Cal fans could be excused for having their hearts in their throats, as tailback Tre Watson, with 12 seconds left in the game, centered the ball for a 26-yard field goal, down 46-45. They’d seen a situation like this before, last year. Washington State drove 68 yards to the Cal two-yard line, before Quentin Breshears missed a 19-yard field goal, ensuring a 60-59 Bears win.
Kicker Matt Anderson – the kid they call Sunshine, who’d made 15 of 18 field goals coming into that final kick – drove home the winning score from 26 yards, after being iced by Arizona State, to complete a 21-point comeback and give Cal yet another narrow victory, 48-46.
"I had a feeling that I would have that chance," said Anderson. "I didn't really even see the kick go through- I just got swarmed."
"I didn't have much doubt in my mind that Anderson would hit that field goal," said head coach Sonny Dykes. "He's kicking with as much confidence as anyone."
Anderson was carried off the field by his teammates. Quarterback Jared Goff Goff led the band, after perhaps his last time playing on the field at Memorial Stadium, as NFL stardom beckons.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1617106-cal-to-open-2016-f... "This is number one in my career, absolutely," said Goff. "To be down that much and to come back, and to win on a field goal, man ... I'll remember this for the rest of my life, that's for sure. Once in a lifetime experience."
"He’s been beaten up a lot this year, but he always finds a way to fight and deliver throws in the pocket," said senior receiver Bryce Treggs. "I don’t know if he’s coming back next year, but if that’s his last game in Memorial Stadium, he sure went out with a bang.”
At 7-5, the Bears now have their most wins since 2011, when they finished 7-6 after a loss in the Holiday Bowl to Texas. An eight-win season will give Cal its most wins since 2009.
"It's quite an honor for me to be able to give the seniors that kind of send off for our last regular season game," Anderson said.
"Matt Anderson came up huge and won the game for us there in the end," Goff said. "Huge."
Early on, Arizona State (7-5, 5-4 in Pac-12) leaned heavily on Demario Richard's running, very much like the Bruins did with Paul Perkins in the early goings of their 40-24 win over Cal at the Rose Bowl. Like UCLA, the Sun Devils used run-pass combination plays, going to the run early – rushing 16 times in their first 20 plays – to get Bears linebackers on their heels. Then, with Cal committing one safety to the box to try and help – Richard had 55 yards on 17 first-half carries, while Kalen Ballage had five for 31 in the first half – Arizona State went to the air.
Sun Devils quarterback Mike Bercovici hit tight end Kody Kohl for 43 yards on three passes, and Richard twice for 25. Bercovici, before being sacked three times by redshirt junior Todd Barr, freshman Cameron Saffle (the first of his career) and senior Trevor Kelly (his first career sack), even broke off a few runs himself, keeping the ball on zone-read plays that kept the Bears defense guessing, while throwing for 196 passing yards as Arizona State ran 51 first-half plays to Cal’s 31, dominating the tempo game and forcing the Cal defense to adjust (or, more aptly, not adjust) quickly.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1617472-bttv-fitting-end-s... Wide receiver Devin Lucien didn’t do much against California while at UCLA, catching just four passes for 57 yards, but on Saturday in Berkeley, as a member of Arizona State, Lucien surpassed those totals in a single half, hauling in six balls for 107 yards. But, the Bears defense adjusted after the half, and by the time ASU went to the pass, the Cal secondary as back in the swing of things, with breakups from Evan Rambo in the red zone to force a field goal, and Stefan McClure to break up a touchdown pass and force another field goal.
"One of the things we did this second half was encourage each other more than we ever had," said McClure. "We fed off of each other."
Senior Jalen Jefferson had a solid game, with five tackles and one pass breakup, but junior Hardy Nickerson led the pack with a career-best 16 tackles. Senior Kyle Kragen came in next with 12 stops, including his sixth sack of the season. Arizona native Luke Rubenzer also tallied a career-best 12 tackles at safety. Read more about him in our Game Day Feature.
As good as the Bears got against the pass, they got even better against the run. In the first quarter, Cal allowed the Sun Devils to rush for 3.5 yards per carry. In the second? 1.9, thanks to three sacks of Bercovici. After the break, Arizona State was able to get 6.7 yards per carry on 11 rushes, but went 1-for-4 on third-downs. In the fourth quarter, Cal held the Sun Devils to 3.0 yards per carry on 11 rushes.
"Today, our defense kept us in the ball game," said Dykes. "We gave up some yards, but when they needed to make stops, they did."
After the half, Lucien didn’t catch a single pass until there were 11:26 left in the game, going quiet for the entire third quarter, but even that play was negated by an illegal formation – too many men in the backfield. That flag was one of a rash of laundry on the field for the Sun Devils, the eighth-least penalized team in the nation.
What was a 17-point lead at the half -- and during the second quarter, a 24-3 margin -- evaporated, as Goff engineered four straight touchdown drives to get the Bears within two, down 33-31, as the fourth quarter began.
Like the defense, Goff had adjusted after the half. After the first drive of the third quarter, Goff already had as many incompletions (13) as he had combined in the first two games of the season. On the first play of his second drive after the break, Goff broke the spell. Thanks to a defensive offsides, Goff had a free play, and found Chad Hansen all alone up the seam for a 52-yard completion on the free play. He then found Maurice Harris on a throw-back screen for a gain of 12, breaking his own single-season passing yards record. A 25-yard gain by Watson set up a five-yard Watson TD run around the right corner, bringing Cal within 10.
