Sometimes everything goes wrong at the same time. When Cal played Washington on Saturday only one thing went wrong, but it went wrong over and over again.
The Bears fumbled the football five times against the Huskies — losing three of them — and ultimately fumbled away the game, 31-7. The 44,449 fans in attendance for Cal’s homecoming game streamed out of the stands early as the Bears failed to score in the first half and ultimately fell to 4-2 on the season, including 2-2 in the Pac-12.
For Cal’s vaunted offense, the first half of play against Washington (5-1, 1-1 Pac-12) was nothing short of a disaster. The Bears put up just 180 yards and failed to score even a single point in the first two quarters as the Huskies dropped 28 in the first half.
“We got our tails kicked pretty good today,” said Cal head coach Sonny Dykes. “We did not respond very well to a little bit of adversity early in the ball game. … We didn’t do a good job of getting our players ready to play, and that falls on me.”
The problem for the Bears was some combination of bad luck and sloppy play. Cal’s implosion began on their second drive of the game, when Cal drove the ball deep into Washington territory. After getting the ball all the way to the two-yard-line, a penalty backed the Bears up to the seven-yard line. On the next play, a rush by Daniel Lasco put the Bears on the one-yard line after the junior running back was ruled just short of a touchdown. From there, Dykes elected to keep the ball in Jared Goff’s hands — but not to throw it. To run it.
Goff lunged over the top of the offensive line, extending the ball forward to try to put the ball in the end zone. But before he crossed the plane, he lost control of the football, fumbling it. Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson scooped the ball up, broke through a pile of players, and sprinted the length of the field to the endzone for the first score of the game, putting the Huskies up 7-0.
“Just trying to make a play,” Goff said. “Just trying to go over the top and get into the endzone. Unfortunately didn’t work out the way I wanted it to, and even worse, it gave them seven points.”
For Goff, the fumbling issues would continue. He lost another fumble near the end of the first quarter to give Washington the ball at the Cal 25-yard line, setting up an easy touchdown throw from quarterback Cyler Miles.
“We really gave them 14 points offensively,” Goff said. “And then (the defense) gave up 17, which is very winnable. Very winnable.”
Goff fumbled the ball yet again, this time with under five minutes left in the second quarter on a third and four. This one he didn’t lose, but it backed Cal up enough to move the Bears out of field goal range, killing another Bears drive. The sophomore quarterback would fumble once more in the second half, but the Bears were able to recover and keep the chains moving on that drive, ending with a three-yard touchdown run by Lasco to get the Bears on the board for the first time in the game.
Down 28-7, the Bears had one final chance to mount a comeback with 14:53 left in the fourth quarter. But, here too, a fumble would stop Cal in its tracks, with Trevor Davis losing the football as Washington recovered it. A sack and a tackle for a loss backed the Huskies up, but Cameron Van Winkle was able to boot a 42-yard field goal through the uprights, pushing the Washington lead to a nearly-insurmountable 31-7.
“The worst performance offensively that I’ve been involved in in a long time, and, again, that’s my fault,” Dykes said.
With the sun setting and the shadows in Memorial Stadium stretching across the quickly-emptying seats, Cal was unable to get the lightning-quick, miracle comeback it needed. The Bears ultimately finished with 368 yards of offense — their lowest total of the season. Washington only outgained the Bears by 16 yards, but the turnovers ultimately tilted the game in the Huskies’ favor.
“Everybody was saying we could score 50 points easily, and I think a lot of people bought into it,” Lasco said. “… Throughout the past couple weeks we’ve had so much success on offense that I think it got to our heads. It’s just a lesson learned.”