Ugly is in the Eye of the Beholder

BERKELEY, Calif. – It was ugly. In fact, it was very ugly. On one of the last plays of the Washington-California game Friday night, three flags littered the field and fans and media alike could only chuckle when the referee announced offsetting penalties: A hold and an intentional grounding on the offense, a roughing the passer on the defense.

"Replay the down," the referee, Shawn Hochuli, announced to the crowd. It only seemed fitting. It may not have been pretty, but it was a 21-13 win at California, and to a Washington team that had been winless on the road since beating Utah 13 months ago, they will gladly take it.

"At the end of the day it's good to find a way to win," an upbeat and relieved Huskies Head Coach Steve Sarkisian said afterwards. "I think that's a sign of a good football team, that you can find a way to win a game that is ugly. "

There's that word again – UGLY. And this 21-13 contest, while improving the Huskies to 5-4 on the season and one win away from bowl eligibility, was as hard on the eyes as any in quite some time.

At times it felt like the game had to be a carnival of errors that could only have been promoted by Barnum and Bailey. It had turnovers -- eight of them, in fact; both teams lost three fumbles and were intercepted once.

It had dropped passes. None were more painful for the Huskies than when speedy freshman Jaydon Mickens broke free in the first quarter for a sure touchdown that would have made it a 14-0 but failed to haul in a perfectly weighted pass from Keith Price delivered right in Mickens' hands.

It had blown coverages. With Cal facing a third-and-23 at their own 16 in the third quarter, C.J. Anderson took a simple handoff and busted it out for a 64-yard gain that ended being a 74-yard play after the Huskies were flagged for a horse collar personal foul. That put the Bears at UW's 10 and led to a field goal that gave them their first lead of the game.

And this circus sideshow definitely had penalties. Washington was flagged 12 times for 108 yards in all.

"That's not acceptable," Sarkisian said. "It's too much. It's too hard to win; not only is it hard to win when you have 12 penalties, but I think when you turn the ball over four times that's hard. For us to overcome all of that and still win this game is pretty cool."

For a while there, it seemed like nothing could go right for the visitors from Seattle - which is what you'd expect for a team searching for its first road win in seven.

"We just hit a stretch there where we couldn't find any rhythm," Sarkisian said. "We'd run it and we'd lose two. We'd throw it, and it was just hard. It was ugly. …"

But what can't be overlooked is the final score. Huskies tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins put things perfectly after the game, saying that while he's not a numbers guy, he does pay attention to "5-4" … the Huskies' record. And after a career-high for catches (8) and yards (154), Seferian-Jenkins had room to crow.

But as the saying goes, an ugly win is better than a pretty loss. Today. Tomorrow. And forever.

So what other positives can the Huskies take away from this one, a game where they came away victorious against a down-and-out Golden Bears team that fell to 3-7 on the season and, some would argue, had no business making it as close as it was? For one, they can feel good about winning on the road. Not only was it their first win away from Seattle in over a year, it was only the fifth in 20 tries during coach Sarkisian's four seasons at Montlake.

No matter how you look at it, that's gotta feel good for everyone in the program. "As I've said before, when it comes to losing it can be contagious, but so is winning," Sarkisian said. "Winning is pretty contagious."

Secondly, the defense came to play - even on a night when the offense often couldn't get out of its own way. It did surrender 450 yards, 39 more than the UW gained on offense but it stiffened at the right time, particularly in the red zone.

"It was big," said Sarkisian. "Our red zone defense was tremendous tonight. Not only early in the game creating a couple of the turnovers, but forcing the field goals. It was obvious the bend-but-don't-break mentality was going on there for a while."

It's a good thing too because the Huskies needed every point they could get. It wasn't until Bishop Sankey capped a tremendous day on the ground with a 1-yard plunge into the end zone with 4:11 remaining in the game until Washington, up eight, could finally breathe easy. It meant the Huskies had won the last 11 they've played decided by less than 10 points. They are finding ways to win in crunch time.

And Sankey, the sophomore from Spokane who finished with 189 yards and two touchdowns on the night, continues to look more and more like the next great Huskies' tailback - which was fun to see when you take into account arguably UW's greatest running back ever - Napoleon Kaufman - was watching from the sidelines.

Next up for the Huskies is the final home game at CenturyLink Field, a date with a Utah team that laid 49 on Cal only last week. A win there and the Huskies can start making bowl plans but they still have two winnable road games against Colorado and Washington State to play first.


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