Horrendous? Don't you mean glorious?!?!? Long-suffering Cal fans had to wonder if the Bears would ever break the 19-game Washington jinx, which had been the sixth-longest streak in the NCAA. But the dream turned into reality on Saturday, as the Bears pulled off their most improbable victory yet, a 34-27 road upset of the 12th-ranked Huskies.">
Horrendous? Don't you mean glorious?!?!? Long-suffering Cal fans had to wonder if the Bears would ever break the 19-game Washington jinx, which had been the sixth-longest streak in the NCAA. But the dream turned into reality on Saturday, as the Bears pulled off their most improbable victory yet, a 34-27 road upset of the 12th-ranked Huskies.">

Cal 34 - Washington 27

<p class=txt>"I would have never dreamed in my wildest dreams that I would lose to Cal. It was horrendous." - Washington guard Elliott Zajac<br> <br> Horrendous? Don't you mean glorious?!?!? Long-suffering Cal fans had to wonder if the Bears would ever break the 19-game Washington jinx, which had been the sixth-longest streak in the NCAA. But the dream turned into reality on Saturday, as the Bears pulled off their most improbable victory yet, a 34-27 road upset of the 12th-ranked Huskies.

After a two-week hiatus, Cal returned to its winning formula of capitalizing on opponents' mistakes while minimizing its own, thereby running the Bears' record to 4-2 and landing us on the cusp of a national ranking once again. For the second time this season, Tedford & Co. made a stadium full of 70,000+ fans unhappy, but they elated probably 700,000+ Cal fans worldwide!

Unfortunately, I missed the game because it wasn't televised live so I went to the Giants/Braves playoff game on Saturday and I couldn't see the Sunday afternoon replay because I don't have digital cable or DirecTV. There's a chance that my friend's brother (the only person I know with access to Fox Sports Northwest) recorded the replay, but even if he did, I probably won't have access to the tape for weeks since he lives in Fresno. So I've tried to piece together what happened through the FansOnly play-by-play recap, various newspaper accounts, the few highlights shown on TV, and CalBears.com.

Cal managed one first down on the opening drive before being forced to punt. UW quarterback Cody Pickett completed his first four passes, driving as far as the Cal 34, before the drive bogged down (in part due to an offensive holding penalty) and placekicker John Anderson missed a 52-yard FG wide right.

It took the Bears just four plays to find the end zone. QB Kyle Boller hit WRs Jonathan Makonnen and LaShaun Ward for a couple of nice gains to the UW 40. Then Tedford pulled out another trick play, this time the old sandlot flea flicker. Boller handed the ball to RB Joe Igber, who pitched it back to Boller, who threw to a wide-open Makonnen for a 40-yard TD.

The Huskies answered, with Pickett hitting his wideouts and Cal getting flagged for a pass-interference penalty before backup RB Braxton Cleman ran for a 21-yard TD.

On the next UW series, another Cal pass-interference flag helped the Huskies' drive that ended in a 51-yard Anderson FG. With just under a minute remaining in the first quarter, Washington led, 10-7. That was the first time all season that the Bears trailed after Q1.

Cal's next series resulted in a punt, and Tyler Fredrickson's 50-yard kick was downed at the UW 8. Enter normal starting RB Rich Alexis, who didn't practice all week due to a sprained ankle. Oops. On his one and only carry of the game, Alexis coughed up a fumble and Nmandi Asomugha recovered for Cal at the UW 8. Exit RB Rich Alexis. In the post-game wrap, Neuheisel said that he inserted Alexis to try to jump-start the running game; for the day, Washington netted only 42 rushing yards on 28 attempts. Even after taking out Cal's five sacks for a loss of 30 yards, UW still had a paltry 3.1-yard average on 23 running plays, and it was even worse at 2.3 if you exclude the 21-yard run by Cleman.

On Cal's first play following the turnover, Boller found Makonnen for his second TD reception of the day. Just like that, the Bears recaptured the lead at 14-10.

Pickett resumed his attack on the Cal secondary with a 14-yard pass to WR Charles Frederick and a 37-yard pass to WR Paul Arnold before the drive stalled at the Cal 24. Anderson nailed a 41-yard field goal, and the Bear lead was trimmed to one.

