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Difference makers: Brennan Jackson, Jaydn Ott, Leo Pulalasi come up big in Cal’s 42-39 win over Washington State

BERKELEY, Calif. – Here are three difference-makers and a key moment from Washington State’s 42-39 loss to Cal on Saturday afternoon.

Brennan Jackson

Jackson left his fingerprints smeared on this one. In the third quarter, Washington State’s edge rusher beat his man on the outside and got an arm in on Cal quarterback Fernando Mendoza, who lost the ball. Ron Stone Jr. hopped on it. That wiped away the Golden Bears’ chance to score on the opening drive of the second half, and the Cougars parlayed that into a field goal.

Later in the third quarter, Jackson moved into the WSU history books. He burst into the backfield and took down Mendoza, combining with lineman Nusi Malani for a half-sack. That gave Jackson his 17th career sack, climbing into the Cougars’ top 10 in that department.

That matters to Jackson. Back in September, shortly after WSU topped Wisconsin, he made that clear.

“I really wanna make it onto that sack list,” Jackson said. “I’m like five away, so gotta get a jumpstart on that here pretty soon.”

Jackson checked that box with authority on Saturday.

Leo Pulalasi

Pulalasi’s day wasn’t perfect. In the fourth quarter, he was called for pass interference on third down, running an illegal pick play that would have given WSU a first down inside the Cal 5.

But otherwise, The Cougars got a nice day from Pulalasi, a true freshman getting his first real chance to shine at WSU. He finished with 11 carries for 66 yards with a long rush of 12 yards, showing his instincts on reads and incredible surge when he made them.

Washington State needs everything it can get from its rushing game. Starter Nakia Watson remains limited by an injury, managing just two carries for 6 yards. Redshirt freshman Djouvensky Schlenbaker logged 9 yards on 42 carries, plus a key touchdown reception in the fourth quarter.

So in came Pulalasi, who did even more than run well. In the second quarter, when quarterback Cameron Ward completed a pass to tight end Cooper Mathers, Pulalasi hopped in the pile and helped push Mathers into the end zone, pulling WSU to within 21-14.

Jaydn Ott

WSU rarely found a way to slow Ott, who finished with 167 yards on 27 carries and one touchdown, which he recorded in the fourth quarter, shortly after WSU kicker Dean Janikowski misfired on a field goal. In response, Ott got five straight carries, including one that went for 52 yards. With his fifth, he galloped into the end zone.

Once the Golden Bears realized they could beat the Cougars on the ground, they stuck with that approach.

Key moment

Before Washington State could blink, it was staring at a deficit. The moment came on WSU’s first series of the game, when it faced fourth-and-1 near midfield. The Cougars lined up for a QB sneak with Ward, who took the snap and tried to move forward. That’s around when the ball popped out of the pile of bodies. Cal defender Cade Uluave recovered and took it 51 yards to the end zone, handing the Golden Bears a 7-0 lead.

Unfortunately for WSU, that became a bad omen. Ward lost three fumbles on the day, including another in the fourth quarter, which Cal returned for a touchdown.