BERKELEY, Calif. – You wouldn’t know it by his performance, but Reid Forrest played Saturday, in his own words, “with a pretty heavy heart, that’s for sure.”
Forrest’s maternal grandfather, Clarence “Bud” Herman, died last week in Ephrata, Wash., at age 92.
“Just lost his driver’s license six months ago,” Forrest said after his Washington State Cougars lost to California 49-17. “He was my biggest fan. Even if he didn’t know who I was on the field, he would tell me I did a good job.”
Forrest took a day off this week to go home and help the family sort through his grandfather’s things, but neither that nor his feelings of loss seemed to affect his kicking.
The junior punted seven times for a 42.9 yard average, had a long of 53 yards and dropped three down inside California’s 20.
But there was one Forrest wishes had never come down.
Cal’s Jeremy Ross gathered in a 42-yarder at his 24 late in the first quarter, split the two gunners, made Xavier Hicks miss and took it down the sideline for the Bears’ third score.
“That was my first time doing that,” Ross said. “I’ve been waiting a long time to make a big play like that.”
Forrest was the Cougars’ last line of defense.
“I saw a wall of about four guys coming at me,” he said. “I tried to make him cut back and they just escorted me to the sidelines and that was that.”
For the first time this season Washington State scored in the first quarter. Heck, for the first time in almost a year.
Nico Grasu’s 24-yard field goal with 2 minutes, 20 seconds left in the opening quarter marked the first time since Nov. 8 that the Cougars put points on the board in the first 15 minutes of a game.
At the time Grasu lined up his kick, however, WSU trailed 21-0, having given up a 27-yard scoring pass from Kevin Riley to Jahvid Best; another Riley scoring strike, this one of 37 yards to Marvin Jones; and Ross’ punt return.
And, after Grasu’s kick, Patrick Rooney’s kickoff sailed out of bounds, Best broke off two runs for 39 yards and Riley found Shane Vereen for a 21-yard screen play and a 28-3 lead.
Though the Cougars have trailed at the end of the first quarter in all but four games in the past two seasons – they led in just one – this was the first time anyone had put up four scores in the first 15 minutes.
“We were rolling and it was very exciting,” Ross said.
The Cal offense, which finished with 559 yards of total offense, was clicking so well that WSU’s two safeties, Hicks and Chima Nwachukwu, led in tackles, with 14 and 10, respectively.
WSU rallied for 14 more points before halftime, the most points it has scored against a Pac-10 opponent in a half since the 2007 Apple Cup.
Tardy returns to returns
Senior running back Dwight Tardy, though listed as the starter, wasn’t on the field for the game’s first play. Tardy had just a handful of plays on offense and carried the ball only once for no gain.
Freshman Carl Winston and sophomore Logwone Mitz split 16 carries, with Winston breaking off the Cougars’ longest run, 37 yards, and finishing with a team-high 51.
“We’re just trying to mix it up with those guys,” offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy said. “All three of those kids are going to play the remainder of the year.”
Sturdy added each will be used depending on the scheme and plays.
Another running back, junior Marcus Richmond, suffered WSU’s lone injury, leaving early with a hamstring strain.
Tardy did see a lot of action, but it was on the kickoff-return team.
Making his first appearance there since his freshman year – two returns for 20 yards then – Tardy returned five kicks for 93 yards, including a 38-yarder on his first effort.
Riley spreads it around
The Bears not only ran for 309 yards – five rushers were in double digits, led by Best’s 159 on 13 carries – but Riley passed for another 229.
He was democratic about it.
Riley and backup Beau Sweeney completed 15 passes. They went to 11 receivers, with only Jones (three), Shane Vereen and Anthony Miller (two apiece) catching more than one.
Riley’s three touchdown passes also went to three receivers.
“On the first one (to Best), I think it was just miscommunication on their side, because the corner (Brandon Jones) was sitting like he had over-the-top help,” Riley said. “With the other ones, Marvin made a nice catch and there was nice blocking up front on the screen pass to Shane.”
Riley did throw an interception, only his second of the year.
Myron Beck was able to gather in Riley’s third-quarter pass to Ross at the WSU 23 and return it to the 34, but Jeff Tuel was sacked twice and the Cougars punted.
It was Beck’s second interception this season and third in his career. The Cougars have forced 19 turnovers, six more than they had all last season.
Hear the whistles
WSU was hit with 13 penalties, its most this year, for 114 yards, but it seemed like more to coach Paul Wulff.
“I felt like we had 30 penalties,” he said. “We had a lot of (procedure) calls. We were trying to handle the noise and we didn’t do a good job of that.”
WSU had three false-start penalties on the first-quarter drive that ended in Grasu’s 24-yard field goal and two more later in the game.