BERKELEY, Calif. -- Sixteenth-ranked Washington State scored 39 points in the second half to rally for a 48-38 win at California in the Pacific-10 Conference opener for both schools, Saturday.
Senior quarterback Jason Gesser completed 28-of-44 passes for 431 yards and four touchdowns. The 431 yards passing are the fourth most in single game WSU history and one shy of his career best set last season in a 51-20 win over California.
The game-winning score came with 4:35 to play on a 6-yard pass from Gesser to Devard Darling to snap a 38-38 tie.
Drew Dunning's season-best 48-yard field goal with 2:27 remaining finished the scoring.
"This is probably the best game our offensive line has played," Gesser said. "They knew I was hurting back there and did a good job of keeping me from getting hit."
A trio of WSU (4-1, 1-0 Pac-10) receivers had 100-yard days. Jerome Riley led the way with seven receptions for 139 yards. Mike Bush tallied five catches for 125 yards and Darling added six receptions for 109 yards. All three caught a touchdown pass from Gesser.
The Cougars scored on six possessions in the second half, including touchdown drives the first two times WSU had the ball in the third quarter to take a 24-21 lead.
Trailing 21-9 at the half, the Cougars took the second half kickoff and marched 68 yards in 10 plays, capped by a 6-yard touchdown run by John Tippins to cut the Golden Bears' lead to 21-16. Following a California punt, it took WSU just four plays to move 72 yards for the go ahead score. Gesser hit Mike Bush for a 10-yard touchdown and found Scott Lunde for the two-point conversion to give the Cougars their first lead of the game at 24-21 with 7:32 left in the third quarter.
"It's tough to win on the road and tough to win in the Pac-10," WSU Head Coach Mike Price said. "In the second half, we got our running game going and that really helped. We showed a lot of character in the second half."
After California (3-2, 0-1 Pac-10) closed to within 31-28, it took WSU just two plays and 38 seconds to answer. Bush made a diving catch for a 44-yard gain to the Golden Bears' 31 on the first play and Gesser found Riley open for a 31-yard touchdown to push the advantage back to 10 at 38-28 with 1:53 left in the third.
California pulled even in the fourth quarter in a pan of 2:15. Quarterback Kyle Boller, who finished 30-for-48 for 374 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions, hit Jonathan Makonnen for a 13-yard touchdown with 9:48 to play cutting the Cougars' lead to 38-35.
Darling fumbled the ensuing kickoff and California recovered at the WSU nine. However, the Cougar defense held, forcing a Mark Jensen 20-yard field that tied the game 38-38 with 7:33 remaining.