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The Good, Bad and Ugly of WSU’s 28-9 win over Cal

Second half surges from our team are fun!

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

Top o’ the mornin’ (well, afternoon)to ye! It certainly is a better morning than we experienced last Sunday. And while I’m sure not everyone is a Pacific Northwest sports fan in totality, this has been some weekend. On Friday, the Seattle Mariners clinched their first playoff berth in more than two decades, courtesy of a 9th inning, game-winning home run. There was emotion. Then, a little while later, the favored Washington Huskies took an “L” at UCLA.

The prospects of a pretty great sports weekend gained steam, but a Washington State Cougars matchup with the California Golden Bears loomed, threatening to ruin the entire thing. A game against Cal? As a favorite? What could possibly get sideways? And after a first half which saw WSU fritter away a few chances at a decent lead, coupled with a Cal touchdown to bring the game within five, one could be forgiven for thinking, “That’s right. This is a Cal game. Nothing can ever be normal.”

But fear not! A week after WSU couldn’t hold on to a lead in the late stages, the Cougs flipped the script / hit the gas / bowed up / insert whichever catchphrase you like, and came home with a 28-9 homecoming win. So, what happened along the way? Let’s talk about it!

The Good

  • Before we get to the game, I thought the College GameDay ad with Tom Pounds was really great. Hadn’t seen it before.
  • Back in the early 2010s, the Missouri Tigers had quarterback named James Franklin. He was a pretty good player, and most of the time when he took a snap, he would move and scan the field as if he were taking a carefree Sunday stroll. His pocket demeanor became so noticeable that the Solid Verbal podcast gave him the moniker “Casual Dress James Franklin.” Well I think we need to pass the torch to Cam Ward, whose cool in the pocket seems to indicate that not even a blitzing linebacker with a suicide vest would bother him. I can’t decide whether it’s reassuring or alarming.
  • On the whole, it was another above average game for Ward, who was once again north of 8.5 YPA, throwing three touchdowns. The most important part was how Ward led the offense right back down the field for a score after the Bears closed the gap to 14-9.
  • Also, after watching Ward’s left-handed pass, are we sure “Cam” isn’t short for Cambidextrous? Jokes, I’ve got ‘em.
  • But for real, after what had been an offensive performance that had been functioning in fits and starts, the fourth quarter was outstanding. Cal scored with 13:28 left in the game. Just over seven game minutes later, WSU led 28-9.
  • That pass Ward threw to Bell for a touchdown should have come with an NC-17 rating.
  • After a week largely bereft of quarterback harassment, the defensive line gave Jack Plummer fits, sacking him four times and rarely letting him feel comfortable throughout the first 2.5 quarters.
  • Solid pass defense from Derek Langford on Cal’s first possession, as he did just enough to shove the Cal receiver out of bounds, preventing a big play.
  • Nick Haberer’s punt to pin Cal back at the six nearly resulted in points, as Quinn Roff gobbled up Plummer in the end zone on third down. Somehow - to his credit - Plummer was able to carry Roff two yards forward and out of safety land.
  • Robert Ferrell has been quite the revelation. Maybe I’ve written that already! I’m old. Anyway, he and Ward have a great rapport, and he’s also a reliable punt returner, busting one 34 yards to set up the first WSU touchdown.
  • I’m not sure what happened (somebody clearly went the wrong way), but Jalen Jenkins showed some poise when he took the ball and plunged into the end zone. Good day for Jenkins on the whole running the ball, as he broke off a 20-yarder and averaged more then eight YPC.
  • Outstanding defensive sequence in the second quarter. Cal moves to the WSU 48 after a 29-yard pass, threatening to tie the game. First down: Francisco Mauigoa sack. Second down: Christian Mejia sack. End of threat.
  • Daiyan Henley didn’t make a bevy of eye-popping plays, but his 3rd-and-1 stop of Jaydn Ott extinguished Cal’s last shot at points in the second quarter. And thankfully Justin Wilcox did what Justin Wilcox does, punting away a 4th-and-3 near midfield.
  • 4th quarter running game! Through three quarters, WSU running backs rushed for 28 yards. In the final frame, Watson and Jenkins combined for 65. That included a three-play stretch where Watson went for 20, Jenkins picked up 23, and Watson gained 10.
  • In the past, rushing three against WSU was a great way to frustrate the passing game. At least once on Saturday, that wasn’t the case, as the line gave Ward all the time he wanted, and 3rd-and-11 became 1st-and-10 after a 22-yard completion to Ferrell.
  • If it hadn’t taken place on a football field, the violence that Brennan Jackson visited upon J. Michael Sturdivant would have resulted in assault charges. Yowza.
  • Then there’s poor Ben Coleman, the Cal left tackle who Jackson and the others treated like a chew toy for much of the afternoon.
  • Have a game, Billy Riviere! He threw a key block to spring DeZhaun Stribling’s 32-yard screen pass, then caught a touchdown pass to close out the scoring. That’s right, a tight end caught a touchdown pass! For the Cougars!
  • Man I am gonna miss watching the Nard Dog. If he isn’t catching touchdown passes with tight coverage, he’s putting defenders in a washing machine with his spin moves.
  • Cal running back Jaydn Ott was the toast of the Pac-12 in week four, rushing for 274 yards on only 19 carries. On Saturday, he had three fewer carries, and 203 fewer yards.
  • WSU has now faced a Justin Wilcox-coached Cal team five times, and Saturday was the first time the Cougs scored north of 21 points. Maybe we’re not doomed to a life of offensive ineptitude against that guy, after all.
  • 4-1. Not too shabby.

