Is it possible for a game to be exactly like you expected it to be, and yet blow away all of your expectations at the exact same time?
In the last two weeks, Cal participated in two of the most insane games that will take place this season, and based on what happened it was completely reasonable to expect another high-scoring shootout that would go down to the wire. The game was exactly that and more, with twist and turns that fried the hearts and minds of a fan base that should be inured to this type of drama by now.
Cal and Washington State combined to author the most prolific passing game in college football history. Just sit back and think about what you (hopefully) watched. Ignore the fact that over matched defenses played a role - which is a necessary ingredient for setting these types of records anyway. You just watched arguably the most insane offensive game of football played by adults in the history of the sport.
So many aspects of this game will be swept away into the archives because of what transpired at the end, and by the mind bending final stats. The game featured 16 touchdowns, three field goal attempts, and unbelievably, eight punts. There were bizarre penalties, fascinating strategic decisions, baffling reviews, wacky special teams, critical penalties, and breathless action from start to finish.
You by now surely know that Connor Halliday set the NCAA record for single game passing yards, and that Jared Goff combined with him to set the single game total passing yardage record by two teams. You know that Goff's 527 yards is a Cal single game record. You know that there were 56 3rd quarter points scored (7 short of the NCAA record*), that Cal scored 7 straight touchdowns when they held the ball in the 2nd half. You know that Goff and Halliday dropped back to pass 124 times, and the game only included one sack and zero interceptions. You know all of this, and you also know that our puny simian minds are completely incapable of contextualizing them.
I'm probably only scratching the surface of records set in this game, and as the experts dive into the numbers I'm sure more will come out. Try to collect them all in the comments if you dare.
*Remember, Cal scored 48 seconds into the 4th quarter. They were one missed tackle away from tying the record
Most of all, you know that Washington State missed a 19 yard field goal that would have put Washington State ahead with 15 seconds to play. I wanted to write that it would have won the Cougars the game. But would it have? What kind of mayhem might have ensued in those final 15 seconds?
The first half was, by comparison, normal-ish. Washington State had to punt once when they foolishly ran on 3rd down. They settled for a field goal later when they foolishly ran on 3rd down. They punted again when they committed a holding penalty. Otherwise, the Cougars ran rampant, and a slightly off Cal offense couldn't keep up. Cal entered halftime down 11 points.
Then all hell broke loose. There were three failed drives in the 2nd half, all by Washington State. Wazzu's first drive of the 3rd quarter ended in an incomplete pass. If I recall correctly, a dropped pass may have been involved, but I'm probably wrong because my brain has since been melted. Their first drive of the 4th quarter was killed by an offensive pass interference penalty on 3rd down. And of course their final drive was killed by a bad field goal snap, a decent Cal push, and . . divine providence?
All Cal needed to do to beat Washington State was to score a touchdown on every single drive of the 2nd half, then hope that the Cougars beat themselves at least twice, unless the execute a perfect surprise onside kick, in which case they would need to stop themselves three times. And they did, probably.
The game ended with a certain degree of controversy. On 1st and goal from the 4 yard line, with about 1:00 to go, WSU running back Gerard Wicks appeared to break the plane with a dive towards the end zone. Many Cal fans were begging the refs to signal touchdown so that Cal's offense would have a chance to answer with a score of their own. When WSU missed their field goal two plays later, it was Cougar fans who wanted a touchdown called. Still images of the play were inconclusive, which probably means the call on the field would have stood. But it was a shocking decision by the referee crew to not even review the play.
If the play had been reviewed, perhaps a touchdown would have been called. Perhaps the call would have stood, but with a few minutes to collect himself, Mike Leach might have come up with a better end-game strategy to win the game. Somehow, the manic final minute resulted in a Quentin Breshears field goal that was no good by about two feet, and a Cal win.
And that means that you can appreciate everything this game had to offer because you don't have to wallow in your own misery. Be thankful, and remember that winning is always more fun than losing.
Cal now stands at 4-1 (2-1 Pac-12) and there are at least seven more games this year that are likely to go down to the absolute wire. I hope you enjoy games like this, because Cal will continue to provide you with a steady diet of Guatemalan insanity peppers.
The Bears have issues going into next week's game with Washington. Cal's defensive performance was in part caused by a collection of injuries that is all too familiar to 2013. Avery Sebastian and Stefan McClure just can't get healthy. Cameron Walker left the game twice with injuries, as did Mustafa Jalil and Jalen Jefferson. There were probably other injuries that I'm not aware of. The secondary is once again scraping the bottom of the depth barrel.
But those are concerns for another day. Enjoy the fact that you are a fan of one of the most wildly bizarre, entertaining teams in college football history. Don't think for a second that I've being hyperbolic, because you just witnessed a three game stretch of football unlike anything you have ever seen before.
And as far as we know, next week will just be a continuation of the madness.