Golden Bears spoil Cougars’ undefeated season

WSU offense committed seven turnovers, scored three points in the game.


Courtesy of WSU Athletic Communications

Senior linebacker Frankie Luvu drags a California offensive player during Friday night’s game.

JACKSON GARDNER, Evergreen reporter

No. 15 WSU (6-1, 3-1) lost for the first time this year, as the team fell to University of California, Berkeley (4-3, 1-3) by a final score of 37-3 Friday night.

From the opening kickoff, a combination of penalties and a lack of offensive rhythm ailed the Cougars. Despite a reasonable effort from the defense in the first half, seven turnovers proved to be enough to break the Cougars’ will.

Immediately after the game, Head Coach Mike Leach took the podium and voiced his displeasure in his team’s performance.

“We didn’t play good in any aspect of the game. Cal outcoached us, Cal outplayed us in every position that I saw,” he said. “Our guys just sauntered around on the field, like weirdly, like we have accomplished something.”

Redshirt freshman wide receiver Renard Bell returned the opening kickoff 99 yards to the house, only to be called back by a holding penalty. In total, the Cougars missed out on 14 points in the first half from their penalties.

Then, the ensuing drive was cut short when California redshirt freshman cornerback Camryn Bynum jumped an out route, and picked off redshirt senior quarterback Luke Falk’s pass. The freshman finished the first half with two interceptions.

In Falk’s 262 passing attempts leading up to Friday night, he had only thrown two interceptions. But, in his 43 attempts against the Golden Bears, he threw five interceptions.

“When your [quarterback] turns it over six times, you’re not gonna have a real opportunity to win the game,” Falk said. “We didn’t help the defense tonight at all, we had seven turnovers — that’s unacceptable — and it starts with the quarterback.”

The Golden Bears defense feasted on Falk in the pocket, sacking him nine times — the most in a single game this season. Leach did not miss this opportunity to be critical of his offensive line.

“I think they think they’re too good, and they’re not very tough,” he said.

California redshirt sophomore quarterback Ross Bowers started the game only completing one of his first seven passes. From there, he led his offense to make the plays necessary to pull off an upset victory.

While Bowers threw for 258 yards and just one touchdown, he did display a 7-yard touchdown scramble, where he dove into the end zone and partially landed the acrobatic spin.

Surprisingly, this was not the first time Bowers has pulled a stunt like that. In the WIAA State Finals, Bowers dove into the end zone and was flipped around, similar to Friday night’s game.

“You never think you’re gonna do that twice in a lifetime,” Bowers said. “I was just fired up we could end that drive the way we did with a touchdown. All the extra stuff is great, but I’m just happy we executed in crunch time.”

The seven turnovers by the Cougars kept the defense on the field often. California senior running back Vic Enwere took advantage of the physically taxed defense. The 102 rushing yards by Enwere supplemented Bowers’ production, leading to 365 total yards of offense.

Uncharacteristically, the Cougars went home without a touchdown. A 52-yard field goal from senior kicker Erik Powell were the only points for WSU.

“You’re searching for a bright spot, but there was no bright spot. We were pathetic,” Leach said. “We were a bunch of pathetic front-runners.”

The Cougars return home for a 7:45 p.m. kickoff Saturday against University of Colorado, Boulder (4-3, 3-2). ESPN will be broadcasting the Pac-12 matchup.