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Recap and highlights: California withstands late comeback, sends Washington State to sixth straight loss

By Greg Woods The Spokesman-Review

BERKELEY, Calif. — Djouvensky Schlenbaker has perfected the poker face. He isn’t one to show much emotion, not even on Saturday, when Washington State’s redshirt freshman tailback caught a scoring pass to draw within three points of Cal.

That came in the fourth quarter. WSU had just scored its 14th straight point. Seconds later, when they added an extra point, the Cougs made it 15, clawing back within a field goal in crunch time.

Schlenbaker must have known something the rest of us didn’t. Washington State’s rally stopped there, halting with a 42-39 loss to Cal, the Cougars’ sixth straight loss.

Did WSU ever have a chance to complete the rally, though. The Cougs got the ball back down three, but when their drive stalled in Golden Bears’ territory, kicker Dean Janikowski had a chance to tie the game with a 48-yard field goal. He pulled it left.

WSU made a promising rally, but it paid for its three turnovers. Cal turned those into 19 points.

Meanwhile, the Cougs couldn’t do the same with its opportunities. In the second half, WSU’s defense forced a fumble, thanks to edge Brennan Jackson, but Washington State got only a field goal. A series later, the Cougs’ defense forced a punt, and their offense took two straight sacks and needed to punt.

Washington State made things interesting right when things seemed bleakest. The Cougs’ rally started in the fourth frame, right after quarterback Cameron Ward lost his third fumble of the day, a strange play where his pass went flying forward — but it was ruled a fumble, and Cal recovered it and took it in for a touchdown, taking a 42-24 lead with nine minutes to play.

So all the Cougs did was act like it never happened. On its next series, after its defense forced a timely fumble, WSU made quick work of Cal’s defense, marching down the field. Ward lobbed one up for receiver Josh Kelly, who hauled it in for a touchdown, and after a two-point conversion, the visitors made it 42-32.

Then came Schlenbaker’s score.

If nothing else, credit Washington State for this: These guys never caved, even when they had the opportunity. On the Cougs’ first series, they lined up for a QB sneak on fourth-and-short, only for Ward to fumble and watch Cal return it for six. The visitors couldn’t respond, so the Golden Bears made them pay, leaping ahead two scores early in the first quarter.

So many things, so many bounces, never went WSU’s way. Ward lost three fumbles. Cal scored even when it fumbled, then recovered it. Before the game, it became clear the Cougars would not have cornerback Chau Smith-Wade, the team’s best corner who was slated to return from a two-game injury absence. He was a no-show in warmups, mysteriously so, and Washington State kicked things off on a sour note.

Washington State returns to action on Friday evening with a home game against Colorado.

Pac-12 Network / Youtube

First quarter

13:52 – WSU 0, Cal 0: Cougars receive the opening kickoff and Ward converts a third-and-8 with a 18-yard completion to Victor. Nice pickup for the WSU offense to start the game.

12:19 – Cal 7, WSU 0: What looked to be a close fourth down conversion quickly turns into a nightmare start for the Cougars. Ward is held up on the pile on a quarterback sneak and has the ball stripped, returned for a 51-yard touchdown by Cal’s Uluave.

11:18 – Cal 7, WSU 0: A short completion, followed by two straight incompletions and the Cougars go three-and-out on their second possession of the game. Ward hasn’t looked accurate on his throws so far, he opens 2 of 6 for 20 yards. More of the same from the WSU run game, too, with four carries for eight yards.

Cal takes over on its 35 after a 41-yard punt and a fair catch.

6:38 – Cal 14, WSU 0: Bears cap a confident drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass from Mendoza to Endries. Cougars forced Cal into three third downs, but the Bears converted all of them, including on the touchdown.

Mendoza starts 2 of 4 for 21 yards, while the Cal rushing game leads the way with eight attempts for 34 yards.

4:45 – Cal 14, WSU 0: Cougars go for it deep in their own territory, Ward completes a short pass to Hernandez, who clearly reaches the ball past the line to gain. He is originally ruled short, but after a measurement and replay review, WSU is given the first down.

0:17 – Cal 14, WSU 7: Ward pumps and rushes up the middle for a 3-yard touchdown. Solid answer from the Cougars, who turn the fourth down conversion into a 14-play, 75-yard drive.

Second quarter

12:14 – Cal 21, WSU 7: Ott is stuffed near the goal line, he fumbles and Cal lineman Driscoll pounces on it for a touchdown. Second fumble the Bears recover for a score today.

Cal rebuilds its lead with a 8-play, 84-yard drive. The only third down they faced was converted on an offsides penalty against WSU’s Roff.

8:46 – Cal 21, WSU 14: Ward hits Mathers for a 13-yard touchdown. Another answer drive by the Cougars, who need their defense to come up with a stop.

Ward is 11 of 20 for 114 yards and a touchdown. WSU has 162 total yards, Cal has 124.

6:22 – Cal 21, WSU 14: Cougars get their first stop of the game, force Cal to punt near midfield. Wilson’s kick rolls into the end zone for a touchback. WSU will start at the 20.

