Solid work on O and D undone by special teams as WSU drops tight one to Bears

A SPIRITED EFFORT by Washington State against No. 24 California was, for the second straight year, undone by special teams miscues. But today, unlike a year ago when kickoff returns and a missed field goal doomed WSU, this year's badinage was more varied and unconventional.

The final was 34-28, but the tale of the day was told in the third quarter.

Cal put 14 points on the board in that stanza courtesy of WSU special teams breakdowns. The first came on the opening series of the quarter when a fake punt by WSU ended with Zach Charme fumbling and the Bears' Stefan McClure returning the ball for a TD. That narrowed WSU's lead to 21-20.

Then late in the third quarter, the Bears tried an onside kick and recovered it at midfield. Though replays indicated the Cal recovery man didn't have possession before rolling out of bounds, the play stood. Four plays later Jared Goff hit Maurice Harris from 24-yards out, giving the Bears their first lead of the day -- 33-28 following a two-point conversion -- and one they never relinquished.

In between those two costly plays for the Cougars was a badly missed 40-yard field goal try by Erik Powell.

And just like that, a 17-point swing undid a mostly stellar first half by the Cougars, who got things going on the third snap of the game when Bay Area native Marcellus Pippins intercepted Goff. The Cougar defense would go on in that first 30 minutes to hold the Bears on two fourth-down conversion attempts, and continually pressured Goff, setting the stage for what figured to be an interesting second half.

The WSU offense wasn't prolific but it was highly effective. The Cougars' four TDs collectively covered 47 plays, 282 yards and more than 18 minutes. That's an average of 11.5 plays and 6.75 minutes per drive.

The play of the game, though, belonged to Cal running back Vic Enwere in the fourth quarter. After a Goff fumble on a Kache Palacio hit in which the ball tumbled all the way back to the Cal 5 before Cal somehow recovered it, Enwere went 36 yards on the next play, a third-down and 36 situation, to secure the first down Both the clock and field position were now, fatefully, in Cal's corner.

The loss drop WSU to 2-2 overall and 0-1 in conference play. The Bears are 5-0 and 2-0.

Statistically speaking, the box score mirrored how close the game was. In unofficial numbers, WSU held a 3-second lead in time of possession and the two quarterbacks were nearly identical. Falk was 35 of 49 for 389 passing hards and Goff was 33 of 45 for 390. Both had on interception, Goff fired 3 TD passes and Falk two.

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