Goff’s 4 TD passes lead No. 24 Cal past Washington St. 34-28
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) Touchdown passes and big plays from Jared Goff are what’s expected for California. It took another opportunistic day from the defense to keep the 24th-ranked Golden Bears undefeated.
Cal forced four turnovers, had seven sacks and made two big special teams plays to back a four-touchdown performance from Goff and secure a 34-28 victory over Washington State on Saturday in the Bears’ first game as a ranked team in six years.
After having one of the worst defenses in the nation the past two years, Cal (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12) has caused 18 turnovers and recorded 18 sacks to get off to its best start since 2007.
”We’re just trying to write our own script,” safety Stefan McClure said. ”Last year’s defense is last year’s defense. They’re not going to make or not make a play for us this year. We’re just all out there trying to earn everyone’s respect. We just have a chip on our shoulder.”
McClure returned a fumbled fake punt for a touchdown and had a momentum-changing sack in the third quarter. Darius White forced a fumble and Damariay Drew had a late that thwarted possible scoring threats and sealed the win for Cal.
After winning six games in coach Sonny Dykes’ first two seasons, the Bears head into a showdown at No. 10 Utah next week with hopes of contending for a conference title thanks to the improved defense.
”They’re playing so well right now and I don’t anticipate it slowing down,” Goff said. ”They’re such a solid group over there, so experienced, been through so much together and have the biggest chip on their shoulder you’d ever imagine from everything we’ve gone through.”
Goff overcame a shaky start that included an interception on the third play to throw for 390 yards and two TD passes in a span of less than 2 minutes late in the third quarter surrounding a successful onside kick to erase an eight-point deficit.
The defense and a 42-yard, field position changing run by Vic Enwere on third-and-36 from the 4 helped seal the win.
Luke Falk threw for 389 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score for the Cougars (2-2, 0-1), who have lost 28 of their past 29 games against ranked opponents.
”I think we improved,” Falk said. ”We rose up together. We were really an unstoppable team. There’s going to be times where we could have taken control of this game, just a play here and there.”
Washington State was in position to reverse that trend after Falk threw a 4-yard TD pass to Gabe Marks midway through the third quarter and Kenny Lawler lost a fumble on Cal’s ensuing possession.
McClure’s sack then forced a 40-yard field goal try that Erik Powell missed and Goff took over from there.
He drove Cal 77 yards to a score on a 20-yard touchdown pass to Lawler that made it 28-26. The Bears then surprised the Cougars with an onside kick recovered by Darius Powe.
”It was something that was there,” Dykes said. ”We were looking for the right time to call it. At that point, we had a little bit of momentum and we felt like it was something that could change the tide of the game.”
Four plays later, Maurice Harris took a short pass from Goff and ran 24 yards for the score that gave the Bears their first lead of the game. Goff completed a 2-point conversion pass to Bryce Treggs to make it 34-28.
Goff set the school record for TD passes when he connected with Treggs in the first quarter for his 65th career touchdown pass. That broke a tie he had with Kyle Boller. Goff finished the day with 68.
AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org
This version corrects that Washington State has lost 28 of 29 games against ranked teams not 28 of 28.