Week 8: UW (4-3) at California (6-1)

Washington comes off of their worst performance of the season, a 27-17 shellacking at the hands of Oregon State, while California enters this contest on the heels of a 21-3 road win at Washington State. Cal has won six in a row while Washington has dropped their last two.

LAST WEEK: Cal struggled offensively, but dominated on defense beating Washington State 21-3.The Bears' first win in Pullman since the Carter administration. Quarterback Nate Longshore struggled with his accuracy at times, but Marshawn Lynch's 152 yards carried the attack.

Defensively the Bears were tough all day as they held the Cougars to 2-17 on third and fourth down conversions, including a fourth and goal stop at the two yard line. Daymeion Hughes continued to dominate opposing receivers, setting up a touchdown with his conference leading sixth interception of the year.

Special teams again contributed as a blocked punt by Nu'u Tafisi set up the the first Cal score.

Cal dominated up front on both sides of the ball, but were just a step off from several big plays on offense. The return to Berkeley this week should serve them well.

LAST WEEK: Washington took a major step backwards as they were dominated on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Oregon State outhit, outran, and outphysicaled the Huskies in their own yard en route to a 27-17 OSU victory. Husky quarterback and captain Isaiah Stanback suffered a foot injury that will keep him out of this week's game, maybe longer. Washington didn't tackle well as Yvensen Bernard ran through arm tackles, bounced off linebackers that didn't wrap him up, and over guys that were backpedaling. It was a major setback to a program that had been feeling good about themselves and had seemingly turned the corner and found ways to win. Now they head to Strawberry Canyon with a backup quarterback, a bruised phsyche, and a lethargic rushing attack.
KEY INJURIES: DL Phillip Mbakogu (knee-will not play), CB Tim Mixon (knee-will not play) KEY INJURIES: QB Isaiah Stanback (foot - will not play).

WHEN CAL IS ON OFFENSE: Cal is totally healthy, and should be primed for one of their best offensive performances of the season. DeSean Jackson is reaching superstar status, but Lavelle Hawkins, Robert Jordan, Marshawn Lynch, Craig Stephens and company prevent defenses from keying on him. Marshawn Lynch has already reached superstar status, and the passing game prevents defenses from keying on him. Justin Forsett would start for most teams in the conference, and gives the running game a nice change of pace when Lynch needs some rest. There is no reason to think Nate Longshore should not return to the form he had before the Washington State game, and last week's inaccuracy can be attributed to "Palouse VooDoo".

The offensive line is really coming into its own, Scott Smith is healthy again as is Andrew Cameron, but the experience Mike Gibson and Mike Tepper received the last few weeks give the Bears a nice deep rotation but front. Washington State defensive end Mkristo Bruce, who came into the Cal gam as the conference leader in sacks, was impressed with physicality of the Bear's line.

 

