Jared Goff threw for 390 yards and four touchdowns and No. 24-ranked Cal (5-0, 2-0) came up with a big interception of Luke Falk late in the fourth quarter to preserve a 34-28 victory over Washington State Saturday in Berkeley (box). The Cougars (2-2, 0-1), 17½-point underdogs, couldn’t protect a 21-7 lead, missing a chance for a third consecutive victory after a season-opening face plant against Portland State.
With less than four minutes to play, California faced 3rd-and-36 from its own four-yard line. The Cougars, who otherwise had done an effective job of bottling up the Bears’ running game, allowed Victor Enwere to bust one 42 yards for a first down. Cal continued to milk the clock. When the Cougars got the ball back, Falk threw a long pass that Damariay Drew intercepted.
Two other plays figured prominently in Washington State’s loss.
Early in the third, with WSU leading 21-13, the Cougars had a fourth down. Instead of punting, freshman Zach Charme attempted to run, but Cal jarred the ball loose and Steve McClure picked it up and 45 yards for a touchdown, slicing the WSU lead to 21-20.
“I shouldn’t have called that play,” said WSU head coach Mike Leach.
After Cal pulled to within 28-26 later in the third quarter, Cal caught WSU napping, recovering an onside kick. Three plays later Goff threw a 24-yard TD pass to Maurice Harris to give the Bears a 34-28 lead.
Falk, who completed 35 of 49 for 389 yards, threw three touchdown passes, 7 yards to River Cracraft and 7 and 4 yards to Gabe Marks. Falk also scored on a one-yard run. Gerald Wicks, a sophomore from Carson, CA., tallied WSU’s other touchdown on a seven-yard run. Offsetting Falk’s three TD passes were seven sacks recorded by the Bears and Falk’s lone interception.
Marks caught 10 passes for 141 yards and Dom Williams added five catches for 76 yards.
In rolling to a 21-7 lead, the Cougars recorded one interception by Marcellus Pippins, who nearly had two others in the first four minutes of the game. The Cougars also stuffed Cal twice on fourth-down plays.
The Cougars held Cal to 79 yards rushing and recorded two sacks on Goff, but gave up too many big plays.
Goff, a Heisman Trophy candidate, completed 33 of 45 and became Cal’s all-time leader in TD passes with 68, breaking Kyle Boller’s previous school record of 64.
“All three phases played extremely hard and well. We were good, but not perfect. There were times when we allowed their pass rush to be better than it was. But I thought we got better this week, although not by the margin that I would have liked. We shut them down a lot, but occasionally gave up the big play” — Leach.
“Washington State outplayed us much of the game. But we’ll take it, this is the Pac-12 and it’s hard to win against a quality opponent” — Sonny Dykes, Cal head coach.
Had Washington State won, it would have marked the school’s first win over a Top 25 opponent since the Cougars defeated No. 25 USC 10-7 in Los Angeles Sept. 7, 2013. The Cougars have dropped 28 of their last 29 games against ranked opponents . . . Cal, playing its first game as a ranked team in six years, leads the all-time series 46-26-5 (31-13-3 in Berkeley) and has taken the last two. At 5-0, the Bears have matched their best start since 1950.
The Cougars are on the road again Saturday with a 3 p.m. PT game at Oregon. (Pac-12 Networks).