Cal’s offensive numbers are eye-popping, but they don’t obscure the fact that the Bears are rapidly losing ground in the otherwise upwardly-mobile Pac-12.
The Bears fell prey to early miscues and turnovers again, and fell to Washington State on Saturday, 44-22. With only one win over Portland State in the previous 12 months, Cal has dropped nine straight games to FBS competition and fell to 1-4 on the season.
Daniel Lasco’s fumble at WSU’s 3-yard line on Cal’s first possession and a bushel of penalties on the second poisoned Cal’s first quarter that ended with WSU leading 14-0. In the previous two games, Cal trailed Oregon 27-0 and Ohio State 21-0 establishing a disturbing pattern that has Coach Sonny Dykes looking for answers.
“Right now we are having a very difficult time running the football, which is putting a lot of pressure on our offensive line,” Dykes said. “We are not good enough up front to pass protect. Jared (Goff) had pressure on him all day and got a little rattled because of it.”
Goff may have been rattled, but in Dykes’ system the pass plays just keep coming. The true freshman signal caller again threw for 400 yards, attempting 58 passes that produced two lengthy touchdown plays. But the Bears never got closer than 14-12 in the second quarter as Washington State’s Connor Halliday attempted 67 passes, completing 41 for a total of 521 yards and three touchdowns.
Ultimately, the 44,000 that attended saw another lengthy football game, filled with big plays but lacking in competitiveness. The mistake-plagued Bears committed 11 penalties and five turnovers to rob the afternoon of any drama.
And while the Bears fluctuated between the mistakes and the home runs like Chris Harper’s 89-yard touchdown catch and run, Washington State was remarkably steady in moving the ball via the pass as Halliday was sacked just once.
“The offensive line played unreal,” Halliday said of his protectors. “That was huge. Those guys really got in a rhythm up front and dominated the game. I think I got hit twice. That’s a lot of fun back there when you have all that time to get rid of the ball.”
The Bears had beaten Washington State eight straight times prior to Saturday, but the slow start and mounting injuries put a stop to that streak. Prior to the game, Dykes announced that center Chris Adcock will miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury. Also, this week safety Alex Logan retired due to recurring injuries and prominent pass rusher Chris McCain was dismissed due to repeated personal conduct issues.
During the game, the Bears lost linebacker Jalen Jefferson, safety Joel Willis and corners Stefan McClure and Kameron Jackson to injury, more bad news for a defense that has surrendered a whopping 45 points per game.
As for the rest of the challenging schedule and Cal’s mounting losing streak against conference competition, they will see three currently-ranked teams (Washington, Stanford and UCLA) as well as Oregon State, currently 4-1 and 2-0 in the conference in the final seven weeks. On the positive side, the Bears could be healthier once the schedule eases in November with home games against USC and Arizona and a road trip to Colorado.
Next Saturday, the Bears face 12th-ranked UCLA at the Rose Bowl.