Cal began its Pac-12 stint away from the Bay with a nail-biting overtime loss of 31-24 against the University of Washington. Kicking off conference play for the Bears, this game — while irrelevant to the greater season — had the potential to do some real damage to the blue and gold’s morale.
The match started with both of the conference’s black sheep marching onto the field in typical beginning-of-the-game fashion. Washington was coming off of an embarrassing 7-13 preseason loss to subdivision team Montana, while Cal endured a marginal win against Sacramento State last week, handing the Hornets 30 points on a blue-and-gold platter.
Severely lacking in the defensive department as well as in its secondary, Cal faced a big challenge leading up to the faceoff — one that could only be solved by adding the word “tackle” into its vocabulary. Unfortunately, it is safe to say that the Bears remain unaware of that definition. Passes were let through, snaps were fumbled and throws came up short. If the blue and gold were aiming to move forward from their deficient preseason, this game often showed few signs of it.
The matchup kicked into gear with a touchdown in the eighth minute from the Huskies, which was a seemingly easy completion, but it was as if the Bears made room for the opposition to exit out of the field pocket and add 6 points to their side of the field. With Washington quarterback Dylan Morris being legitimately unimpressive in his past few games, it was surprising to see him pick opportunities from holes in Cal’s defense.
“There’s a standard that has been set by the Cal defense in the past,” said redshirt senior Luc Bequette in a postgame press conference.
By halftime, the two teams’ statistics looked almost identical: 201 total yards by Cal to 188 by Washington, with pass yards and rush yards also remaining close to equal. Yet, Washington still led by 11 points.
Did the Huskies have quite a few wasted opportunities? Most would say yes.
Even if the Bears noticed a potential chance that could have been deemed beneficial, seeing the offense take advantage of it was few and far between. The defense kept coming up short, as was also apparent in the last few games. There were no sacks or tackles for loss by the blue and gold, and all interceptions were made by the opposing team. The ball was basically handed to the Huskies’ defense as Cal quarterback Chase Garbers tried for a back shoulder pass, allowing Washington to make a stunning interception.
As the game progressed into the end of the fourth quarter, it became increasingly evident how Washington allowed Montana to claim victory. While the Husky fan base labeled Morris as “not fast but effective,” Cal fans have been reluctant to acknowledge Garbers as a star, as his playing hasn’t been effective enough to snag victories.
“I had to make some plays on the ground with my feet,” Garbers said in the postgame press conference. “We knew the QB run game was going to be instrumental to our offense. We ran our QB counter, not really difficult on my part because the guys up top did all the heavy lifting.”
The Bears were able to hold the Huskies at a tied game until overtime. Going into overtime with a tied score of 24-24, the Huskies managed a touchdown. As the blue and gold returned their opportunity, a tragic mistake ultimately cost Cal — running back Damien Moore fumbled the ball, marking the end to an exhilarating game.
“Losing sucks, especially in a close overtime game, but we’ve got to learn from it and move on,” Garbers said.
Cal’s Pac-12 play continues against Washington State at home Oct. 2. As the Bears return to the Bay with their heads hanging and feet dragging, any substantial future win can be considered by some as wishful thinking. Fans of the blue and gold can only hope for a shooting star to fly across Memorial Stadium, as this season threatens to drag on in a similarly disappointing way to Saturday night’s game.
Maria Khan covers men’s soccer and football. Contact her at [email protected].