The story of the game, in a nutshell, was that Washington turned the ball over twice inside it’s own 10-yard line while Cal didn’t have a turnover until late in the fourth quarter.
Washington was extremely one-dimensional, only able to rush for 42 total yards. Pickett completed 35 of 59 throws for 399 yards but no touchdowns and two interceptions, and was sacked five times. Because of the lack of a rushing attack, Cal’s defensive backs played a physical brand of football, throwing Washington’s receivers off balance and not showing Pickett a lot of room to throw.
Pickett’s 399 yards marked the seventh time he’s been over 300 yards, a school record. He has broken the 300-yard plateau five consecutive games.
“They were the better team today,” lamented Husky coach Rick Neuheisel. “We’ll have to do some soul searching. We turned the ball over and you cannot afford to in Pac-10 play.”
“They outplayed us. We have a lot of work to do. We all share in it, and it starts with me,” said Neuheisel in reference to his non-existent rushing offense.
Conversely Cal was able to run the ball effectively enough to keep the Husky defense from ganging up on Boller. Senior tailback Joe Igber rushed for 92 yards on 31 carries and Boller added 23 more on six rushes.
With 8:32 in the first quarter the Bears drew first blood, taking advantage of the aggressive youthful secondary for Washington. Boller handed off to TB Joe Igber up the middle, but the stocky tailback feinted into the line and turned back to his quarterback. He pitched the ball back to Boller, who looked downfield to see wide receiver Jonathan Makonnen a good 20-yards behind the drawn in safeties. Derrick Johnson attempted in vain to run back to defend the flea-flicker but the results were a gimmie 40-yard touchdown and an early 7-0 Cal lead.
“That play shouldn’t have been that big,” said Defensive Coordinator Tim Hundley. “There was no excuse, it was a breakdown in discipline.”
Washington answered the wake up call by going 72 yards in seven plays. A key in the drive was Kevin Ware’s 19-yard reception across the middle. He went high for a Pickett aerial and snagged it with his hands before crashing to the turf. On second and three from the Cal 21, senior tailback Braxton Cleman took the handoff, cut behind a Kevin Ware block and met safety Bert Watts in the hole. Cleman kept his head up, his knees driving, and soon was through Watts’ tackle and into the open field where he ran untouched into the endzone to knot the score at 7-all.
Washington added to it on a 51-yard Anderson field goal on their next possession to give the Huskies the lead at the end of the first quarter.
On Cal’s next drive, linebacker Ben Mahdavi nailed Igber for a 4-yard loss, followed by Carothers drilling him for a loss of three to kill the Bear’s next drive. A 50-yard Tyler Frederickson punt forced the Huskies to begin their first drive of the second quarter on their own 4-yard line. It would prove disastrous for the fumble-prone Huskies.
Despite not practicing all week, Rich Alexis entered the game at tailback. Neuheisel said it was an attempt to jump start the rushing attack, but it backfired terribly when Alexis was unable to take Cody Pickett’s handoff cleanly, fumbling it into the line where Cal recovered on the Husky 8. “He was rusty, it was my fault putting him in that situation,” said Neuheisel.
It took one play for LaShaun Ward to catch a quick out and outmaneuver the Husky pursuit into the endzone to push the Bears in front 14-10, a lead they would never relinquish.
Washington answered, using a 14-yard Frederick reception followed by a 35-yard Pickett to Arnold bomb that set the Huskies up near the red zone. Cal stiffened and Anderson was summoned once again to put the ball through the pipes. He did so from 41-yards out to pull within one.
Cal went 93 yards in nine plays to reply. Igber was used on the ground to root the ball out of the shadows of their own endzone, and caught a 14-yard dump pass across the middle to convert a third and seven. At the Cal 45, Boller faked to Igber to the left, rolled back to his right and threw back across the field to a wide open Vincent Strang, who had gotten behind Evan Benjamin. The 55-yard score put the Bears on top by eight.