The Bears broke out a secret weapon on the ensuing possession, as Boller completed two passes to Vincent Strang, the latter of which was a 55-yard TD that gave Cal a 21-13 lead. Strang later said that he saw the Husky pursuer on the video board, so he knew which way to turn to escape. That's all fine and dandy, but my first reaction was, who in the world is Vincent Strang? I didn't remember seeing him catch passes in any games prior to this one. In the media guide, he's not profiled in either the returning-player or freshmen sections, nor is he listed on the depth chart, nor is he mentioned in the discussion of wide receivers. Ah, there he is, listed in the bottom of page 62 under JC transfers. The other four JC offensive newcomers are profiled, but not Strang. The Sunday Chronicle said he's a 5'8", 155-pound walk-on JC transfer who got a chance because erstwhile starter Geoff McArthur has a tight hamstring. OK, mystery solved. Welcome to Cal football, Vincent, and thanks for the big play!

Anyway, back to the game. Washington breached into Cal territory on its next drive but fizzled when Asomugha, who had a huge day playing at cornerback instead of safety, picked off a long Pickett pass at the Cal 4. (That was Pickett's first interception in 112 pass attempts.) The half was winding down, and Cal tried to kill the clock with two unsuccessful Igber runs before UW called a timeout. Boller's third-down pass was incomplete, and we were forced to punt from our own end zone. Husky return man Frederick returned the punt by Fredrickson (no, UW's Charles isn't the father of Cal's Tyler) to the Cal 32, and Washington was in business with 1:41 to go in the half. After a Pickett pass gained 9, a huge 10-yard sack by DE Josh Gustaveson temporarily pushed the Huskies out of field goal range - well, maybe not, considering the way Anderson was kicking. Then the yellow laundry started flying. UW was called for a false start. Cal was whistled for holding. UW was nailed for an illegal shift. UW was busted for holding. Somewhere in there, some actual football was played, and Pickett completed passes to the Cal 8 before Anderson booted a 26-yard field goal with 20 seconds left. At the half, Cal led, 21-16.

On Cal's first drive of the third quarter, the running game got untracked. Igber carried three times for 43 yards, including his longest run of the day (28 yards) that brought Cal to the UW 23. That was as good as it got for Joe, whose other 28 carries on our other drives resulted in only 49 yards. Anyway, on first down, Boller executed a nice play fake and found a wide-open Tom Swoboda for a TD. The two-point conversion pass failed, and Cal's lead was 27-16. Far be it for me to question anything Tedford has done this season, but the logic of going for two escapes me, especially that early in the game with 11+ minutes remaining in Q3. Two points would've meant that the Huskies needed a TD and two FGs to tie, but zero meant that UW could catch us with only a TD & 2-point conversion and a FG. I wasn't a math major, and took the easy way out by taking the Math 16A/16B series, so theoretical math problems were never my gig.

The teams pretty much traded punts for the rest of the period, with the only hiccup being a Washington safety when Boller was called for intentional grounding in the end zone. The Huskies' offense got near midfield twice, once after the free kick following the safety, but Cal's defense held both times. After the Cal defense struggled in Q3 against both Air Force and Washington State, the Bears didn't give up a point (though the offense did) and held UW to a measly 63 yards on its four Q3 possessions.

At the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Bears' position was precarious after UW's punter McLaughlin backed us up to our own 4 and a false-start penalty pushed us back further to the 2. Rather than playing it safe, though, Cal came out firing. On the first two plays of Q4, Boller hit TE Brandon Hall for 20 yards and Ward for 53, taking Cal all the way to the UW 25. A holding penalty and a 10-yard sack of Boller stopped the march, but at least the Bears had ensured that UW wouldn't get great field position. Indeed, Fredrickson's ensuing punt was downed at the UW 5, and now it was the Huskies who were in a hole. On second down, Pickett's pass was intercepted by CB Jemeel Powell, whose penchant for making big plays has returned after a one-year hiatus his junior year. Powell returned the pick 7 yards to the UW 8, and three plays later, Boller found Ward for a 2-yard TD pass. Kyle's career-high fifth touchdown toss gave Cal a 34-18 lead with only 10 minutes left. Thanks to the defense forcing turnovers, Cal's offense had its second eight-yard TD drive of the afternoon. Boller's 5-TD outburst was the third highest in Cal history, ranking behind Pat Barnes' 8-TD outburst in the quadruple-OT 56-55 win over Arizona in 1996 and Mike Pawlawski's 6-TD output in the 86-24 shellacking of hapless UOP in 1991.

