The Cal football team can finally exhale. After losing three straight games for the first time in head coach Jeff Tedford’s career, the Bears bounced back with a 20-17 victory over Washington State in front of 55, 711 at Memorial Stadium on Saturday night. “It’s been a hard three weeks,” Tedford said. “We’ve been in very close football games. It really makes you appreciate the wins. I think there for awhile, when we’re winning it was something that I don’t think people got fired up about. It was just another day in the office. We really need to enjoy the victories because they’re hard to come by.” Big plays were hard to come by for the Cal offense in Saturday’s contest. Washington State kept the Bears big play receivers – Lavelle Hawkins, DeSean Jackson and Robert Jordan – in check, not allowing a passing plays of longer than 19 yards. On the ground, Justin Forsett had a yards per carry of just over three – until he broke out for a 44-yard touchdown run to seal the game late in the fourth quarter.
“Our running backs motto, we go by the theme of being lumberjacks,” said Forsett, who had 132 yards on 32 carries and two scores. “We keep chopping at every play. You never know when it’s going to break. We finally got that one in, but we had to keep the heart and keep the faith that everything was going to work out.” But while the Cougars (3-6, 1-5 in the Pac-10) were able to prevent the big play, they were not able to get the Bears off the field, especially on two long drives in the first half. Cal (6-3, 3-3 in the Pac-10) scored its first points after a 17 play, 80-yard drive that took 7:56 off the game clock. Both the 17 plays and the time of possession were season-high for the Bears until a 20 play, 91-yard drive consumed 10:22 got Cal another three points. The Bears went into halftime with a 10-0 and held onto the ball for over 20 minutes in the first half. “It was unbelievable,” Cal defensive coordinator Bob Gregory said. “To have those and to have us come on the field fresh is just so important for us. Just having those long drives keeps us fresh, keeps their offense off the field and at the end of the game, that’s just more time where we had the ball and they didn’t.” The extra time off during the game seemed to have helped the Bears defense get more pressure on Washington State quarterback Alex Brink. It seemed to have certainly helped linebacker Zack Follett, who was able to bring pressure of the edge and cause havoc in the backfield. Follett totaled six tackles and had one sack as the Cal defense held the Pac-10’s third best offense to 358 yards. Follett also had three pass breakups. “It was nice to see Zack come back into action,” Tedford said. “He just played a nice football game. He played extremely well.”