Washington was well on their way to answering again after consecutive third and long conversions, a 14-yard reception by Reddick followed by a 16-yard catch by Reggie Williams. But on first down at the Cal 40, Pickett threw deep for Williams and the ball floated enough to allow Bear safety Nnamdi Asomugha to intercept the ball at the four.
Pickett had attempted 112 passes in a row without interception prior to the pick.
An 11-yard Arnold reception set up a Pat Reddick score on a 16-yard slant pattern, but an illegal shift penalty nullified the touchdown. A holding penalty pushed the ball further out of the red zone. On third and 17 Reddick made a 13-yard grab to allow Anderson to chip it through the uprights from 26-yards out to close the deficit to 21-16 at the half.
For the fourth consecutive year the Huskies trailed the Bears after 30 minutes. However the outcome would be different this time.
On Cal’s first drive of the second half, Joe Igber made the run of the game. He took a handoff around left end and absolutely faked the shorts off of true freshman Nate Robinson. Robinson was in to replace an injured Roc Alexander, and had Igber held to a short gain in isolation until Igber juked and left him standing still. 28 yards later Cal had the ball at the Husky 21. Robinson was once again victimized as Cal flooded his side of the field with two receivers, one running underneath while TE Tom Swoboda ran through the zone and uncovered to the Husky endzone. Boller easily lofted the ball to him for the score, giving Cal a 27-16 lead.
Washington was unable to get their offense untracked throughout the third quarter as Cal’s defensive backs played the Husky receivers extremely physical and Pickett was not able to find any openings. After a delay of game penalty with 4:43 left in the third, the boo birds made an appearance. Only a 35-yard completion to Reddick on a slant pattern saved the quarter from being a shutout for Cal, as the Huskies were only able to compile 60 yards in the frame.
Jimmy Newell provided the only spark of the quarter by crashing on a safety blitz and getting to Boller in the endzone. Boller threw the ball away for an intentional grounding penalty, good for a safety to slice the Cal lead to nine just before the quarter ended.
Frederick’s ensuing 26-yard return on the kickoff put the ball on the 47-yard line, but sack by tackle Josh Beckhan killed the drive before it got started.
The first play of the fourth quarter was a big one for Cal. Facing second and 12 from their own two-yard line and a raucous crowd, Boller stepped up and threw a dart that TE Brandon Hall snared for a 20-yard gain. Boller followed that up by throwing to LaShaun Ward, who had gotten behind Massey, good for 53 yards to put the ball on the Husky 25. Just when it looked as if the Bears would punch it in and seal the deal, a holding penalty and a sack by Anthony Kelley moved the ball back to nearly midfield. Frederickson’s punt would be downed on the Husky five, setting up the next critical Husky snafu.
On second and 10 Pickett dropped back, looked left, and under duress, lobbed a wobbly pass back to the right intended for Williams. Jemeel Powell was sitting in front of Reggie and easily picked the ball off at the Husky 8. On third and goal from the two, Ward did what the Cal defensive backs had been doing to the Huskies all game. He knocked Roc Alexander to the turf at the line of scrimmage and Boller threw a bullet to him for his fifth TD pass of the game.
With 10:13 remaining in the game, trailing 34-18, Washington went on a peculiar 19-play drive that culminated in a touchdown but chewed over six minutes off of the clock. It took the Huskies forever to punch it in as it took four plays to get in from the Cal 8. The two-point conversion failed, leaving the deficit at 10. The 19-play drive tied for the longest in school history in terms of number of plays, but it came at the worst possible time.
The Huskies tried to crawl back to life one last time as Marquis Cooper drilled Igber and caused him to cough it up. Safety Greg Carothers recovered and Washington had the ball at the 45-yard line with 3:42 remaining.
Cal’s defense toughened, however, and Pickett was sacked three times as the Huskies were only able to advance the ball to the Cal 19. Anderson booted his fourth field goal of the game from 37-yards out to provide the final scoring in the game.
Cal recovered the onside kick and ran the clock out to end Washington’s home winning streak, as well as the 26-year drought against Washington.
Player quotes and notes will be posted tomorrow.