Tale of the tape: Cal 31, WSU 17
FROM PULLMAN — It's late and deadline wreaked havoc on our coach and player interviews, but we do have our usual capsulated look at WSU's 31-17 loss to the California Golden Bears.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME — As strong as the Bears' rushing attack was, Keenan Allen was the best player on the field on Saturday. He bailed Cal's offense out on third down, he scored the team's first touchdown and he wound up with 11 catches for 166 yards. Consider that quarterback Zach Maynard completed just 14 total passes, and you understand how important Allen was to the whole operation.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME — Not a whole lot of great defense played on either side tonight, aside from two interceptions by each team. Deone Bucannon finished with 13 tackles to lead all players, and Casey Locker added 10. But that was more of an indictment of WSU's inability to defend the run, with Bears backs breaking into the second level time after time. Steve Williams had a key interception in his own end zone early in the game and led the Beras in tackles with six, so we'll give the honors to him by semi-default.
PLAY OF THE GAME — Suppose it should go to C.J. Anderson's 29-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter that gave the Bears a 21-point lead. The Cougars did have their chances after that, Jeff Tuel leading a touchdown drive before getting the ball back again with a chance to cut the lead to one score. So Anderson's run wasn't quite the nail, but it gave the Bears a big enough lead to feel pretty comfortable about things from that point on.
STAT OF THE GAME — Hard to ignore California's 318 yards rushing. Also hard to ignore how evenly those were distributed. Anderson led the team with 112 yards, while Maynard added 78, Isi Sofele kicked in 63 and Brendan Bigelow finished with 59. The Bears ran the ball 50 times. That's an average of 6.4 yards per carry.
QUOTABLE — “That’s ridiculously exaggerated and I know you guys like to embrace that. Cal’s ability to run the ball really had nothing to do with it. Cal’s ability to move the ball had a great deal to do with it. Their quarterback was tough on a few broken plays where he got loose and so he kept drives going. I think they have a lot of perimeter speed so that makes it tough on anybody. As a team they’re starting to come together. You saw that last week and I think it was more of the same this week. At times we did a really good job defensively containing them and there’d be key situations and we’d let them off the hook and we’d let them have some explosives. Just a little ways away from preventing an explosive and we’ve just got to be better with that.” — Mike Leach, asked if Cal's rushing attack helped them control the game offensively
WHAT WE LEARNED — Maybe Tuel is the right guy to lead WSU's offense at this point. Connor Halliday might have more bog play ability, but he's just not making the right throws andas a result, the Cougars don't really have a chance to move the ball. Tuel at least gave WSU a shot in the second half, leading the Cougars on a pair of touchdown drives to make things a little more interesting. This was WSU's most promising offensive output since the first half of the Oregon game, though there are obviously still a lot of kinks to be worked out (dropped passes, etc.). And the extent of Marquess Wilson's apparent injury isn't known, either. Isiah Myers (8 catches, 108 yards) stepped up pretty admirably in his absence, as did Dominique Williams. There were more flashes there tonight than last week. But WSU still appears a ways from putting everything together, especially after allowing all those rushing yards and failing to sack a quarterback that had been dropped behind the line of scrimmage more than any other player in the country. The bye week could help them shore up some of those problems.
UP NEXT — A much-needed bye week (and is there such a thing as a not-needed bye week in college football?) on Oct. 20, then a trip to Stanford on Oct. 27. A loss there would drop the Cougars to 2-6 and put them in must-win mode for the rest of the season if they want to maintain any hope of making a bowl game.