Ride the lighting, Cal football.
Roughly seven hours after its scheduled kick off, the Bears earned Sunday’s first football victory, defeating No. 14 Washington 20-19 after Bears kicker Greg Thomas slotted home the game-winning 17-yard field goal with eight seconds to spare.
Down by two points with under a minute left in the game, quarterback Chase Garbers and the Cal offense marched down the field with intent. Garbers found his new favorite target Kekoa Crawford for a 27-yard gain to set up Thomas, and send Cal home victorious for the first time in Seattle since 2015.
After a dramatic 2-hour-and-50-minute lightning storm delay, it took both teams the remainder of the first quarter to get their affairs in order and begin to produce.
Both teams elected to ply their trade on the ground at the start of the second quarter, with the Huskies applying the first seven-point blow of the game thanks to running back Salvon Ahmed’s quick misdirection on an inside handoff. The tailback did just enough to fool Cal safety Ashtyn Davis en-route to a 21-yard touchdown.
Down 10-0, running back Christopher Brown Jr. brought back the thunder with two gains of over 10 yards on the next drive to set up kicker Greg Thomas for the 23-yard field goal conversion.
Cal’s defense stayed in the action after their slow start by taking the ball away from Washington quarterback Jacob Eason not once but twice in the second quarter. Cornerback Camryn Bynum snatched his first interception of the season, and linebacker Ben Hawk Schrider recovered an Eason fumble thanks to linebacker Evan Weaver’s menacing strip-sack.
As Saturday’s first half appetizer was finished, Sunday’s main course was about to be served.
Running back Marcel Dancy did his running back partner one-better to start the second half, finding acres of space through Washington’s defensive front en-route to two 20-plus yard gains, the second of which saw him weaving through missed Huskies tackles into the end zone for his first touchdown of the season — 1,034 days after Cal’s last offensive touchdown against Washington.
A prompt field goal from Washington in response didn’t phase the run-happy Bears, as the duo of Garbers and Brown used their legs to set up Dancy to prance into the end zone untouched to take the lead, 17-13. Dancy’s two rushing touchdowns were a career-high.
Quarterback Jacob Eason and the Washington offense switched on at the start of the fourth quarter, utilizing a combination of short, quick passes to drive into the red zone. A false start on 4th-and-inches from the two-yard-line, however, forced Washington’s third field goal of the game with eight minutes left. Richard Newton picked up 11 yards on the next Huskies drive, eventually setting up kicker Peyton Henry’s 49-yard field goal to take the two-point lead.
After yet another field goal from Washington, this time a 49-yard belter from kicker Peyton Henry, Garbers returned to the field with two minutes on the clock, throwing arguably his best ball of the season to wide receiver Jordan Duncan for a crucial 19 yards that eventually set up the game-winner.
Cal ended the game with about 200 yards rushing for the second game in a row, a stat no one saw coming before the beginning of the season. Garbers’ contribution to the run game was substantial, with 42 massive yards, often keeping the Bears on the field by converting third downs.
On defense, Weaver and linebacking partner Kuony Deng landed atop the tackling charts once again, with 14 and 9 respectively. Cal’s secondary, dubbed “the Takers,” took all that they could out of the Washington receiving core, capping an unforgettable night for Cal football.
The Bears return home to play North Texas at California Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Kickoff is at 1:15 p.m. PST.