Don’t take your eyes off …
Cal junior inside linebacker Evan Weaver is a Spokane native and Gonzaga Prep graduate who could have gone to either of the Pac-12 schools in his home state but chose the Golden Bears instead. The nation’s 18th-leading tackler is a throwback of sorts and plays with a brutish physicality that has helped Cal’s defense take a major step forward this season. The fourth-leading tackler in the Pac-12 is averaging 10.9 per game. He’s had five pass breakups, including the pick-six that sealed Cal’s 12-10 win over Washington last Saturday.
When Cal has the ball …
Beau Baldwin continues to add new wrinkles to his offense every year, usually based on the personnel he has. This season, the Golden Bears have tinkered with two quarterbacks, though redshirt freshman Chase Garbers has taken the bulk of the snaps lately. Garbers isn’t an excellent passer – and neither is the other QB who could play Saturday, Brandon McIlwain – but he’s an above-average runner, and his improvisational skills give the Cougars something else to think about when he leaves the pocket. If McIlwain enters the game, WSU should be anticipating read-option schemes. The sophomore has thrown for just two touchdowns with seven interceptions, but rushed for 100 yards in separate games.
When WSU has the ball …
The Cougars ought to keep it. In Cal’s 37-3 upset of WSU last October in Berkeley, the Cougars turned the ball over seven times, and five times via interception. Had WSU scored on three of four possessions in which it turned the ball over, it would’ve been a tight game going into the fourth quarter. The Golden Bears say that’s not a fluke, backing it up by pointing out that they share the Pac-12 lead in interceptions (12) with Oregon. Despite leading the country in passing attempts, WSU quarterback Gardner Minshew has kept his interception numbers down, throwing a pick every 69 tries. It’ll be especially important to continue that trend Saturday.
Did you know?
Strong wind gusts arrived in Pullman on Friday and rain showers could follow Saturday. Weather.com says there’s a 43 percent chance the game between Cal and WSU will see precipitation. While that might seem like an ominous sign for Minshew and the Air Raid offense, the Cougars have played well in rain the past few times they’ve encountered it. WSU beat UCLA 27-21 on a wet night in Pullman two years ago, then stomped Colorado 28-0 last year amid wind and constant downpours.
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