For the first time since November 2011, the Bears have won two straight games, and it couldn't have come at a better time. A double digit-win over Washington State, thanks largely to a strong running game and a shutdown secondary, has the Bears riding high into next week's Big Game.
With surprising similarity to last week's game against UCLA, Cal gave the ball away on its first possession, as WSU's Cyrus Coen jumped Zach Maynard's first pass.
Just when it looked like the Bears' opponent would score first for the seventh consecutive game, Steve Williams turned things around, picking off Cougar quarterback Connor Halliday in the end zone on the ensuing possession.
Halliday's next drive was more of the same, as safety Michael Lowe intercepted another errant throw. Halliday would be replaced by senior QB Jeff Tuel after completing just three of his eight passes.
Three plays later, Keenan Allen took a short pass from Maynard and turned it into a 69-yard score, giving the Bears an early lead they would not relinquish. Maynard and Allen's connection was just the first of many, as the duo hooked up for 11 of Maynard's 14 completions and 166 of his 189 passing yards.
Cal's running game, though, would be the story of the offense. Isi Sofele, CJ Anderson, Brendan Bigelow, and Eric Stevens all had a touch on the Bears' next drive, and the four would combine for 241 yards in the game. Maynard would add 78 yards of his own for a grand total over 300, but that particular drive ended when Anthony Carter picked him off at the Washington State six-yard-line.
The Bears' defense seemed to have the Cougars bottled up on the next drive, but a pass interference call on Steve Williams in the end zone gave them another shot, and Andrew Furney's 20-yard field goal put them on the board at the start of the second quarter.
Cal's ground game responded, as CJ Anderson rolled off the first of his two touchdowns on the next possession. The Bears' 14-3 lead would hold into the half, as the two teams traded punts to end the quarter. Cal held the yardage advantage 283-196 at the half and had 153 rushing yards to the Cougars' 20.
Maynard and Tuel each set the second half off the right way, exchanging touchdowns on their first possessions. Maynard had his on the ground, a one yard push, while Tuel found Brett Bartolone for the first of his two scores.
Vincenzo D'Amato, who struggled for the early part of the season, nailed a career-long 52-yard field goal to extend the Bears' lead to 24-10 late in the third quarter. CJ Anderson and Brett Bartolone's second touchdowns would complete the scoring at 31-17.
The Bears have to feel better after two comfortable wins over conference foes, but this weeks victory looked markedly different from last week's against UCLA. Whereas Zach Maynard threw for four touchdowns against the Bruins, all four touchdowns came on the ground against the Cougars. The Bears yielded fewer than 40 yards on the ground but almost 400 through the air to Washington State, compared to just less than 120 and 260 to UCLA.
While Maynard's final line, 14/23 for 189 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, doesn't quite stack up to his previous performance, his offense ran more efficiently than perhaps at any point this season. Cal had no pre-snap penalties—though eight for 81 yards as a team—and Maynard's success running the ball contributed to his ability to avoid being sacked.
With a respectable road win in the books, the Bears head home to defend Memorial Stadium against Stanford next week. The 115th Big Game and the 30th anniversary of “The Play” will kick off next Saturday at noon Pacific time, and can be seen on Fox. Stanford fell in overtime this week to #7 Notre Dame.