5:02 – Cal 21, WSU 14: Ward is sacked and fumbles, recovered by the Bears at the WSU 19, setting up Cal with a prime scoring opportunity.

3:11 – Cal 28, WSU 14: Cal decides to go for it on fourth down and it pays off with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Mendoza to Ott.

Bears turn another turnover by Ward into points and rebuild a two-score lead closing in on halftime. Cal will have the second half kickoff, so WSU is in need of points here.

0:24 – Cal 28, WSU 21: Crucial drive for the Cougars before halftime, as Mateer rushes in a 5-yard touchdown to cut into Cal’s lead.

WSU made some progress on the ground that drive. Freshman RB Pulalasi up to 42 yards on seven carries and converted a fourth down attempt in the red zone. 11-play, 70-yard drive for the Cougars in 2:43.

California will receive the second half kickoff.

Third quarter

14:07 – Cal 28, WSU 21: Jackson makes a big play, strip sacks Mendoza, recovered by Stone at the Cal 17. Cougars have a great chance to tie it up early in the second half.

12:33 – Cal 28, WSU 24: Cougars settle for a field goal after bringing in Mateer to quarterback for a couple of unsuccessful plays. Janikowski hits from 28 yards to cut into California’s lead.

9:55 – Cal 28, WSU 24: Big sack by Jackson drops the Bears for an 11-yard loss on third down to force a punt. Cougars start on their 11 after a 54-yard punt.

6:19 – Cal 28, WSU 24: Back-to-back sacks puts an end to the Cougars drive near midfield. WSU punts 43 yards to the Cal 5, where Hunter makes a mistake by calling for a fair catch.

2:43 – Cal 28, WSU 24: Cougars defense has been greatly improved in the second half, force another Cal punt. WSU starts at its 28 after a short punt.

Fourth quarter

12:56 – Cal 28, WSU 24: Cougars come up empty after a long drive. WSU gets all the way down to the Cal 2, but Pulalasi is called for pass interference on third down. Janikowski’s 42-yard attempt is no good. 

Neither team getting much in the second half, Cal is out-gaining WSU 94-74 since halftime.

11:14 – Cal 35, WSU 24: Ott does it all to get California on the board. 

The sophomore running back takes five straight carries for 75 yards and gets in the end zone with a 5-yard rush. Ott broke the drive open with a 55-yard run.

Cougars now will need to get something going on offense. 

11:09 – Cal 42, WSU 24: A third lost fumble for Ward, as he’s hit from behind in his throwing motion. Ward’s empty hand pushes the ball forward, where it’s recovered by the Bears for a 55-yard touchdown. 

Two of Ward’s fumbles were recovered for touchdowns and the other gave Cal an easy scoring opportunity in the red zone.

7:33 – Cal 42, WSU 32: Riviere muffs a squib kick, but the Cougars recover and quickly score on a short field. Ward hits Kelly for an 11-yard touchdown. Still plenty of work to do for the Cougars, but enough time if they can get a quick stop.

6:37 – Cal 42, WSU 32: There’s the play the Cougars needed. Hicks forces a fumble and Lockett recovers at the Cal 40. Big turnover by the WSU defense.

5:23 – Cal 42, WSU 39: Just like that Cal’s big lead has vanished. Ward hits Schlenbaker for a 5-yard touchdown and the Cougars get into the end zone in 1:15 minutes after the turnover.

WSU goes from trailing 18 to down 3 in a span of 6 minutes.

3:42 – Cal 42, WSU 39: Cougars defense forces a quick three-and-out and Ward and WSU’s offense comes onto the field at their own 34 with a chance to tie or take the lead.

0:50 – Cal 42, WSU 39: Janikowski misses a 48-yard attempt – his second of the game – and the Cougars are unable to tie it up. Cal takes over at the 33, but the Cougs still have three timeouts.

0:27 – Cal 42, WSU 39: Cougars get the ball back, have it at the WSU 30.

0:00 – Cal 42, WSU 39: Cougs come close, but Uluave intercepts Ward’s final heave. Cal holds on to win and WSU loses for the sixth consecutive game.

Pregame

Washington State is entering must-win territory to keep its postseason hopes alive.

The Cougars (4-5, 1-5 Pac-12) take a five-game losing streak on the road to California today. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. on ESPN2 and the Golden Bears (3-6, 1-5) are two-point favorites, according to vegasinsider.com.

Things seem to get more bleak each game for WSU, which is coming off a 10-7 home loss to Stanford. The Cougars haven’t won a game since Sept. 23, when they upset Oregon State and went into their bye week 4-0.

Cal has enjoyed even less success, last winning on Sept. 30 against Arizona State. The Golden Bears nearly upset USC on Oct. 28, but were throttled by Oregon 63-19 last week.

WSU needs two wins in its last three games to clinch a bowl berth. After today, it hosts Colorado on Friday and closes the regular season at Washington – the last scheduled game in the Apple Cup rivalry.

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