No one wanted the football Friday night at Memorial Stadium.
In a game that featured eight turnovers and few moments of coherent football, the Bears fumbled their chance for a postseason in a 21-13 loss to Washington.
“Shoutout to Washington,” said Cal linebacker Chris McCain. “They came into our house and dominated us.”
Cal (3-7, 2-5 in the Pac-12) came out of the gates looking nothing like a team desperate for a win for a shot at bowl eligibility. The Bears got the turnover party going in the first quarter, spoiling two sustained drives with fumbles deep in Washington territory and going scoreless for the sixth time this season.
The Huskies (5-4, 3-3) responded by running over the Bears for 104 first-quarter rushing yards against an injury-battered front seven. Running back Bishop Sankey put his team up 7-0 with a four-yard sprint up the middle.
“We still didn’t tackle very well,” said Cal head coach Jeff Tedford. “We don’t have a lot of depth there to rotate guys in right now. Some of the guys are battling their hardest and playing on one leg. There’s no one else to play.”
But seven first-half penalties and two failed fourth down conversions prevented Washington from building on that lead. The squad had little trouble moving the ball, but offensive miscues kept them out of the end zone.
It was then Cal’s turn to take advantage. After a Washington personal foul kept a drive alive, freshman receiver Chris Harper took a reverse, beat his man to the corner, dove for the endzone and clipped the pylon to knot the game up at seven apiece.
“I just came into the game with a lot of energy and a lot of excitement,” Harper said. “I wanted to do something early to spark some energy into our team.”
The Bears then turned their opening possession of the second half into a 23-yard field goal from Vince D’Amato. Forbes then forced a Sankey fumble, and D’Amato punched another kick through the uprights, this time from 21 yards out to put the Bears up, 13-7.
“A lot of the fumbles were caused by guys flying in and putting their hat on the ball,” Forbes said. “I was pursuing the ball, and they were popping out.”
Washington would then find its offensive rhythm again. First, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins climbed a Steve Williams ladder to catch a 43-yard pass at Cal’s nine-yard line. Three plays later, he did the exact same thing, this time for a 29-yard touchdown to take back the lead at 14-13. The Bears had no answer for the 6-foot-7 tight end, who finished with eight catches for 151 yards.
“He’s an athlete,” said McCain. “Every play is tough with him. I appreciate it, because he made me work on what I needed to work on.”
Then things got weird.
Deep in Cal territory, linebacker Brennan Scarlett jarred the ball loose from Price. But then quarterback Zach Maynard followed suit and gave the ball back to Washington, fumbling on the Huskies’ 48.
The Huskies decided to keep the game of hot potato going, as Forbes knocked the ball out of Seferian-Jenkins hands for the games’ seventh turnover. But Maynard promptly telegraphed a pass to safety Shaq Thompson — the fourth turnover in 11 plays.
The Huskies finally cleaned things up, and Sankey punched in a one-yard touchdown to push the lead to 21-13.
After Maynard went down with a left knee injury, backup Allan Bridgford came in for one last drive, but was unable to sustain the drive, resulting in Cal’s third straight loss. The extent of Maynard’s injury is unknown.
“The state of the program is fine,” Tedford said. “We had a down year, and we need to do some better things. I’m very committed to this program and getting back to where we need to be.”
Connor Byrne covers football. Contact him at [email protected]