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RECAP: No. 8 Cougars dig deep and gut out a win against Cal, 19-13

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They can’t all be pretty

NCAA Football: California at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t exactly vintage Air Raid, at least until the last two minutes, but the Washington State Cougars did just enough to top the California Golden Bears on Dad’s Weekend in Pullman. Gardner Minshew threw for 334 yards and Easop Winston caught 7 balls for 92 yards, including the winning touchdown with 32 seconds left to send WSU to 8-1 overall and 5-1 in the Pac-12, good enough to remain alone in first place in the North division.

Washington State took the opening kickoff and wasted little time, moving quickly down the field largely on the shoulders of Dezmon Patmon and James Williams out of the backfield. The offense stalled after reaching the red zone and settled for a 29-yard field goal by Blake Mazza to open the scoring.

California responded with a similar drive, picking up a big chunk of yardage on a Chase Garbers scramble that brought them within field goal range. The Cougar defense stiffened, and a 47-yard attempt by Greg Thomas went wide left.

After driving into Cal territory again, the offense failed to convert a 4th and 1 as Jamire Calvin couldn’t snag Gardner Minshew’s throw. The defense forced a three-and-out after Nnamdi Oguayo and Peyton Pelluer met at the quarterback on third down.

After dropping a would-be interception a play earlier, Cal linebacker Evan Weaver collected his second interception in as many weeks, getting his hands on a tipped pass. Cal took over in Washington State territory, converted on a 4th and 1, and found the end zone on a pass from Garbers to fullback Malik McMorris.

The Cougs countered immediately, marching down the field with the running backs doing the majority of the work. Max Borghi and James Williams touched the ball on six of the nine plays on the drive, picking up fifty-six yards, and capped by Borghi’s 5-yard touchdown run.

Cal took another drive into Wazzu territory as Chase Garbers fooled the defense on a zone read, taking the ball to the WSU 40. A Marcus Strong sack forced Cal into a 3rd and long situation, and Garbers was flushed from the pocket, leading to a Cal punt. WSU did very little on the ensuing possession, punting the ball back to Cal. Aided by a couple of penalties on the WSU defense, the Golden Bears drove into WSU territory once again, and tied the game on a 42-yard field goal.

NCAA Football: California at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Travell Harris brought the kickoff back to the 49-yard line, giving the Cougs a chance at points with less than thirty seconds on the clock. Minshew found Easop Winston down the sideline, putting WSU in field goal range, which Mazza converted from thirty-six yards. Washington State took a 13-10 lead into the locker room at halftime.

After the teams exchanged punts, Willie Taylor intercepted a Garbers pass and returned it inside the five, where he fumbled into the end zone. Jahad Woods had a chance at recovering it in the end zone, but it slipped away from him and rolled out for a touchback. After a 3rd down holding penalty negated a defensive stop, Cal drove again into field goal range, and Thomas converted from 46 yards.

Another WSU punt led to a long, time-consuming Cal drive continuously extended by Washington State penalties and a 4th down conversion. But Skyler Thomas intercepted Brandon McIlwain in the end zone, giving the Cougars the ball with about seven and a half minutes left on the clock. Gardner Minshew led a drive into the red zone, but Blake Mazza missed the go-ahead field goal because it’s Cal and Cal is the reason we can’t have nice things.

NCAA Football: California at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Cal immediately went three and out, including two incompletions, giving the ball back to Minshew and the offense with 2:39 to go. That was more than enough time. Minshew made big throws to Jamire Calvin and Easop Winston, eventually finding Winston in the corner of the end zone for the go-ahead score. The extra point was again an issue because it’s Cal and Cal can never be easy, leaving the score at 19-13.

A deep kickoff with great coverage put the Bears in a bad spot, and a few underneath throws coupled with two incompletions ended the game with the good guys on top.

The 8-1 Washington State Cougars continue their march towards the postseason next week as they travel to Boulder to take on the Colorado Buffaloes. Game time and network has yet to be determined. The Cougars may also jump up a spot in the College Football Playoff rankings, given LSU’s loss to Alabama. The new rankings come out on Tuesday at 9:00 p.m. EST.