by Brett Anker
Cal toppled Penn State 35-14 to head to the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup final. The Golden Bears jumped out to a 20-0 halftime lead and kept a determined Penn State team at bay to make it back to the Varsity Cup final in two weeks.
Neither team got on the board in the first 20 minutes, with the Nittany Lions matching the physicality and pace of the Bears. However, the home side opened the scoring midway through the first half via scrumhalf Keanu Andrade. The Bears would add three more first half tries, with seniors Kevin Sullivan and Patrick Barrientes finding pay dirt.
Penn State got on the board early in the second half with a try from flanker Malcolm May. At 20-7, Penn State hoped to rally, but Cal responded within minutes to quell any chance of a comeback. Jake Goena dotted down and six minutes later Andrade got his second to extend the lead to 30-7.
“Cal did a great job, they had the physicality and execution, and they capitalized on any mistakes,” said Penn State head coach James Willocks.
The Bears got a solid performance from a pair of underclassmen. Andrade scored two tries and facilitated the offense while fellow freshman prop Damon Wiley added two scores of his own. After Penn State scored its second try to make the game 30-14, Wiley put the final nail in the coffin late in the game. Both freshman have been strong all season and came up big in the semifinals.
“To come out and play for all the seniors was just amazing,” said Wiley. “The energy and tenacity was there, and we knew Penn State was going to be physical as well. It’s up to us to keep that pace through an entire 80 minutes.”
Overall, it was a solid performance for the Bears. It was the final home game for several Cal mainstays and fitting end to their stay at Cal with a well-executed win. Anthony Salaber and Russell Webb, both fifth year seniors, have been involved in every Varsity Cup to date and will finish their careers trying to capture a second consecutive title.
“It means the world to have the opportunity to play for a spot in the final in front of our families and friends,” said inside center Anthony Salaber. “It’s a feeling we all have as graduating seniors but you could really see the young guys really getting after it too.”
Cal will not have to travel very far to play in the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup final. The Golden Bears will take on Arkansas State at Stevens Stadium on the campus of Santa Clara University on May 6.