Beaten by the Bears


Redshirt sophomore Luke Falk drops back to pass during a game against Wyoming in Martin Stadium, Sept. 19, 2015.

It was déjà vu all over again for Washington State on Saturday in its 34-28 loss to No. 24 California.

For the second straight year, the Cougars (2-2, 0-1 Pac-12) looked like the better team for much of the game and controlled the action in the first half, claiming a 21-7 lead with 2:31 to go in the second quarter. But once again, play calling and execution in the later stages of the game – particularly on special teams – saw WSU snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in Berkeley.

Coming off a bye, WSU was aggressive from the get-go, forcing a Goff interception and Cal (5-0, 2-0) turnover on downs on the Bears’ first two drives of the game. Freshman quarterback ‘Cool Hand’ Luke Falk threw the ball downfield with success against a much improved Bear secondary, tossing for 389 yards and two touchdowns, both in the first half.

Go-to receivers redshirt junior Gabe Marks and junior River Cracraft were reliable as always, hauling in both of Falk’s touchdown passes and cutting through the flats on the Cal secondary. Yet even the Cougars’ most steadfast players contributed to the team’s second-half collapse as WSU’s final two drives ended in a Falk interception and a Marks fumble.

WSU Head Coach Mike Leach and his players tried finding positive outcomes from the heartbreaking loss.

“I think we improved,” Falk said in a press release. “We rose up together. We were really an unstoppable team. There’s going to be times where we could have taken control of this game, just a play here and there.”

Leach added, “I thought they played hard. All three phases played extremely hard, extremely well together. And for the most part we (played) a good football game, we played a perfect game, we played a good game.”

Ultimately, winning and losing football games does not come down to personal victories. It’s about the final score, and WSU’s miscues in the second half again cost the team a ballgame.

The Cougar special teams gave Cal the lead for good toward the end of the third quarter as redshirt sophomore placekicker Erik Powell’s 40-yard field goal attempt was blocked. Also, following Goff’s third touchdown pass of the day, an onside kick attempt was recovered by the Bears, aided in large part by the WSU hands team being shifted left rather than evenly formatted.

Falk was sacked seven times in the game, WSU turned the ball over four times, freshman punter Zach Charme fumbled the ball on a questionable fake punt attempt, and the defensive secondary wore down in the second half. Even as the wheels flew off the wagon, WSU still had a shot to win.

Down 34-28 with the clock winding down, the defense sacked Goff and a fumble put the Cal offense back on its own four yard line. However, a 42-yard run by Cal running back Vic Enwere on third-and-36 erased the Cougars’ last chance to get the ball back in good field position.

“We shot ourselves in the foot too much, too often,” redshirt sophomore linebacker Payton Pelluer said. “And (Cal) capitalized on us. They ‘tempo’d’ us when we were struggling to get lined up. They capitalized on our mistakes, we gave them too many plays, and they deserve that win.”