SAN FRANCISCO — It was just about the fastest Zach Maynard had run all season.
For all the turnovers he has committed this season, the junior quarterback prevented one solely on his own when he put his body on the line and dove for the ball after running back Isi Sofele fumbled.
He was hit in the back of the head from a Washington State defender’s unsuccessful attempt at a fumble recovery, and he did not return despite not being seriously injured. But the damage was done.
Maynard had already led the Cal football team (5-4, 2-4 in the Pac-12) to five scoring drives before he left the game with about five remaining in the third quarter of the Bears’ 30-7 rout of the Cougars on a rainy Saturday afternoon at AT&T Park. His turnover-less performance — coming one week after his disastrous four-interception game against UCLA — stabilized the offense and surely inspired some confidence in front of a sparse and drenched crowd.
“I thought he managed the game really well and managed the offense efficiently,” head coach Jeff Tedford said. “He didn’t turn the ball over a lot, which was key coming into the game.”
Maynard said he was dazed for a few seconds after the hit but was fine. Tedford said he could’ve put him back in the game but didn’t need to given the 30-point lead at the time.
Despite his efficiency — 10-for-17, 118 yards — the offense was powered by Sofele. The 5-foot-7 junior rushed for a career high 138 yards on 23 carries. When backup quarterback Allan Bridgford came in to relieve Maynard, he hardly needed to pass the ball. The redshirt sophomore, whose first attempt was smacked down by a Washington State lineman, completed just one of his three throws for five total yards and mainly handed off to Sofele and company.
“Isi showed a side to him today that we really haven’t seen — making people miss and cutting back and things like that and keeping his feet underneath him,” Tedford said. “With experience, he is hitting the holes harder and making more people miss. He was very productive today.”
While Sofele was slip-sliding away from defenders — darting right, then left, then right again on one particular 14-yard dash — his fullback simply lumbered ahead on his one carry. Facing a fourth-and-one early in the third quarter, Will Kapp took the handoff, spun around a defender and ran free to the end zone for 43 yards, the longest rush of the senior’s Cal career.
“I was scared I was going to (get caught),” Kapp said.
The Bears’ sideline jumped around excitedly as the Washington State defense chased after Kapp’s long and probably soaking wet hair for 30-plus yards.
“When he scored, I picked him up,” center Dominic Galas said. “That’s the first time I ever really celebrated like that.”
Kapp’s first career touchdown run, which pushed Cal’s lead up to 30, rendered the remaining 27 minutes of action rather anticlimactic. Washington State (3-6, 1-5) scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter and gained a total of 169 yards in the half. But that was after the Bears’ defense absolutely stifled the Cougars’ offense for the first 30 minutes of the game.
Quarterback Marshall Lobbestael’s two-yard sneak with less than a minute to go in the first quarter gave his squad its first true first down of game (the other was on a Cal pass interference). Washington State had four passing yards and 22 total yards of offense in the first quarter.
Linebacker Cecil Whiteside was particularly effective. Playing major minutes in place of Chris McCain, who was sent to the hospital after a blow to the head, Whiteside absolutely crushed Lobbestael for a nine-yard sack, which caused a long fourth down for the Cougars early in the second quarter. On the Bears’ ensuing possession, they showcased their balance and efficiency in a nine-play, 71-yard touchdown drive in just over four minutes, breaking open the game at 20-0.
Keenan Allen, who caught two 11-yard passes on the drive, finished with 85 yard receiving. That was more than enough to reach 1,000 yards on the season, becoming just the sixth Cal receiver to accomplish that feat.