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Season on the Brink: Washington State vs. Cal Game Day Open Thread

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FINAL SCORE AT AT&T PARK: CAL 30, WSU 7

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If you are a Cal fan who watched any part of last week's 31-14 debacling (not a word? I don't care) at the Rose Bowl to a less-than-good UCLA team, you spent this week either (a) wallowing in self pity, (b) pissed off, (c) wondering whether Allen Bridgford will play quarterback today, (d) drinking heavily, or (e) all of the above.

Well, quit doing all of that stuff. Well, except (d) anyway. It's game day! And to paraphrase one Jeff Tedford, "there's plenty of football left." But plenty of football or not, the 2011 California Golden Bears have put themselves in quite the pickle. With a 4-4 record (1-4 in the Pac-12 -- sigh) and four games left, conventional wisdom says that the Bears have exhausted any margin for error if they are to become bowl eligible. That guy (or is it a gal?) named conventional wisdom says that Cal's last two games at Stanford and at Arizona State are unlikely to be won. So if the Bears are to reach the magical six-win threshold for minor bowl xanadu, the winning must start today against the Washington State Cougars, the Bears' cellar-dwelling mate in the Pac-12 North.

Washington State, also entertaining bowl dreams, is also running out of games in which to reach six wins. The Cougs (3-5 overall, 1-4 Pac-12) need to win three of their last four if they want to make the program's first bowl appearance since 2003. If the Cougs can't beat the Bears today, they will face the unenviable task of having to run the table against Arizona State, Utah, and Washington to accomplish that goal.

Pac-12 title contenders these teams are not. But the Bears and Cougs still have plenty to play for today as they try to right their respective ships.

This is your pregame thread. Watch here and in the comments for links to the quarter threads as the game goes on. Click on those to link directly to the ongoing thread. GO BEARS!

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BASIC GAME INFORMATION

2011 CALIFORNIA FOOTBALL

Saturday, Nov. 5, 3:30 p.m. (PT)
Cal (4-4, 1-4 Pac-12) vs. Washington State (3-4, 1-4 Pac-12)
AT&T Park, San Francisco, CA

Live Coverage
TV: CSN California/ROOT - Roxy Bernstein (Play-by-Play), Mike Pawlawski (Analyst), Kate Longworth (Sideline Reporter)
Cal Commercial Radio: KGO 810 AM (San Francisco) - Joe Starkey (Play-by-Play), Troy Taylor (Analyst, *Pregame Show), Todd McKim (Sideline Reporter, *Pregame Show), Lee Grosscup (^Postgame Show), Kate Scott (^Postgame Show) *Pregame Show: 24 Willie Mays Blvd., Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco, CA ^Postgame Show: The Decks at Mission Rock, 817 Terry Francois Blvd., San Francisco, CA
IMG College/Cal Radio Network Affiliates: KFPT 790 AM (Fresno), KESP 970 AM (Modesto), KPRZ 1210 AM (San Diego), KMZT 1260 AM (Los Angeles), KTKZ 1380 AM (Sacramento), KFIG 1430 AM (Fresno).
All-Access Radio: The Cal commercial radio broadcast feed of the Cal-Washington State game can be heard on the Internet through the All-Access channel on CalBears.com. All-Access can be found under the Multimedia tab at the top of the page.
Cal Student Radio: KKALX 90.7 FM, kalx.com (Berkeley) - Elliott Schwimmer (Play-by-Play), Isaac Wolf (Analyst), Jeff Anguis (Analyst)
Sirius XM Satellite Radio: The home team's commercial radio broadcast feed of the Cal-Washington State game can be heard on Sirius XM satellite radio. The Cal feed of the contest is available on Sirius channel 134 and XM channel 194.

On the bright side for Cal fans, the Bears have done quite well against Wazzu during Coach Tedford's tenure. Cal has won six straight against the Cougs and has not lost to Wazzu since 2002. Despite that history, more recent history makes many a Cal fan last than comfortable. With a punchless offense, Cal barely escaped Pullman with a 20-13 win last year in the most recent meeting between these two teams. And speaking of "punchless," that's what the Cal offense was for most of last week's loss at UCLA, as the Bears turned the ball over five times (four interceptions by quarterback Zach Maynard) and struggled against a weak UCLA defense. Though Coach Tedford stated after the UCLA game that the quarterback position would be evaluated this week, he has decided to stick with Maynard as the starter for now.

norcalnick previewed the matchup of the Cal offense and the Wazzu defense.

Against the run

4.37/attempt, 72nd in the nation
I think that’s actually a pretty solid number considering that A) Wazzu has already played Stanford and Oregon and B) I can’t remember the last time Washington St.’s run defense wasn’t a total sieve. On the other hand, UCLA and Oregon State both had pretty good success running the ball, and Washington St.'s stats wouldn't look nearly as good if you take away dominating performances over FCS Idaho St. and really really bad UNLV.