“We weren’t doing what we were supposed to be doing on offense and we knew it," Goff said. "Coach Dykes talked to us at halftime and said (Arizona State) isn’t stopping us; we are stopping ourselves. And we really were. We were getting stopped by penalties and bad balls, missing assignments, little things, and that was the reason they really were able to take such a big lead. But, we knew that if we do what we were supposed to do, they wouldn’t be able to stop us, and that sure is what happened. I don’t know how many points we scored in the second half, but it was a lot. We knew that, for the most part, teams aren’t going to stop our offense; we are going to stop ourselves. They (Arizona State) have got a hell of a defense over there but we were just clicking very well the entire game, except for the first quarter and a bit into the second. We knew we were killing ourselves, and we knew if we fixed that, we would be fine, and sure enough we scored 38 points in the second half.”
After the first drive of the second half, Goff went 7-of-13 in the third quarter for 157 yards.
He finished with a career-high 542 yards through the air (his third career 500-yard passing performance), completing 30 of 51 passes for five touchdowns and no interceptions – perhaps his finest performance in a Cal uniform, and he did it when the Bears needed it most.
"Jared is a baller, man. It was a very gutsy performance," said Treggs. "He always fights and delivers."
Arizona State had scored 27 points on its first six drives of the game, and was held to just 12 points on its next six, despite starting three of their first five drives in the second half out past their own 34-yard line. Effectively, Cal did to Arizona State what Stanford did to the Bears.
“It was a little bit of a role reversal this week compared to Stanford last week in some ways because we were forced to kick field goals and today our defense did a great job of tightening down and they kept us in the ball game," Dykes said. "We were scoring, had some momentum on offense and we gave up some yards but when we needed to get a stop they found a way to do it and made some big plays on the third down, especially in the red zone and forced Arizona State to kick field goals. Our kids had a lot of confidence. Sometimes you get a sense on the sideline of what's going to happen almost, their attitude and demeanor almost determines what is going to happen. But the guys had a lot of confidence and again they believed in each other.”
Cal, who was held to 10 first-half points, scored on four of their first five possessions in the second half – all touchdowns.
"We're a team that sometimes, we're our own worst enemies," said Dykes, whose team was 1-for-5 on scoring touchdowns in the red zone against Stanford last week. "Once the guys settled in, once we made those routine plays, it went well."
"For the most part, teams aren't going to stop our offense," Goff said. "We are only going to stop ourselves."
For all the bluster and numbers Arizona State brought in – tops in the nation in sacks (with 16 in the last two games), second in tackles for loss – Goff did not face much pressure the entire night, and when he did, he stepped up and ran for a career-long 20 yards to convert a third down en route to a nine-yard end zone fade touchdown pass to Harris – Goff’s 35th of the season, tying his own single-season Cal record.
"We ran the ball just well enough to take a little pressure off of Jared," Dykes said. "Tre did well, Jared played with a lot of guts."
Watson, for his part, rushed 15 times for 92 yards, and has now rushed for 85 yards or more in each of his last three games.
Goff continued to dissect the Sun Devils, checking down in the blitz and finding Khalfani Muhammad open on a screen pass that went for 58 yards, including a Muhammad step-back juke of Solomon Means, finally giving Cal the lead, 37-36, with 9:13 left in the game.
After Arizona State took the lead on another field goal – forced by good defense from Cameron Walker after a 51-yard completion to Lucien – his first official catch of the second half – the Bears rolled up again for their fifth straight touchdown drive. Goff, once again feeling a bit of pressure, stepped up and ran for a third down conversion – his second on two tries – and then got a pass interference call deep down field on a ball intended for Hansen. With the blitz coming on the next play, Muhammad picked up the back-side linebacker, allowing Goff to find Darius Powe for the 49-yard touchdown, with Powe juking Kareem Orr at the 20-yard line and easily trotting into the end zone. Goff then snuck the ball in on the two-point conversion to give the Bears a 45-39 lead with 6:05 to go.
Arizona State finally found the end zone for the first time since 8:46 left in the second quarter with a throw-back touchdown screen to Raymond Epps with 2:35 to play, after fighting off a sack by James Looney, giving the Sun Devils a 46-45 lead.
Then, it was up to Goff. Pressured, Goff looked right, then left, then right again, avoiding pressure from Jason Franklin to find Hansen on the scramble drill for a gain of 17 yards. On third-and-four, Goff found senior Bryce Treggs on a 13-yard slant with 50 seconds left. That play, if any, was the dagger.
"You have to understand, we've been through a lot," said Treggs, who's been through a coaching change, a 1-11 season and four losses to Stanford with much of the rest of the senior class. "Second half, we played every snap like it was our last."
A 12-yard run by Watson got Cal within field goal range, and after a one-yard run to center, and a time out, it was up to Anderson – Goff’s recruiting classmate – and he delivered.
"The best part about this?" Goff asked, "None of us ever doubted each other. I'm just so proud of my teammates and to be on this team ... We've worked really hard, and we do deserve this win. We've been through so much as a team, being so close so many games."
In total, Cal ripped off 680 yards of offense, including 138 rushing yards. The offensive line gave up not a single sack.
"What a perfect and fitting end for our seniors," Dykes said. "They all showed that they had guts tonight."