BERKELEY, Calif. – It was bizarre when Luke Falk threw an interception three plays into the game, and then another one in the second quarter.
It was bizarre when a Cal fan and animal activist charged onto the field just before halftime, then plopped onto the turf near the 10-yard line. Her and her stuffed pig. Police eventually plucked the fan from the ground and dragged her off the playing surface.
Perhaps it was most bizarre when the Golden Bears, in the midst of a three-game slump, took a 14-point lead into the halftime break against the country’s eighth-ranked team – and didn’t regress.
Even on the Berkeley scale, this was a weird night at Memorial Stadium.
Buried beneath a pile of their own mistakes, the Cougars mercilessly saw their unbeaten season come to an end, losing 37-3 to the Golden Bears, who stole their first Pac-12 win Friday evening in the Bay Area.
WSU, which didn’t score a touchdown for the first time since 2012, fell to 6-1 and 3-1 in Pac-12 play. Cal won its first conference game under Justin Wilcox and improved to 4-3 and 1-3 in the Pac-12.
Golden Bears quarterback Ross Bowers put the game away with a stunning effort in the early stages of the fourth quarter. Bowers scrambled out of the pocket, darted toward the end zone and front-flipped over Justus Rogers at the goal line to cap a 7-yard rushing touchdown that gave Cal a 27-3 lead.
Bowers, the sophomore who was only named Cal’s starter near the end of fall camp, was 21-for-38 with 259 passing yards, one passing touchdown and one rushing touchdown. His acrobatic leap – one of the highlight plays of this college football season – will appear on Cal video reels for the next decade-plus.
Falk, the fourth-year WSU starter who’s crept into most Heisman Trophy conversations while leading the Cougars to six consecutive wins, was intercepted a career-high five times and sacked nine times. The senior finished 28-of-42 for and didn’t throw a touchdown for only the second time in his career. It was easily the most dreadful game of his record-setting career.
The Cougars committed seven turnovers, but didn’t force one themselves.
It was a bleak night from the get-go – two early Washington State touchdowns were negated because of penalties.
Renard Bell made a gang of Golden Bears miss on the opening kickoff and sped 99 yards to the opposite end zone for a touchdown, but it was called back for a hold on Daniel Ekuale. The Cougars began their drive on the 10-yard line and Falk was intercepted three plays later.
Cal parlayed the turnover into a 26-yard field goal and took a 3-0 lead.
WSU’s next chance at six points came on Falk’s lob to Tavares Martin Jr. in the end zone. Martin Jr. reeled the ball in, but officials ruled that he’d pushed off his defender and tagged the Cougar receiver with offensive pass interference. WSU would have to settle for a 52-yard field goal from Erik Powell, who’d match his career-long with the second-quarter boot.
Vic Enwere scored the lone Cal touchdown, bowling over WSU safety Robert Taylor on his way into the end zone for a 6-yard score.
Falk, who was sacked four times in the first half threw his second interception on an attempt into the end zone midway through the second quarter. The WSU signal-caller, who was 15-for-24 with 121 yards in the half, came into the game with just two picks through six games.
It was a bizarre stretch for the Cougars offense, but nothing was more bizarre than when a Cal fan ran onto the field as the Golden Bears were preparing for the final play of the first half. The fan took a seat on the 10-yard line and was ultimately dragged off the field by police.