At the very least Cal should be able to open up holes so that Sofele will have the chance to make linebackers miss. His ability to do so might be the difference between a meh day and a good day.

Against the pass

8.5 yards/attempt, 111th in the nation
And that’s where things fall apart for Wazzu. An inability to stop teams from moving the ball through the air is the reason Washington St. is in the 90s in scoring defense and yards/play defense. True, there's no shame in getting shredded by Oregon or Stanford, but what kind of defense allows Kevin Prince to throw for more than 13 yards per attempt?!? (ed. note: Not ours, we let him beat us with his legs! /reaches for the open bottle of jack).

It's pretty clear this game will come down to 'which Maynard will show up?' I think it's reasonable to say that Cal's receivers were equally open against Utah and UCLA, and will likely be similarly open against Washington St. So will we get the quarterback who threw generally accurate, catchable balls at home against Utah, or the guy who overthrew the ball into the arms of the safety over and over against UCLA?

As for the matchup between the Cal defense and the Wazzu offense, ManBearCal has you covered there. The Bears will not be facing Cougar quarterback Jeff Tuel, who suffered a potential season-ending injury earlier this season. But that doesn't mean it will be easy for the Cal defense today. Backup-turned-starter Marshall Lobbestael (aka "The Lobbster") has performed admirably for the Cougs in Tuel's stead.

QB

STARTER- Marshall Lobbestael, Senior (RS) - 6'3, 215 lbs

The Lobbster has performed admirably in place of the injured Jeff Tuel, and the stats don't tell the whole story...even though they're pretty impressive (2076 yards, 16 TDs, 7 INTs on 62.9% passing). Consider the lack of support he has on this offense: little to no running game (95th nationally), a WR corps that suffers from bouts of inconsistency and drops, and an O-Line that imitates matadors more than blockers (3.18 sacks allowed per game). The guy is running for is life most of the time. And yet he still chucks the ball all over the field and racks up yardage. Considering many folks thought the WSU season was essentially over when Tuel broke his collarbone in week 1, this guy has been quite the surprise. Its also interesting that the Coogs two biggest margins of defeat (a 14-44 loss to Stanford and a 21-44 loss @ Oregon State) came in games that Tuel started during a short-lived comeback from his collarbone injury (he then suffered a serious calf injury that may see him miss the rest of the season). Lobbestael has surpassed expectations, and his ability to not only endure, but thrive, is the main reason that this passing offense is ranked #10 in the country and second in the PAC-12.

...

What to expect:

Stop the passing game and the Cougs are toast. Easier said than done though. Despite a weak running game and opposing defenses using sacks as currency, Lobby gets his yards. In games that he's started, he's only failed to surpass 300 yards passing once (230 yards on 70% passing in the week 5 loss @ UCLA). That stat may also speak to the fact that Wazzu has been playing from behind a fair amount though...their defense sucks. He hasn't gotten much help, but he's mobile enough to extend plays and make throws if his receivers can get open...and catch the ball. I also have some concerns about how our defense handles the Wazzu no-huddle offense. Will we be prepared? Will we be able to effectively sub out or front 7 to keep them fresh? I'm not sure. Lobbestael runs this offense well, and he has one stud receiver in Marquess Wilson along with a decent enough supporting cast. So how can we avoid a replay of Tyler Hansen in week 2? Maybe we won't. But while the Coog offense moves the chains, they struggled in the red zone against the Ducks last week. Lobby threw a couple big picks down there that could have changed the course of the game...possibly. He'll get his yards, unless we hurt him. That's probably the best way to stop this whole offense, actually. Just hurt their quarterback. Ok, cool. That was easy.

So there you have it. Bears and Cougs. Cougs and Bears. Winner keeps the bowl hopes alive; loser stares another bowl-less season right in the face. So who can't be fired up about that?

Still need some firing up? Maybe these will help.

Poll

Cal has won the last six meetings with Washington State. The most satisfying of those wins was

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    2005: Cal 42, WSU 38 (Joe Ayoob rallies Cal from 10-point deficit in last five minutes)
    (27 votes)
  • 7%
    2006: Cal 21, WSU 3 (Bears break the "Curse of the Palouse" in the Slingbox game)
    (11 votes)
  • 2%
    2007: Cal 20, WSU 17 (Cal's only win during the...you know)
    (3 votes)
  • 53%
    2008: Cal 66, WSU 3 (Cal blows out the Cougs in Pullman before we knew they were that bad)
    (76 votes)
  • 7%
    2009: Cal 49, WSU 17 (Jeff Tuel plays well, but Cal rolls anyway behind Jahvid Best)
    (11 votes)
  • 10%
    2010: Cal 20, WSU 13 (Brock Mansion wins! Brock Mansion wins!)
    (15 votes)
143 votes total Vote Now