For Maynard -- who shared first-team reps with sophomore Allan Bridgford during the week -- it was playing to retain his starting position on the team. Tedford, Cal's all-time winning coach, is finding his job is becoming less and less secure with every loss, and without a win against the Cougars, the Bears would likely be on their way to their second straight losing season.
Fortunately, for everyone wearing blue and gold, Cal dominated the Cougars 30-7 at AT&T Park -- putting all of those worries to rest for at least a day.
It didn't take the Bears (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) long to make all of this week's speculation irrelevant. Maynard threw for 118 yards on 10-for-17 passing, and didn't turn the ball over once. The Cal defense held the Cougars (3-5, 1-4 Pac-12) to just 55 total yards in the first half, which helped the Bears turn what was expected to be a close game into a blowout.
Late in the third quarter, Maynard left the game with an apparent head injury. The injury came after he recovered a fumble by tailback Isi Sofele, and a Washington State defensive lineman landed on top of his head. By that time, Maynard had already done his job, and there was little doubt the outcome would be in Cal's favor.
Tedford confirmed after the game that Maynard could have returned to the action, but was kept out in order to give Bridgford more time on the field.
Despite the uncertainty at quarterback for the Bears, a cold, wet, rainy day made this game all about the rushing attack -- which Cal had plenty of. Seven different Bears combined to rush for 288 yards on 48 attempts, and prevented the Cougars' high-scoring offense from taking the field for much of the evening.
Sofele had two runs for 34 yards to set up a 18-yard scoring strike from Maynard to tight end Anthony Miller on the Bears' first drive of the game, and was the impetus behind Cal's momentum for the rest of the half.
Sofele was the beneficiary of the improved passing game on Cal's second scoring drive. Maynard completed three passes on as many attempts for 40 yards -- including a 29-yard catch and run by his brother, Keenan Allen. On second-and-goal from the one, Maynard pitched left to Sofele as the rest of the offense moved towards their right. Sofele found the edge and nothing but open field on his way to the end zone.
Sofele's score put Cal up 13-0 with 1:23 remaining in the first quarter. The only positive play for Washington State came just after Sofele's touchdown run, when they were able to block Giorgio Tavecchio's point after attempt. It was Tavecchio's fourth missed PAT of the season.
As efficient as the offense was in the opening quarter, Cal's defense was dominating. The Bears held the Cougs to just 22 total yards on 16 plays in the opening period -- four yards passing and 18 yards rushing. Coming into the game, Washington State touted the 10th-ranked passing offense in the country.
The first quarter ended with Cal up 13-0, but more importantly, the Bears' fast start put the Cougars on their heels for most of the second quarter, causing them to miss tackles, drop passes, and a near-critical errant snap.
Washington State finally put a drive together to start the second quarter, moving the ball from their own 33 yard line and stalling out on Cal's 35. On fourth and nine, Cougars head coach Paul Wulff opted to give place kicker Andrew Furney a shot at a 52-yard attempt -- if made, the longest of his career.
Rather than kick a field goal, a high snap soared over Furney's head and the Bears recovered the fumble on the Cougars' 37 yard line for a 28-yard field reversal. Fortunately for Washington State, Cal went four-and-out -- leaving the visiting team with the ball on their own 34.
Cal wouldn't let its next possession go to waste. After a 14-yard punt return by senior receiver Marvin Jones, the Bears moved the ball 71 yards on nine plays and capped the drive with a five-yard touchdown run by C.J. Anderson to go ahead 20-0 with 5:15 to go in the half.
The scoring drive may have been their most complete performance on offense all season. Maynard completed three passes for 31 yards to Jones and Allen, and the Bears used four different runners to mix up their look and confuse the Cougars defense.
Before the half ended, Tavecchio would get a measure of redemption by making a 43-yard field goal with just 53 seconds remaining. At the end of the half, Cal led 23-0.
Senior fullback Will Kapp quickly broke the doldrums of the second half blowout with a 43-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-one -- the first of his five-year college career. Kapp carried the ball through the middle of the line, met with a Cougars defender, spun off the tackle, and then ran straight up the middle untouched the rest of the way.
The drive lasted seven plays for 81 yards, and put Cal up 30-0 with 12:08 left in the third quarter. Other than a 14-yard roughing the passer penalty and a 12-yard reception by Allen, the Bears utilized the rush for most of the drive. Mike Manuel rushed twice for 13 yards and Sofele ran once for 15 yards after cutting back and eluding defenders several times in the backfield.
With the rain pouring down, the wind blowing into AT&T Park, and the score seemingly out of reach, it was understandable to see fans heading to their cars after Kapp's score. Those fans would wind up missing an appearance by Bridgford late in the third quarter.
The work with the first team wasn't enough for the third year sophomore quarterback. On the last play of the third quarter, Bridgford's handoff exchange to Sofele landed on the ground, and turned into a fumble recovery by the Cougars on Cal's 17-yard line. Later in the game, Bridgford would also mishandle a snap from center.
The fumble recovery helped Washington State get on the board, but it was a third-and-10 incompletion-turned pass interference penalty on Marc Anthony that helped the Cougars put together the four-play, 17-yard drive that resulted in a five-yard touchdown run by tailback Rickey Galvin with 13:32 remaining in the game.
That would be the final score for either team, as the rain came down in sheets during the second half, preventing effective passing by the Cougars.
Cal now needs one win to become bowl-eligible, which could come next week against Oregon State on Senior Day at AT&T Park.
-- Tony La Russa was in attendance and took the field in the first quarter to receive a donation for ARF.