(We continue our hugely unpopular look at The Half Season Of Which We Shall Not Speak (THSOFWWSNS) with the WSU game. Go here for past posts.)
The pre-game Storyline:
The Bears had been through hell and back in the last 3 weeks. When the fans looked at the Washington State game before the season started they saw it as a trap game for the Bears, concerned the Bears would overlook the Cougs with USC coming to town the following week. With the 3 game losing streak crushing everyone’s dreams in Berkeley, the WSU game was now a desperately needed opportunity for the Bears to get back on track and put another hash mark in the win column.
The pre-game Reality:
WSU was every bit as bad as everyone hoped, in fact, probably more so with their deceptive win over UCLA clouding people’s judgment as to how good they could be. It was exactly what the struggling Bears needed.
The key plays:
- Hicks lays a big hit on 3rd down forcing an incomplete pass in what would otherwise have been a 1st down that would have put WSU in Cal territory on their first possession.
- Longshore completed his first 8 passes, all dinks and dunks, but looks in good form. His first incomplete pass was a would-be touchdown pass that Brian Holley dropped.
- QB sneak on 2nd and goal from the 1 yard-line is thwarted by WSU.
- Forsett runs for an easy TD on a sweep play. Bears go up early: 7-0
- Opening drive is a promising one: 17 plays, nearly 8 minutes taken off the clock, 5 for 5 on 3rd down and Longshore 8 of 9 passing.
- WSU’s QB Brink over throws an open receiver on what should have been a WSU TD.
- Brink puts too much air under another would-be TD that gives DeCoud time to catch up and bat the ball away.
- Longshore has his first bad pass of the day on their 2nd possession, way under throwing Hawkins, for an interception at midfield.
- Later in the 2nd quarter, Cal goes for it on 4th and 4 from the WSU 42 yard-line, completing the pass and extending the drive.
- DeSean Jackson runs a reverse down into the redzone.
- Bears unable to convert on goal-line possession ending with an easily stopped option play (with the gimpy Longshore!?!) on 3rd down. Field-goal attempt by Kay is good. Bears increase lead: 10-0
- WSU doesn’t atempt 4th down conversion from Cal 38, and punt sails into endzone for 18 yard net punt.
- Bear have first 3 and out of the game.
- Cal gets a gift of an interception when Brink floats another would be TD pass allowing Hicks to get back in the play. His tipped ball goes right to Syd’Quan Thompson who runs it back across midfield.
- Cal had over 20 minutes of possession time in the 1st half.
- WSU does a short kickoff to start the 2nd half which Brian Holley takes across midfield
- Longshore bumbles a snap for a fumble and the 2nd turnover lost for the Bears.
- Another would-be TD pass by Brink is barely tipped by Syd and receiver drops the ball. Ball should have been caught
- WSU converts on 4th and 5 from Cal 30 to extend their drive.
- Drive stalls and WSU kicks the Field Goal. Bears lead down to one TD: 10-3
- Cal marches down the field with dinks and dunks but stalls in the redzone. Lead back to 10 on Kay Field Goal: 13-3
- A couple drives later, now in the 4th quarter, WSU returns the favor with a very similar drive and the same result. Back to a single TD lead: 13-6.
- Longshore, despite looking ever more gimpy, completes a couple of key passes including a 15 yard strike to Hawkins and a long pass to Jackson down to the 1 yard-line.
- Forsett fumbles on the goal-line, Cal’s 3rd turnover of the game, losing the opportunity to seal the victory.
- Hicks make a play on an interception and misses, and WSU WR Gibson takes the pass for 60 yards down to the Cal 35. Only a speedy recovery by DeCoud prevents the tying TD.
- Cal defense holds from there forcing the field goal. Lead is down to 4: 13-9
- Forsett breaks his only big run of the game for a 44 yard TD. Bear lead finally back over one score: 20-9.
- Brink is nearly tackled for a safety but rolls away from it and finds Gibson down the field behind a nearly sleeping Hicks, for another 60 yard completion.
- WSU completes a 4th and 7 with 0:35 left in the game to keep their hopes alive.
- Brink completes a nice pass into the corner of the endzone.
- WSU converts the 2-Point conversion when the receiver rolls over the Cal defender preventing his knee from touching down (debatable) and barely reaching the endzone. Bear lead down to a Field Goal: 20-17.
- Cal recovers the attempted onside kick to end WSU’s comeback threat.
- Cal yet again is ineffective in the redzone. Between Forsett’s fumble and the failed goal-line stands, Cal only converted one touchdown in all their redzone chances (other TD came from outside the redzone).
- WSU, although mostly ineffective on offense, had a number of close calls, that had the passes been complete could have easily won them the game.
- Cal dominated the time of possession in this game but surprisingly the WSU defense seemed unaffected by all the time on the field.
- Longshore was as gimpy as ever in this game, following his pattern of looking good early, but as the pain increased throughout the game looking more and more ineffective.
- Follett really came into his own in this game blitzing off the edge including a key sack in the 4th quarter.
The post-game storyline:
The Bears had managed to get back to their winning ways, albeit in a little bit of an underwhelming fashion. While hopes weren’t all that high that the Bears could get back to their early season form at this point and knock of USC the following week, with Washington and Stanford still on the schedule, this game proved that the Bears had a couple more wins in them. 8-4, the record on making those assumptions, would be a letdown but considering the rough 3 game stretch, would be acceptable
The post-game reality:
In reality WSU was an even weaker team than fans appreciated. The Bears ineffectiveness on offense and their defense inconsistency was a really bad sign for how the Bears would perform against other relatively weak teams, but better than WSU, later on the schedule. Add in that this uninspired performance was at home and those later games were on the road and there was more trouble brewing on the horizon than people understood.
The 2007 learnings:
- Longshore’s injury was clearly not limited to a sprain. It have been 5 weeks since he injured himself at Oregon and he was as gimpy as ever. Whether it was the injury itself being worse than reported (like, say, oh, I don’t know, a chipped bone in his ankle) or his bad form was the result of Longshore psychologically unable to return to good throwing form was unclear at this point.
- The defenses penchant for giving up the big play at the wrong time, exhibited by continually letting WSU back in the game when only a long pass could save them, was showing through.
- The interceptions were piling up and a bad sign as Cal continues to lose the turnover battle despite the loss.
This was one uninspiring game. However, even in re-watching it I felt blinded to the implications of the uninspired play focusing more on wanting to see the Bears win a game with the painful memories of the recently watched losses still in my mind and USC looming next. While it’s easy to see how this was a sign of how demotivated this team was, it’s also very easy to see why most Bear fans were blind to those signs at the time.