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The Good, Bad and Ugly of WSU’s win at Cal

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Nice to celebrate an FBS win!

NCAA Football: Washington State at California Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning from sunny Newport News, Virginia! And a fine morning it is, as we’re able to write about how the Washington State Cougars took a lead and never gave it back. Even better that it took place on the road against a California Golden Bears team that has seemingly toyed with the psyche of WSU fans for several years now. There always seems to be weird stuff that happens - usually at WSU’s expense - when these two teams get together, but the tables were turned a bit on Saturday.

Truth be told, for all the crap that seems to happen when the Cougs face the Bears, the last eight games in the series are even at 4-4. Yes, I’m well aware that it could easily be 6-2 in favor of our Cougars. But whatever, WSU is 1-0 against Cal in 2021, and that is what we shall concentrate on here. And why not? It’s our first chance to talk about a win over an FBS team. Let’s get to it.

The Good

  • I’d really like to start with the defense here, but there was a catch on Saturday that you only see five or so times in your life, so we’re leading with Calvin Jackson, Jr.

A couple things here - First, the ref isn’t even looking at Jackson’s feet. Now, I’m no official, but it seems to me that watching to see whether the foot is in bounds would come before determining whether the player maintained control of the ball. Second, the vitality of that play is increased when you realize that it took place on third down. If Jackson doesn’t come down with that, WSU is probably looking at three points instead of seven, which would have made for a lot more stress later in the game.

  • Ok, now to that salty defense. Things looked a tad dicey after Cal took its first possession 79 yards on only seven plays, mashing through WSU’s defense along the way. Over the game’s final 52 minutes, the Cal offense would gain 194 total yards, and average a measly 3.4 yards-per-play. Now I know Cal isn’t exactly the 2017 Oklahoma Sooners on offense, but it’s damn impressive to hold a conference opponent to that paltry number.
  • For some decent context, as bad as some Cal offenses have been over the past seasons, the Bears hadn’t scored fewer than seven points in a game since 1997, until Saturday.
  • No second half el foldo! The Cougs went into halftime with a lead, and even though there were a couple tense moments, the game was never really in serious doubt after WSU went up 21-6. That, friends, is a welcome change.
  • Key among the reasons why Cal never seriously threatened came on two Bears possessions that spanned the third and fourth quarters, when WSU stopped them on downs twice in a row. Both of those fourth down stops were actually the result of what happened on third down. On the first one, Cal had 3rd-and-1 at the WSU 26, and ran a sweep that Caleb Ford-Dement blew up, causing 4th-and-3. Garbers threw incomplete and WSU had escaped. After a quick WSU three-and-out, Cal again drove deep into WSU territory and looked poised to cut into the lead. On 3rd-and-3 from the WSU four yard line, Armani Marsh beat his blocker inside and cut down Chris Street to force 4th-and-6. Once again, this forced Garbers into an uncomfortable situation on fourth down, and WSU had another stop. Just incredible play-making on both third and fourth down.
  • In an early sign that all the BS in this series could turn toward the Cougs for once, there was the botched snap on Cal’s PAT to get things rolling, followed by the bizarre punt sequence that was equal parts amazing and horrifying. First, Nick Haberer - bro, wtf are you even doing? I don’t know how things work in Australia, but running toward a huge defender and then kicking the ball straight into him won’t get you very far in American football. BUT WAIT - Ron Stone was there to save the day! Since the ball was behind the line of scrimmage, Stone picked it up and was able to advance it past the first down marker. You know defenders just love getting a chance to carry the ball. And credit where it’s due to Haberer, who TOTALLY REDEEMED HIMSELF by getting in the way of the Cal defender just enough to give Stone a lane toward the marker.
  • I wouldn’t recommend that we keep that no-look shovel pass in the arsenal, but it sure was cool when it worked!
  • Huge plays by Ron Stone and Travion Brown on Cal’s last serious threat. First Stone sacked Garbers on 2nd-and-5, then Brown knocked down a screen pass on which WSU sent about seven rushers. That play was going to go for several yards, and probably a score, if Brown doesn’t make that play.
  • Also on the defense, Brennan Jackson has been removed from the milk carton! The big defensive end picked up two sacks, including one on which he absolutely embarrassed the poor Cal tackle.

That man had a family, Brennan!

  • Max Borghi had a bit of a star-crossed day, and seems really tentative at times, but there were a few flashes of his old self when he was embarrassing defenders with the stiff arm and truck stick.
  • Man, when de Laura is playing within the offense and taking what’s there, he looks unstoppable.
  • His legs are so important, too, such as that 15-yard scramble on 3rd-and-5 that set up WSU’s final touchdown.
  • One more on the defense - While the Cougs converted 8/17 third and fourth down tries, Cal was 4/20. Seemed like every time you looked, WSU was getting a stop on those crucial downs. More of that, please!
  • Special thanks to United Airlines, who got me from Frankfurt to Norfolk on time so I could hustle to the hotel and tune in just as the Cougs were scoring their first touchdown.

