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And then there were none.
Entering Week 5, No. 15 Cal was the only member of the Pac-12 without a loss. That ended Friday night in Berkeley when the Golden Bears dropped a tight one to Arizona State, 24-17.
And to make matters worse, Cal lost starting quarterback Chase Garbers in the process. Garbers left the game after landing hard on his throwing shoulder late in the first half. He was removed from the game, went to the locker room and came back out in the second half with his arm in a sling.
After the injury to Garbers, the game went into halftime tied at 7-7 following an ill-advised interception thrown by backup Devon Modster on a pass into the end zone.
In the second half, the Golden Bears relied on their running game. In fact, they embarked on a 12-play, 63-yard scoring drive to open the third quarter, running the ball every play and taking a 14-7 lead on a one-yard plunge from Christopher Brown.
Arizona State, however, would respond on the ensuing drive when Eno Benjamin scored his second touchdown of the game to tie the score at 14 apiece.
Cal took a 17-14 lead on 47-yard field goal by Greg Thomas early in the fourth quarter after a fumble by ASU freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels. Soon after, Daniels would avenge his fumble by leading a lengthy touchdown drive. The Sun Devils marched 75 yards in 15 plays and went ahead for good on Benjamin’s third score of the night.
Cal’s offense would get two more shots to extend the game, but turned it over on downs both times. The first turnover on downs allowed ASU to tack on a field goal. The second allowed the Sun Devils to run out the clock and seal a 24-17 victory.
What does this mean for Arizona State?
The Pac-12 is wide open, folks. And Arizona State, now 4-1 (1-1 Pac-12) heading into a bye week, is definitely going to have a say in the South division race.
Daniels, who threw for 174 yards and added 84 on the ground, continues to improve, as does the ASU offense as a whole. When you pair a talented dual-threat quarterback like Daniels with a star running back like Benjamin and with a really solid defense, Herm Edwards’ Sun Devils are going to be competitive week in and week out.
The Sun Devils will likely re-enter the Associated Press Top 25 in Week 6 as well.
Following its bye week, Arizona State will host Washington State before heading to Salt Lake City to play Utah, arguably its top divisional competition. USC and Colorado are certainly in the mix as well. It is still September, after all.
What does this mean for Cal?
The Pac-12 North is much deeper than the South. Cal (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) already has a win over Washington under its belt, and has a trip to No. 13 Oregon coming next week. That trip just got much tougher if Garbers is out for a while.
The offense struggled mightily with Modster, a transfer from UCLA, at quarterback. Once ASU’s defense realized that Cal was going to rely heavily on the run with Modster in the game, it loaded the box and dared Modster to beat them. It did not go well. Modster completed only five of his 14 passing attempts for 23 yards and was very inaccurate in crunch time.
Cal’s defense is still one of the better units in the Pac-12. But if Garbers can’t return to the lineup, Cal’s season could take a sour turn.
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