WHEN WASHINGTON IS ON OFFENSE: Carl Bonnell will get his first start of the season. A fine time for this one, against perhaps the hottest team in the conference and the BCS #10 ranked team. The Huskies gave up six sacks last week, so the OL will need to step up. WT Ben Ossai (RS-fr), OG Clay Walker (Sr), OG Stanley Daneils (Sr), C Juan Garcia (Jr), and ST Chad Macklin (Jr) will have their hands full, but they have had some success opening up holes to run through, as the Huskies average over 170 yards per game on the ground. WR Sonny Shackelford was shut down last weekend, and will need to emerge to give Bonnell a sure set of hands to throw to. WR Anthony Russo showed he can get open deep last week on the first play from scrimmage. TE Michael Gottlieb is back, and his blocking should help this week, although TE Johnie Kirton is the better target offensively. WR Marlon Wood is perhaps the only Husky that is fast enough to scare Cal's secondary, and WR Marcel Reece has been AWOL. This would be a good game for him to show up, giving Bonnell a 240 pound target to find underneath. TB Kenny James has been good in spurts and is a tough runner and probably a bit more consistent than speedster Louis Rankin.
WHEN WASHINGTON HAS THE BALL: Bears' defensive coordinator Bob Gregory loves to come up with game plans exquisitely tailored to the opposition, and he likes to attack. Look fo the Bears to give first time Carl Bonnell a giant headache. The lockdown ability of Hughes combined with the maturation of Syd'quan Thompson and the return to full time action of safety Thomas DeCoud give Gregory all kinds of options in coverage to confuse Bonnell. Up front the defensive line rotation is getting deeper and deeper with Steve Kelly seeing more snaps, and Rulon Davis looking more comfortable every week. If the Bear offense can score the way everyone expects it to, they will neutralize the Husky rushing attack, which is tremdously weakened with the loss of quarterback Isiah Stanback. If the Huskies are forced to pass, look for the Golden Bears to attack, attack, attack. Cal's speed at linebacker and talent in the backfield should overwhelm the Husky offense. WHEN CAL HAS THE BALL: The Husky defensive line was crushed, folded, and mutilated by OSU last week. cal's offensive line is better so the scheme may need to be tweaked. Wilson Afoa and Donny Mateaki are the starters inside and both have been quiet. DE Greyson Gunheim was also shut down last week. Fellow DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim has been outstanding, and could give Cal some trouble with his speed. LB Scott White had two INTs last week and has been the leader on defense. Dan Howell and Tahj Bomar are the other linebackers and struggled last week. Chris Stevens adds speed on the outside while EJ Savannah is pretty solid in coverage. The secondary was abused for 300 yards and gave up an 80-yard TD when a blitz failed. Safety Jason Wells returns to the lineup and starts along side CJ Wallace, Washington's best tackler. The corners are Roy Lewis, who is probably the most improved player on defense this year, and Matt Fountaine or Dashon Goldson. Goldson is the more physical of the two but has been hobbled by an ankle sprain.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The Cal special teams has contributed to every victory, and should continue their success. Coverage has been solid, and returns have been phenomenal with Jackson's punt returns almost overshadowing his receivng success. Kicker Tom Schneder is perfect for the year in field goals and PATs, and his kick offs have been consisently in or near the end zone. Punter Andrew Larson has been tremendous in kicking the Bears out of trouble. SPECIAL TEAMS: Washington has the best punter in school history in Sean Douglas, but as a team they don't cover punts that well. Michael Braunstein handles kickoffs and placekicking duties, and has improved in both areas. He drilled a long one last week against OSU, one of the few bright spots. Marlon Wood has yet to break a long punt return but his speed is scary. Roy Lewis handles kickoff returns.
CAL CAN WIN IF: They do what they do. Minus Stanback the Huskies will need an out-of-nowhere performance from Bonnell or someone else to move the ball. Cal must concentrate on winning the individual match-ups up front, and the rest will fall into place. WASHINGTON CAN WIN IF: Carl Bonnell is hot. Offensive Coordinator Tim Lappano is going to have to devise a scheme where the offensive line can keep the Bears off of Bonnell's back. A rushing game would help a great deal. Kenny James between the tackles and Bonnell on short to intermediate passes might move the chains enough to keep the formidable Bear offense off of the field. Washington also has zero margin for error so they cannot turn the ball over, once, and they cannot have any special teams gaffes. If all goes right and Cal turns the ball over twice, Washington can steal one. Cal might overlook them.

CAL WILL LOSE IF: They lose concentration and/or take the Huskies lightly. Turnovers, a return to the offensive lethargy of last week, or other errors will fuel Washington's confidence.

Husky coach Tyronne Willingham's team will come to play, but last week's loss, and the loss of their biggest playmaker had to shake their psyche. However mediocre play from Cal could brighten their spirits in a hurry.

WASHINGTON WILL LOSE IF: Cal plays up to their potential. There is no way Washington can match the Bears talent, speed, and skill. Cal just has too much on both sides of the ball. If the Bears come with their A-game, or even a decent B-game, they should cruise to a win at home against Washington. If Cal coaches can prevent their team from taking the Huskies lightly, and if they get after Bonnell the way OSU got pressure on Stanback and Bonnell, it should be a no-contest.
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Sean Mockler is a Staff Writer for the BearInsider. David Samek is the Publisher of Dawgman.com and the Editor-In-Chief of Sports Washington magazine. He has been covering Washington football since 1996.

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