Cal Looking for Redemption Against Huskies

BERKELEY -- The Cal football team keenly remembers the sting of last year's loss to Washington, but the Bears are different this time around ...

Last season, California drove the length of the field and appeared to be on the doorstep of scoring. The Bears had scored 219 points in their previous four games, and despite a Hail Mary loss to Arizona, were riding high. Then, Cal quarterback Jared Goff lost control of the ball, and Shaq Thompson picked it up and rumbled 100 yards for a score. The Huskies didn't look back, as Cal's offense wilted its way to a 31-7 loss.

"The defense played great,” Goff said at the time. “They played their asses off. We (the offense) gave up 14. They gave up 17, and that’s very winnable.” 

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Cal would win only one more game the rest of the season, and fall one game short of bowl eligibility.

"It obviously hurt us, in that particular ballgame, but it's hard to say," how much that game affected the balance of the season, says Bears head coach Sonny Dykes. "We didn't do much, offensively, after that. I know we didn't overcome it. In that ballgame, it was a big emotional letdown for us."

Dykes says the Bears were "embarrassed." Cal was "thoroughly dominated."

"They just played a lot more physical than we played," Dykes says.

Linebacker Michael Barton recalls the game as a "let down."

"That was a big game for us to come in, defend our home, and Washington just beat us down," Barton said. "They physically destroyed us last year. We're looking for redemption this year."

Wide receiver/tight end Stephen Anderson remembers all too well.

"They had a really good defense, last year," Anderson says. "They still do. They don't have their four first-rounders on defense anymore, so that's a difference, but at that point, it seemed like we were going through the motions. We weren't coming out as aggressively as we should have, and they dropped their safeties back 20, 25 yards, and they made us earn it, all the way up the field, instead of having the opportunity to be able to take those shots. What we need to do differently, now, I imagine the game plan is going to be the same, so we need to be content with getting those five-, six-, seven-yard gains and moving up the field." Goff -- mature enough now to take those dink-and-dunk passes, as well as hit the deep balls -- doesn't shy away from the heavy-hitting descriptors of last year's game, either.

"I think we just came out flat," Goff said. "We were coming off of a win, sort of like what we're coming off of this past weekend, came out flat, not ready to go. That's something that's a perfect example of why we have a chance this year, because we went through that last year. We're coming off a crazy win like last week, and we're going into this week, knowing that we can't have a let-down, we can't have that flat attitude."

Cal is 11th in the nation in total offense, but the Huskies are 13th in total defense (first in the Pac-12), though that number is bolstered by a 49-0 win over Sacramento State in Seattle, a 16-13 loss to Boise State and a 31-17 win over Utah State. The Bears' numbers, though, aren't without their own inflation, with a 73-14 win over Grambling State skewing the point total. That said, though, Cal ran for 280 yards against Texas last week, against athletes that are the equal of those the Huskies will throw at the Bears.

While Hau'oli Kikaha is no longer nipping at Goff's heels, as he was in that 2014 game, a familiar face will be -- Elijah Qualls. In the defensive backfield, Kevin King has three picks in the last three games, though starting safety Budda Baker is doubtful. That said, Washington is still fourth in the Pac-12 in passing defense, though the Huskies are tied for last in the conference in sacks (3).

"I was on Elijah's seven-on-seven team," Goff says. "I haven't gotten a chance to talk to him, but I'm sure we'll talk before the game, as well as Kevin King. I'm pretty good friends with those two. I know a lot of guys on that team.

"They do a good job," Goff said of the Washington defensive line's pressure on quarterbacks. "Elijah, especially, does a great job. The past few years, they've had good pass rushers, and last year they had a great one in Kikaha. He was really good, and this year, they've got guys like Joe Mathis and Elijah, so it'll be a good test."

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