Greg Thomas

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Undefeated no more! Arizona State tops No. 15 Cal in defensive battle

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For the first time since 2009, no team from the Pac-12 managed to get through the first five games of the season without a loss. No. 15 Cal (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) was upset at home Friday night by Arizona State (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) in a 24-17 game showcasing two of the toughest defenses the conference has to offer. Eno Benjamin scored the game-winning touchdown for Arizona State with 4:41 to play in the game. The Sun Devils tacked on a field goal later in the fourth quarter for the final score.

Cal’s offensive hopes took a hit with the loss of starting quarterback Chase Garbers in the second quarter. Garbers fell to the ground hard on his right shoulder and left the game favoring his throwing arm. Garbers did not return to the game in uniform but did return to the Cal sideline with his arm in a sling.

Without Garbers and against a solid defensive team like Arizona State, Cal going with backup quarterback Devon Modster was far from an ideal situation. Fortunately, Cal’s defense was up to the task and the Bears had enough to power through a scoring drive with their running game to tie the game at 14-14 in the third quarter.

Early in the fourth quarter is when Cal seemed to have the ball just bounce their way. As Cal converged on Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels and forced a fumble, the football fell into the hands of Cameron Goode to give the ball to Cal. Quick reaction time by Goode allowed Cal to gain possession, which led to a go-ahead field goal by Greg Thomas from 47 yards away.

The lead would not last. for as much defense as this game had, teams seemed to have answers to their opponent’s scores all night. After Cal took the 17-14 lead, Arizona State embarked on a 15-play drive led by Daniels and Benjamin. The 15-play drive consumed just over six minutes of clock in the fourth quarter. With the defenses leading the way, that played to the advantage of Herm Edwards and his program.

 

For the first time since 2009, no team in the Pac-12 has managed to go 5-0. Cal losing for the first time means there will be no undefeated Pac-12 champion. The one-loss Pac-12 champion is still certainly in play, although there is still two months of conference games to get through and there could very well be some cannibalism within the conference still to come. Even if Cal wasn’t a real threat to reach the College Football Playoff, the Pac-12 appears to be on track to miss out on the playoff for a second consecutive season.

Cal will be on the road next week for a big game in the Pac-12 North Divison. Cal visits Oregon, who has won three straight games since losing their season opener against Auburn. Oregon won last year’s meeting, 42-24. Cal’s last win against Oregon was in 2016 in a 52-49 shootout. Oregon will be coming off a bye week after beating Stanford last week.

Arizona State will get a week off before playing a pair of tough games back-to-back. The Sun Devils host Washington State in two weeks and follow that with a road game at Utah.