The situation looked very favorable for the Bears, but did the Huskies have us right where they wanted us? After all, we had a 14-point Q3 lead in 1999, an 11-point Q4 lead in 2000, and a 14-point Q2 lead in 2001 - and somehow managed to lose all three times. But this time, finally, the Bears didn't give in, though Washington definitely made it scary. UW embarked on a 19-play, 82-yard drive and converted three third downs and two fourth downs in the process, including a 3-yard Pickett run on fourth and 1 from the UW 46 and a TD run by Pickett on fourth and goal from the Cal 1. The Huskies' problem was that it took way too much time, as UW chewed up over six minutes despite using the hurry-up offense. The longest play covered 11 yards, and UW had to cover 25 yards twice thanks to 15-yard personal foul and 10-yard holding calls. Just to keep the game interesting, Cal contributed almost 20 yards on roughing-the passer and pass-interference penalties. When the two-point conversion pass failed, Washington had only four minutes and needed to score twice.

After the touchdown, Washington went for an onside kick. Cal recovered, but then near-disaster struck: on second down, Igber fumbled the ball away at the UW 44. Given new life, Pickett gave Bear fans more reason to rush for antacid when he completed a 16-yard pass to Cleman to the Cal 39 on third-and-10 and a 37-yard pass to WR Reggie Williams to the Cal 14 on fourth and 22. The defense held, though, helped tremendously when DE Tully Banta-Cain sacked Pickett for a 5-yard loss. UW took the sure bet on fourth and 15 from the Cal 19, and Anderson kicked a 37-yard FG to pull UW within 7. The Husky offense did not see the ball again. McArthur recovered the onside kick, and with UW already having burned its three timeouts during its comeback attempt, the Huskies could do nothing to stop the clock. The Huskies had stunned the Bears in previous years - see the horrific Cal collapses at the end of the 1993 and 2000 games - but there was to be no UW magic this year. Igber held onto the ball on three rushes and Cal had finally beaten Washington!

There were no recent precedents for a victory of this magnitude. First and foremost, Cal's 19-game string of futility to Washington ended at 19 games. Cal beat a team ranked as high as #12 for the first time since Chuck Muncie & Co. upset #4 USC, 28-14, in 1975. Cal beat a team ranked as high as #12 on the road for the first time since the Bears went to Bloomington to nip #10 Indiana, 17-14, in 1969. Cal beat two top-15 teams in the same season for the first time since 1951. Cal beat two top-15 teams on the road in the same season for the first time since 1936. It kills me that Cal is doing this in the one season that we're ineligible for a bowl, but of course I'm ecstatic that, in the words of Asomugha, "The Bears are back!"

In the aftermath of last year's Cal/UW debacle, in which the Bears blew a double-digit lead to the Huskies for the third consecutive season, Washington coach Rick Neuheisel crowed, "It's an amazing deal. I can only imagine what they're thinking on the other side." Well, shucks, Rick, how does it feel to have lost both the 19-game streak over Cal and the Huskies' 17-game home winning streak? "We're going to have to really do some soul-searching about what we're doing, how we're doing it, and getting back to being a fundamentally-sound football team that can do things that represent a very good team… I'm really, really sick about losing our home-field streak." I hate to laugh about another team's misfortune, since we're usually the ones moaning about losses, but in this case I'll make an exception: (insert Nelson Muntz's voice here) "Heh-heh!"

The Huskies did a lot of post-game complaining about the officiating, and its sounds like they had some legitimate beefs. Apparently, Cal's defensive strategy was to mug the big UW receivers and see what they could get away with. We were flagged for numerous pass-interference penalties, but there could have been more. WR Williams, who had better learn to be a little more discreet before he heads into the NFL lest he face stiff fines, griped, "Our receivers are so great, they tried to press and get our guys off our routes. We just didn't get calls when somebody's ripping off your jersey. They're probably all cockeyed, or they have cataracts or something." Sorry fellas, the zebras giveth and the zebras taketh away, and today you didn't get the breaks. It happens, as Cal fans know all too well.

Boller said, "We can say, 'It's history. It's over.' People will remember 2002 as the year the Golden Bears came in here, played a good game and won." Yes, we certainly will, Kyle! Amazingly, after a quarter of a century of Cal futility in the series, Washington is now the only Pac-10 team against which the Bears currently have a winning streak. #20 USC lurks next weekend, and the Coliseum has become my favorite road venue - because Cal has won three consecutive times there. Too bad Paul "0-3 vs. Cal" Hackett isn't still at USC! Anyway, I'm planning on departing for LA on Thursday. Unfortunately, I won't be able to write a game report in a timely manner because I'm going on a two-week trip to Europe starting on Sunday night (meaning I'll also miss the UCLA game, doggone it). Don't ask why I'm going during football season - it's a long story, and I'm not happy about it. Barring any mishaps, though, I should be back in time for the Oregon State game on the 26th.

Go Bears! Beat the Trojans! (and the Bruins, and the Beavers…)


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