Another Saturday, another road Pac-12 road win for Washington State. The Cougars rebounded from the Stanford debacle and moved one win closer to bowl eligibility with a 44-22 win against the Cal Bears.
It may not have been the prettiest game of the year, with WSU allowing several explosive plays on defense, but the Cougars did enough to come away with the victory. The winning combination on Saturday was a metric ton of passing yards and some timely forced turnovers. Connor Halliday finished the game with a career-high 521 yards and the WSU defense forced five turnovers.
The game didn't start out very well with the Bears driving deep into WSU territory on their first offensive possession. The Cougars caught a break with Cal fumbling inside the five yard line and Toni Pole jumping on the fumble. It was one of two fumbles Pole recovered inside WSU's 5-yard line.
WSU's wide receivers proved to be too much for the Cal secondary. Cougars were open on the vast majority of plays and the offensive line did an excellent job of providing protection for Halliday. The result was WSU's best offensive performance under Mike Leach. Marcus Mason weaved his way through Cal's defense twice, finishing with 118 receiving yards. Vince Mayle imposed his physical will on the Bears racking up 113 receiving yards and two touchdowns. His 72-yard touchdown reception put WSU up 35-15 and was one of the pivotal plays of the second half. He also bulldozed over a Cal defender in the open field just to add an exclamation point to the touchdown.
Halliday proved once again that he may literally be tough as nails. He appeared to still be hobbled from the shot he took against Stanford. He gutted it out the entire game, though, making key throws when WSU needed them. Was he perfect? Far from it, but he put everything he had on the field and finished the game with more than 500 passing yards and three touchdowns.
As impressive as the final score was, WSU definitely has room to improve. Defensive breakdowns and a few offensive mistakes kept the Cougars from winning by even more. Those nits can be picked another time, however, because the bottom line is WSU went on the road and picked up a conference win ... again.