Bears prepared to bite back at Huskies after last year’s sting

Jeffrey Joh/Staff
Cal's defense will have its hands full with Washington's offensive weapons, which include dual-threat quarterback Keith Price and productive running back Chris Polk.

The Cal football team ended its 2010 season with a nasty dog bite.

Last November, Washington drove the length of Memorial Stadium and scored a touchdown as time — and the Bears’ postseason aspirations — expired.

The loss still stings for Cal, making Saturday’s 12:30 p.m. face-off at Husky Stadium in Seattle a revenge of sorts.

“Everyone knows what happened last year, so the team’s pretty fired up about it,” linebacker Mychal Kendricks said.

The Huskies (2-1) have beaten the Bears (3-0) in their last two matchups, as well as the last two in Seattle. Coming off a thrilling Big Game victory in 2009 with hopes for a major bowl, Cal went up Seattle to end the regular season and was destroyed, 42-10, by a middling Husky club.

With the seemingly impenetrable duo of No. 5 Stanford and No. 10 Oregon — and paltry potential of Washington State and Oregon State — these two teams could, in their Pac-12 opener, end up deciding third place in the division.

Not that anyone is looking that far ahead. For now, the Bears are preparing for their first conference road game, and what will likely be the most difficult venue they’ve seen yet.

“In a loud stadium like that, you always need to make sure communication is key,” said coach Jeff Tedford, who added that his team has been practicing with simulated crowd noise.

In past years, a major focus in game preparation for Washington was Jake Locker, who was selected eighth overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. Kendricks didn’t appear to miss the dual-threat quarterback he called “fast and strong as hell,” though Locker’s replacement is no slouch.

Keith Price is tied for first in the country with 11 touchdown passes and is in the top 20 in QB rating. The sophomore signal-caller threw for four touchdowns and 274 yards against a stingy Nebraska defense last week in the Huskies’ 51-38 loss.

Unlike Locker, who would tuck the ball and run, Price prefers to throw on the run — and he’s been accurate, completing nearly two-thirds of his passes.

“It definitely adds another aspect to the game,” Kendricks said. “It makes our job a little harder, but that’s just the way the game is.

“We’ve just got to put pressure on him.”

Price’s mobility will test the Bears’ defense, which will already have its hands full with trying to tackle Chris Polk. Washington’s star tailback ranks 10th nationally in rushing yards and has surpassed 100 yards in all three games.

“He’s a strong, hard runner,” Kendricks said. “He likes to make a lot of yards after contact.”

Polk rushed for a combined 180 yards in the teams’ last two matchups, and scored the game-winning touchdown last year on a one-yard run. He torched the No. 9 Cornhuskers last week to the tune of 130 yards on just 22 carries.

Washington was down just three to Nebraska at the half, but 20 yards in penalties and a dropped kick return gave the Cornhuskers two easy scoring opportunities early in the third quarter to put the game out of reach.

Giving up 464 yards of offense wasn’t pretty, but at least the Huskies were playing a top-10 team. Juxtaposed with Cal’s defensive showing against Colorado — 582 total yards allowed —  the Huskies should have might have an advantage on paper. The Bears did give up only 48 yards last Saturday, though that was to FCS school Presbyterian.

“Every game is different,” Tedford said. “Every protection is different. You don’t know how people utilize certain things. So it really depends on what they do.”

One thing both Cal and Washington do is turn the ball over. They each have three interceptions and a fumble on the season, and Saturday’s outcome could rest on who makes the most mistakes.