninth sack of the game.
California: The Bears were held to minus-14 yards rushing in the first half before wearing down the Cougars behind bruising Vic Enwere. Enwere carried the bulk of the rushing load with Patrick Laird out with an injury and finished with 102 yards on 22 carries as Cal dominated the game in the trenches.
“Our guys just sauntered around out there on the field like we’d accomplished something, which is obviously false, and Cal certainly illustrated that,” Leach said.
Mitchell Cox’s 1-yard punt led to a key stretch to close the first half. The Bears took over at the Cougars 45 and drove down to just outside the 1 with 4 seconds to play. During a stoppage, a female fan ran on the field and sat down while holding a pink, stuffed pig. After she was dragged off by security, Wilcox decided to pass up the field goal and take a shot at the end zone, which paid off when Bowers threw a TD pass to Kyle Wells.
“You could take the points there but there was no discussion,” Wilcox said. “I wasn’t thinking any other way. It’s 1 yard. We have to get a yard. Play to win the game and that was the decision.”
The Cougars, who entered the game with their highest ranking since 2003, will fall out of the top 10 next week.
WASHINGTON STATE: Host Colorado next Saturday.
CALIFORNIA: Host Arizona next Saturday.
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