Nearly everything had already gone California's way on Friday night by this point, but if there was any lingering doubt about the Golden Bears finishing off an upset of No. 8 Washington State, Ross Bowers erased it.
With a 17-point lead early in the fourth quarter, Bowers, Cal's sophomore quarterback, took off running on third-and-goal from the seven-yard line. A Cougars defender tried to hit him at the two-yard line, but Bowers -- the son of former Washington gymnastics coach Joanne Bowers -- pulled off an incredible front flip into the end zone for a touchdown.
Cal went on to win 37-3, making Friday night's college football schedule two-for-two in terms of undefeated top-10 teams losing to unranked squads after Syracuse beat No. 2 Clemson.
In a game filled with lowlights for Washington State, the highlight of the night obviously belonged to Bowers. He actually pulled off a similar flip in high school, and Friday's acrobatics couldn't help but bring to mind what happened at Washington 19 years ago, when Arizona quarterback Ortege Jenkins launched himself with a flip over the Huskies' defense for the game-winning touchdown, in a precursor to #Pac12AfterDark:
Everything seemed to go right for Cal, including the flip. Everything went wrong for Washington State. Two weeks after pulling off its own home upset of a top-10 team by beating USC, Washington State found itself on the other side of such a result on Friday in Berkeley, just six days after Cal totaled 93 yards of offense in a 38-7 loss to Washington.
Prolific senior quarterback Luke Falk was intercepted five times and sacked nine times. In the fourth quarter, after Bowers' flip, Falk was hit by Jordan Kunaszyk and lost the ball. It was recovered by Gerran Brown and returned 26 yards for a Golden Bears touchdown.
In the first half, Washington State started the game with an interception, a missed field goal and a fumble. It also had two touchdowns taken off the board because of penalties. In the final minute of the second quarter, it had a one-yard punt, setting the stage for Bowers to throw an eight-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Wells on the last play of the half, giving Cal a 17-3 lead going into the locker room.
Washington State's fortunes did not change for the better in the second half. Falk was intercepted on the first two Cougars possessions, and things continued to get worse from there, all the way through Falk's fifth and final interception, which looked like a game of hot potato:
The Cougars started the season 6-0, with their first five wins all at home. After beating USC, they demolished Oregon 33-10 on the road last week, only to get blown out at Cal on a Friday after a short week. It's the same Pac-12 scheduling quirk -- Saturday road game followed by a Friday road game -- that USC dealt with when it lost in Pullman.
Scheduling is certainly no excuse, though. A veteran Washington State team made just about every mistake imaginable, and Cal, which went 3-0 in nonconference play and 0-3 to start Pac-12 play under new coach Justin Wilcox, stepped up and repeatedly took advantage to give itself legitimate bowl hopes at 4-3, ending the Cougars' unbeaten run in the process.
"We were a bunch of pathetic front runners" Mike Leach on loss by Washington St to Cal.- Linda Cohn (@lindacohn) October 14, 2017
On top of all the big defensive plays that were the story of the night for Cal, Bowers' flip into the end zone added a memorable flourish to a night that Washington State will instantly want to forget forever.