Bears Blues: Cal bows out quietly in 28-9 loss at Washington State

By Morris Phillips

The question “Can the Cal Bears win one on the road?” became more burdensome as the afternoon in Pullman, Washington progressed.

As in “Can the Bears win on the road if they don’t score first, don’t get a big afternoon from Jaydn Ott, or if they score a measly fraction of the 49 points they put up on Arizona last week?”

The answer: No, no, no and no.

In losing 28-9 to Washington State, the Bears wasted a first half of solid play defensively by failing to gain any consistency on offense in either half. The Bears brief moment of competitiveness–Ott’s 2-yard touchdown run at the outset of the fourth quarter–failed to resonate when two Bears tripped over each other on a failed, two-point conversion attempt that would have trimmed their deficit to 14-11.

“We got nothing going in the run game,” coach Justin Wilcox admitted. “Pass protection wasn’t where it needed to be. We’re all gonna share in that, but we didn’t expect to be as poor as we were in those areas today, especially coming off of last week.”

The Bears have lost nine of their last 10 road games dating back to 2020.

Cal scored 49 points in racing past Arizona at home last week, but the host Cougars kept Cal from converting 11 third down opportunities resulting in nine Cal punts. Once seven Cal plays that loss yardage and four sacks of quarterback Jake Plummer were factored in Cal’s offense numbers shrank dramatically.

Ott, the freshman who gained 274 yards rushing against Arizona, was productive again, but nowhere near spectacular. On 23 touches, run and pass, Ott gained 110 yards and had double-digit gainers on the ground and through the air. Jeremiah Hunter (109 yards receiving) and J. Michael Sturdivant (six catches, 71 yards) were factors as well. But the trio’s numbers didn’t amount to much on the scoreboard.

“A couple of big plays in the air, and that was nice to see, but we gotta score more than that, everybody knows that,” Wilcox said.

FCS-transfer quarterback Cameron Ward threw for 343 yards and two scores to lead WSU despite throwing two interceptions. Ward connected with Robert Ferrel for a beautifully-timed and placed TD pass to open the third quarter that increased WSU’s lead to 14-3. In the fourth quarter Ward hit Renard Bell for a 37-yard score and a 21-9 lead.

Ward also extended plays with his feet, and that was more influential than the turnovers as the Cougars converted six, third down opportunities and two more on fourth down.

“We had three or four chances for some negative plays on them, but we just couldn’t get him on the ground,” Wilcox said of the mobile Ward.

Beyond the four sacks, Jack Plummer was harassed throughout by the Washington State pass rush, and he suffered a knee injury late in the game. No report was released regarding the severity of the injury with the Bears now having two weeks to prepare for their next game at Colorado.

Plummer finished 22 of 33 for 273 yards.

“We obviously don’t want him to get hit,” offensive lineman Matthew Cindrich said. “We definitely have to look ourselves in the mirror and say what can we do to not let that happen anymore.”

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