Cameron Ward threw for 343 yards and three touchdowns as Washington State beat California 28-9 on Saturday. Seventh-year senior wideout Renard Bell had his best game of the season, hauling in eight passes for 115 yards and a touchdown for Washington State which moved to 4-1 with the win.

The start matches the best through five games since 2018 for Washington State.

“We learned a lot about ourselves going through a little adversity,” said Cougar coach Jake Dickert after the game, referencing last week’s heartbreaking loss to Oregon. “I think it was a positive thing. To come back the next week, to go out there and score, to go out there and close the game, to go out there and finish, (it) just shows the type of team that I think we can be.

“We’re not there. We haven’t played a perfect game yet, and it’s probably not out there, but there’s a lot left for this team and it’s very hungry. It’s very focused. Winning in the Pac-12 is hard, so to defend our turf on Homecoming was special. That was the goal this week. To come out 1-0, that’s exactly where we wanted to be.”

Dickert thought Washington State did well to stay ahead of the chains on defense. They limited dynamic freshman tailback Jaydn Ott to just 69 yards a week after going for 274 in Cal’s win over Arizona. “He earned every yard he got,” said Dickert.

And they were hard to come by throughout. Neither side had a particularly efficient first half. Defense controlled things on both sides. It was a 7-3 game at halftime. Washington State had three sacks in the first 30. Cal held Wazzu to 3.8 yards a play and 0 rushing yards.

After a scoreless first quarter, Washington State used a 34-yard punt return by Robert Ferrel and a personal foul on the Bears to start a drive on the Cal 20-yard line. Jaylen Jenkins ran the ball in from the 2 for a 7-0 lead and the only touchdown of the opening half.

Washington State began the third quarter with a pop as Ward connected with Bell for a 47-yard completion to get the Cougs down into the red zone. Ferrel scored two plays later.

Ward was intercepted in the endzone twice in the game. That has been the Achilles heel this season. The first-year Cougar quarterback has seven interceptions through five games, among the most in the Pac-12.

But Dickert thought his quarterback kept his composure. “A quarterback needs a short memory,” Dickert said, and he thought Ward was able to “gut through it and come back and make some big-time throws.”

Ott scored on a 2-yard run for Cal early in the fourth quarter to move within five points of Wazzu on the scoreboard (14-9).

Ward connected with Bell on a 37-yard touchdown pass four plays later put the Cougars back up by two scores (21-9) with 12 minutes left in the game and that was that. He found tight end Billy Riviere for an insurance score with six to play. Cal’s final three drives after drawing within a possession featured a three-and-out; a four-play, 0-yard drive that ended in a punt; and a seven-play, 19-yard drive that ended in a turnover on downs.

Washington State will hit the road next week for the biggest test of the season — a tilt with No. 6 USC in Los Angeles. Cal (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12) will be on their bye week next week.