The Bad

  • Once again, yours truly leads things off. I was trying to grill some burgers during halftime, and set a timer for when I thought the second half would begin. So of course that timer was about two minutes off, and I missed WSU’s lightning-fast touchdown drive to open the thrid quarter. What an idiot.
  • Did we really need all the 2014 flashbacks? Yes, the game was crazy but the teams combined to go 8-16. I may or may not have a different opinion had WSU’s kicker not gacked the chip shot.
  • Robert Ferrell has been a solid option at punt returner, but that one he caught with nobody else in the frame, only to end up running backward, wasn’t his finest moment.
  • Andre. Buddy. Your first touchdown catch was right in your chest.
  • If that weren’t bad enough, the ensuing drive began on the Cal 40 and ended at the WSU 48. Not good!
  • While the defense was pretty darn salty on Saturday, it’s going to have to do more to generate a takeaway or two. Winning games with a minus-2 turnover differential is not sustainable for teams like WSU.
  • I mentioned the really good Ferrell punt return, and I will never be too upset with a penalty that benefits WSU, but why on earth is it a personal foul when a player continues to, you know, try, despite losing his helmet? And it’s called a personal foul? What’s he supposed to do? Lay down and start sucking his thumb until the play is over?
  • Who else is bad? The Wisconsin Badgers. Sheesh
  • Just over 23,000 tickets sold for homecoming. I know the crowd for Oregon was really good, and this was the fourth home game in five weeks, but I am certain we can do better, especially with an ideal start time and weather.

The Ugly

  • The Cam Ward Experience definitely had more ups than downs on Saturday, but holy hell the “downs” on Saturday were subsurface. Facing 1st-and-10 at the Cal 29 with a 7-3 lead, Ward had plenty of time to find a receiver, and chose to throw deep into double coverage, straight to the waiting arms of a defender. Drive: killed. If that weren’t bad enough, WSU was at the Cal 21 with a 14-3 lead and a chance to practically ice things in the third quarter. Again, Ward made a bad decision and threw a terrible pass that Cal intercepted. WSU was better than Cal all day, but Cal stayed within shouting distance due in part to Ward unforgivable decisions. Can’t happen.

Now WSU ventures to Los Angeles for its first Pac-12 road game of the season. Not a tough test it seems, as the #6 USC Trojans await. Cougs by 50.


Washington State defense bottles up Cal, Cougar offense seals 28-9 victory with late surge | The Spokesman-Review
Quarterback Cameron Ward fired a 37-yard touchdown to veteran slot receiver Renard Bell to all but seal the result.

'A lot of characters with character.' Members of Washington State's 1997 Rose Bowl team return for 25-year reunion | The Spokesman-Review
Surrounded by former Cougar players, the three coaches – Price, Doba and defensive tackles coach Jim Zeches – teamed up to raise the Ol’ Crimson flag in the east end zone prior to Saturday’s kickoff.

Ward throws 3 TDs as Washington State beats Cal 28-9
“I'm proud of this team and how it responded,” WSU coach Jake Dickert said. “This was the prettiest, ugly, gutty win we knew we needed to have.


Cougars look for third-straight Pac-12 win Sunday at No. 9 Stanford - Washington State University Athletics
The Cougs are coming off of a 3-0 win over Cal on Friday night in which Magda Jehlarova matched a single-match record with 11 total blocks.

This Week in Parenting

The crisis is over. I repeat: The crisis is over. The hurricane? Oh no. I’m talking about the near calamity that recently occurred when Fortnite published an update to some new game or something, which caused the servers to crash. There were restarts. There were uninstalls/reinstalls. There were nearly 10 year-old tears. But after three whole days of near constant anxiety, Fortnite’s servers once again became operational, and the 5th-grader was able to get pissed off at his friends over the internet once again.

His school work has also picked up the pace. First there was a group project in which he teamed up with a few other classmates to research a region of the U.S. In his case, that was the Midwest. The groups presented their projects to friends/family on Friday, and although the teacher supplied a microphone, he refused to use it, telling us that his voice was plenty loud. The boys that presented the West didn’t do the best job, but they were my favorite because one of their famous landmarks was Caesar’s Palace, and a famous person they cited as being from that region was Post Malone. Turns out he’s from Syracuse, NY but they didn’t let that get in their way.

This week brings another trip to the orthopedist, and hopefully a return to physical activity for the 10 year-old. Because he definitely hasn’t been doing all kinds of things the doctor told him not to over the past couple weeks. Nope, he’s been religiously wearing the sling and not at all endangering his recovery. At least, that’s what the doctor will hear when we go next week.


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When war began, Anastasiia Lapatina rushed to interview refugees in Poland and later to the front lines, reporting for a new paper in Kyiv.

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With the help of a consulting firm, the Providence hospital system trained staff to wring money out of patients, even those eligible for free care.