Cal's Aaron Rodgers overcame an ineffective day to lead the fifth-ranked Golden Bears. Rodgers was 12-of-23 for 161 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also threw two interceptions. Luckily, Cal had a very effective running game, powered by two backs rushing for over 100 yards. Both J.J. Arrington and the freshman Lynch rushed for 121 yards, with Lynch scoring 3 TDs.
"I was very proud of the way our guys competed, and we just had some things happen to us," said Gilbertson. "It's almost impossible to explain. Our guys did a great job. I thought our kids did a nice job of running routes and getting open and making some plays down the field. I felt going into the game that we were going to be successful by throwing the ball, and I think this group as receivers as our second group of receivers is getting the hang of it, and it is tough to get. It takes some time, because so much coaching went into Charles Frederick and Corey Williams so these guys are getting it."
Gilbertson also took time to compliment Casey Paus. Paus did become the first Washington QB this season to pass for over 300 yards, but was still erratic at times and was 20-of-44 for 328 yards and 3 INTs.
"I thought Casey Paus threw some very good balls," he said. "For the most part, I am very pleased with the outing that we had. In comparison to how we left the field at California last year, I think the California team thinks that we competed well, played hard and did their best. I can't complain."
He added later on, "I think for the most part I think he threw some really good balls in there and moved the ball consistently. It's been awhile since we have thrown for over 300 yards. I would still like to think that we could throw for over 50 percent and not throw as many interceptions as we throw, but we also got some big plays. I saw some progress in a lot of ways."
The passing game got a huge boost from the breakout day of freshman WR Craig Chambers. The Mill Creek native made all doubters eat crow with huge day, catching 8 passes for 189 yards and 1 TD. Chambers went down hard in the first half when he was leveled in the ribs by a Cal defender on an incomplete pass and Gilbertson was very blunt in his feelings about the no-call.
"The shot he took to the ribs in the first half was clearly a penalty," he said. "A hit that late with the ball on the ground is clearly a penalty. He was really hurt after that play, really tender."
Gilbertson also explained the recent emergence of the highly-touted Chambers.
"This is a guy who decided he was tired of sitting on the sidelines and he did something about it. He went out and got better. He worked harder in practice and got faster and more explosive. Those things weren't there early. Trust me we are putting the best guys out there that we have in practice and he clearly has improved a great deal. I think he has some confidence back about what he can do."
"I know Casey likes throwing to (Chambers) because he is a big target. But there is an example of a guy who went to work and got better in practice. He went from the scout team to eight catches today for a big number. It shows others that you can do it. You can work, you can get better all season and it is a great lesson for a lot of guys. I think guys have to be tired of being down in the depths and work their way up, and he did. His practice habits are better and he has more confidence and runs routes more precise than he did. He has great speed and he catches it. He is a big guy and he is fast, and I am really happy for him."
Washington, who came into their own stadium as 30-point underdogs, stayed in the game for the early part and only trailed by one at halftime. Gilbertson said that he felt his team played confidently against a highly ranked foe.
"I really thought we could win (the game) until late in the third quarter when they really started getting away from us," he said. "We came back and ended up with two drives, and although we didn't get any points out of them, we moved the ball for all four quarters the best we have, against the caliber of defense from California."
The turning point occurred when the Huskies were pinned deep in their own territory and had to punt the ball from their end zone on a three-and-out. Confusion of assignments due to the injuries left the punting unit scrambling and they weren't able to properly set themselves. Cal took advantage and mad rush of defenders blocked the Sean Douglas punt and gave the Bears a quick six on the scoreboard.
"We had the middle guy in our shield get injured, and so instead of running in there he limped off the field and by the time we got our backup in the game they just rushed it. I thought we were awful slow on blocking that one."
Speaking of injuries, a couple more and possibly three starters were added to the disabled list. Joe Lobedahn broke his wrist in the third quarter as he dove for a scrambling Rodgers. Tight end Joe Toledo also left the game and Dashon Goldson aggravated a pre-existing shoulder injury.
"We had a lot of substitutions, and we had a lot of guys get injured," said Gilbertson. "We lost three or four guys today. Joe Lobendahn seriously fractured his wrist and he is out for the season. Joe Toledo injured his lower back and his ribs and he couldn't continue to play. Dashon Goldson has been fighting a shoulder injury which will be surgically repaired at the end of next season."
But then he fielded questions about his emotions about coaching his final game at the stadium and school he holds near and dear to his heart. As he and the assistant coaches left the field following the game, his family greeted him in front of the tunnel, tears rolling down their faces as they embraced. Scott Pelluer and Steve Axman also embraced their wives and wiped the tears off their faces as they all left the field together.
"I have been coming here since I was four or five years old," he said as he wiped away a tear. "I've seen a lot of great football games and met a lot of great people. This is a place where people like to coach, and is a tough place to leave."
"People fall in love with Washington. This becomes more than just a job. This is a great place and I really want the best for Washington football. It really becomes part of your family because it is such a big part of your life in a very good way."
During a pre-game ceremony with all of the departing seniors, Gilbertson was surprised with an honorary letterman's jacket presented to him by the captains.
"I didn't have any idea." Gilbertson said, with his voice slightly cracking and trying to compose himself as he talked about his players. "They are just such great kids and they have been through hell. They just play, and are great to coach. I thought the events of last week really got to them, but the way they came back this week and prepared, I thought we were going to get out there and play well like we did for most of the game. They are just such great kids to be around on a daily basis. And all of the kids that I have coached here at Washington have been just sensational. There's nothing like kids at the University of Washington."
And what does that letterman's jacket mean to the "ol' ball coach?"
"It means Jim Owens is wrong," Gilbertson said with a smile. "I did letter at Washington"
Keith Gilbertson Scout Profile