Football Falls to Cal, 24-14, in Berkeley
September 26, 1998
BERKELEY, Calif. - California forced six Washington State turnovers to hand the Cougars their first loss of the season in front of 32,000 at Memorial Stadium in the conference opener for both clubs.
The victory moved Cal to 3-1 on the season, 1-0 in Pac-10 play, and dropped the Cougars to 3-1 overall, 0-1 in conference play. WSU started the game ahead in the turnover war as Lamont Thompson nabbed his fourth interception of the season, the 10th of his career, to thwart Cal's hopes of scoring on their opening drive. In what would become a recurring theme for the day, the Cougars struggled on offense and could not make good with Thompson's pick.
With just less than five minutes to left in the opening quarter, the Cougs found themselves pinned back at their own 14 yard line. Looking to run it out, DeJuan Gilmore fumbled the ball away to Mawuko Tugbenyoh at the 10 yard line. Though his knee appeared to be down on the play, Tugbenyoh ran the ball in for the opening score and the Golden Bears took a 7-0 advantage.
Both offenses struggled early and neither team scored again until late in the second quarter when a costly turnover again bit WSU. Trying to drive the Cougars out of their own end zone, backup quarterback Pual Mencke's second-down pass ricocheted off a defender and was intercepted by Matt Beck. Despite a strong response by the WSU defense, which pushed the Bears backward 13 yards, Tim Wolleck's 42-yard field goal put Cal up 10-0 at halftime.
From the Cougars' first possession of the second half, it appeared their fortune might change. On the second play from scrimmage Steve Birnbaum found Leaford Hackett near the sideline who dodged defenders on the way to a 75-yard touchdown. After the defense followed with a crucial stop, WSU's offense proved to be its own worst enemy.
A 45-yard drive into Cal territory was all for not when Birnbaum's pass across the middle was intercepted and returned 76 yards for a touchdown by Deltha O'Neal. As quickly as WSU had climbed to within one score, Cal had jumped back up 10 points, 17-7.
With five minutes left in the third quarter, Cal fell victim to a turnover, giving WSU possession near midfield. Mencke took advantage with a 26-yard scramble and a 29-yard touchdown pass to a diving Jerry Roquemore that brought the score to 17-14.
The Cougar defense would keep WSU in the game until the end, forcing three punts, nabbing an interception and blocking a field goal attempt in the remaining minutes. Unfortunately, the WSU offense that converted on only 2-of-13 third down chances could never generate any speed. Drae Harris' interception of Mencke and 26-yard touchdown return inside the final minute of play sealed the deal.
In a game of struggling offenses, the Cougars not only lost the turnover war, but the field position war as well. On the skill of Nick Harris' leg, Cal downed four punts inside the 20 yard line, including two inside the 10.
The WSU defense held Cal to just 229 yards of total offense and three points, accumulating five quarterback sacks and two interceptions. O'Neal's 212 multipurpose yards against the Cougars was the largest performance by one player against WSU this season.
WASHINGTON STATE 0 0 14 0 14 CALIFORNIA 7 3 7 7 24