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HALF: Kaleb Fossum's big punt return set early tone, Washington State up 28-7 at half over Cal

PULLMAN - Washington State (7-2, 6-0 Pac-12) began their work to make California (4-5, 2-4 Pac-12) their seventh consecutive conference victim with controlled aggression. It's fair to say, Wazzu is crushing the Bears after two quarters of play. Here's how things played out for the Cougs.

Time after time, WSU has come out of the tunnel to start a game flat and frankly, listless. That wasn't the case tonight as the Cougar defense forced a three-and-out by Cal. The special team punting unit then provided a huge spark when Kaleb Fossum (pictured above) took the Bear punt up the middle then followed his blockers up the left side of the field untouched for a 75-yard touchdown. CHECK OUT THE CF.C SIDELINE VIDEO:

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You have to flip a bunch of pages in the WSU record book to find the last time a Coug took a punt back to the house. To be exact, the last player wearing crimson and gray to accomplish the feat was CouGreat Michael Bumpus back in 2005. So the 2016 Cougs have ended the special team return drought with Robert Taylor's kickoff TD return vs. ASU for the first time since Sammy Moore ran one back in 2003. It's safe to say that special teams coach Eric Mele has his unit improving.

Once Luke Falk and company were able to take the field, they looked speedy and efficient. Marching down field and establishing rhythm, Wazzu seemed headed for their second TD on the night. All their momentum halted when Falk overthrew River Cracraft and the inexperienced Cal secondary intercepted the floater creating the first turnover of the game.

Whatever glimmer of hope ignited by Falk's error was quickly snuffed by Wazzu's aggressive D. Cal ran five plays before punting the ball right back to Washington State.

The first twelve minutes of Pac-12 football in Pullman was completely dominated by Wazzu's Good Squad as they have controlled the line of scrimmage. Falk led a beautifully called drive of 70-yards using ten plays and a little over four minutes of the clock to light up the scoreboard WSU 14 - Cal 0 - which is how things ended after one quarter of play.

No question Cal wasn't ready to pack their gear and head home early. Davis Webb showed why he is one of the best quarterbacks in college football this season by taking advantage of a pair of Wazzu penalties and gutsy play calling. Webb beat the WSU secondary with a 59-yard bomb to set up a quick hitter for eight yards and seven points.

Would this game turn into the shootout experts predicted?

Seven plays, 75-yards and a high point leaping TD catch by Cracraft had Washington State holding up their end of making this one a high scoring affair.

When Cal brought their offense back on the field, penalties by both teams muddied the drive. End result for the Bears was a missed 41-yard field goal attempt which returned both the ball and momentum to the Cougs. Though Wazzu didn't get much pressure on Webb, they came through when it counted on third and 19. Actually they didn't come through, it was specifically Frankie Luvu crashing into the Cal quarterback forcing an errant throw to stall the drive.

Of WSU's first three possessions, they put up two touchdowns and gave the ball to Cal via interception. The fourth time the Cougs got their chance to put together another job the Air Raid sputtered and was forced to punt for the first time at the 6:19 mark of the first half. 

Nate DeRider extinguished the ensuing drive by picking a Webb pass deep in the end zone and taking the ball out to the WSU 21 setting up the Cougar offense to potentially increase their two touchdown lead.

Like the seasoned veteran he is, Luke Falk marching his offense effectively down the field for the Cougs' fourth touchdown in the first half.

Both teams totaled nearly 300-yards of offense. Both have a turnover. But it's Washington State making the timely plays.

HALFTIME SCORE: WSU 28 - Cal 7

Check back with CF.C after the game for  our wall-to-wall coverage -- and during the game for lively message board conversation.


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