The Bad

  • Newark Airport. Everything about it.
  • Chase Garbers is bad. Not as bad as the Newark Airport but also not far off. It was pretty surprising how a guy with his experience was so skittish when he sensed the slightest bit of pressure.
  • de Laura was good at times, but he has to work on the deep throws, He had Jackson for an easy touchdown on an out-and-up in the third quarter and brutally underthrew it. And it would be great if he didn’t try and take so many low-percentage kill shots when there are open receivers underneath.
  • Let’s never run that play fake/slant pass ever again. It’s incredibly risky and became an INT.
  • Speaking of INTs, de Laura made a very poor decision with WSU driving in the second quarter, and got picked. That’s bad enough, but then the play-by-play guy goes, “well that’s as good as a punt.” Except that IT WAS SECOND DOWN
  • Then, when JdL finally put a long pass on a receiver, Stribling dropped another sure touchdown. Thank god my hair is short or it would have been forcefully extracted.
  • Forgetting what down it was seemed to be a chronic issue with the announcers and officials. If only the announcers had some sort of visual display(s) that provided such information.
  • 4.4 YPP / 5.2 YPA will not win the Cougars many games, and seven points in the second half will also not win the Cougars many games.
  • Cammon Cooper was inserted yet again to run a quarterback draw when WSU was trying to kill the clock. WHY?! How ‘bout just handing it to a running back? Or take a knee? It was clear that Wilcox (for some stupid reason) wasn’t going to stop the clock, so what was the point?
  • Speaking of Wilcox, how come he doesn’t have one of those one-legged scooters to get up and down the sideline? Or maybe he could borrow Derek Dooley’s stool?

The Ugly

  • As well as the defense played, there’s no excuse for letting the quarterback scramble for 16 yards on 3rd-and-15. Just can’t happen.
  • After seeing all those Coug fans baking in the sun Saturday, we fear that there may be an aloe vera shortage in the Bay Area this morning.
  • That stupid tunnel that goes through the water between Norfolk and Hampton is the worst. No matter what time you’re trying to use it, the damn thing is backed up. Kill it with fire (which may be difficult since it sits in the water, but still)

That’s about it! Let’s bask in the win! Go Cougs!

Football

This time, fortune favors the Cougars: Washington State handles Cal for first win at Berkeley since 2013 | The Spokesman-Review
Washington State put a stop to a recent trend of misfortune at Memorial Stadium with a 21-6 drubbing of Cal, and anyone watching Saturday’s Pac-12 game could probably sense the Cougars’ turn of luck during a pivotal first-quarter sequence.

Smothering Washington State defense posts three shutout quarters in 21-6 victory over California | The Spokesman-Review
WSU’s defense was prone to the occasional breakdown, but there was no letdown from Jake Dickert’s unit as the Cougars held California scoreless through the final three quarters of a 21-6 victory at Berkeley’s Memorial Coliseum.

Difference makers: Calvin Jackson Jr.'s big afternoon leads Washington State over California | The Spokesman-Review
The junior edge rusher had what was likely his finest day in crimson and gray, recording two sacks and deflecting a third-down pass at the line of scrimmage midway through the second quarter.

Cal Football Outclassed by Washington State, Loses 6-21 - by Rick Chen - Write For California
California’s sole score came on the home team’s first possession. Senior running back Christopher Brooks beat two Cougar defenders for an 11-yard rushing touchdown.

Insta-Recap & Rate the Game: Bears drop a stinker to Wazzu, 6-21 - by Rob Hwang - Write For California
The Bears went down early in the first quarter 6-14. Including a muffed snap on an extra point and blocking a punt by Wazzu, that would be recovered and rushed for the 1st down.

De Laura's return sparks Washington State past Cal 21-6
Jayden de Laura passed for three touchdowns, two to Calvin Jackson Jr. who made a spectacular one-handed grab near the corner of the end zone, and Washington State beat California 21-6 on Saturday.

Pac-12 recap: ASU rises, Oregon falls as chaos rules the weekend
The Hotline never envisioned needing to write the following sentence at this stage of the season, but it’s wholly appropriate: The Huskies are in danger of missing the postseason.

This Week in Parenting

Not a whole lot to share since I got home Tuesday and left again on Saturday, so we’ll catch y’all up on the adventures of Comino the Cat. She is something else, man. From tightroping rails, to killing and eating flies, to nearly breaking every piece of glass in our house, little Comino is good for a few laughs a day.

As we know, cats love to climb, and she’s no different. Still, it was a surprise to walk in to the bedroom and see her walking along the top of our door. My flight suits hang on the back side of the door, and she climbs up them to reach the observation point.

Once she has conducted the appropriate amount of battlefield reconnaissance, it’s time to find a hide site and await the nonexistent prey. In her case, that means she must roll up a bathroom mat in order to camouflage herself from the any unsuspecting (and still nonexistent) targets that pass by.

If the hunt is unsuccessful, she goes looking for even bigger fish. In her case, that means trying to take down the ceiling fan rescue helicopter that is coming in to extract her targets from the battlefield. This calls for a full frontal assault in which she leaps from the bed to try and snag the pull chain fast rope that her enemies use to get into the chopper.

The war continues unabated.

Non-Sports

If you’re interested at all in the Afghanistan debacle, I urge you to listen to this podcast. I thought it was tremendous.

A Conversation With an Afghan General - The New York Times
From the moment Afghanistan’s government fell, the U.S. has put much of the blame of Afghan security forces — a force that President Biden said gave up without a fight.

Goldman Sachs, Ozy Media and a $40 Million Conference Call Gone Wrong - The New York Times
The digital media company has raised eyebrows for its claims about its audience size for years. Then came the strange voice on the phone.

'Vigilante treatments': Anti-vaccine groups push people to leave ICUs
Anti-vaccine Facebook groups have a new message for their community members: don’t go to the emergency room, and get your loved ones out of intensive care.