Huskies’ win keeps bowl hopes alive
BERKELEY, Calif. – Officially, it’s named “26 power quad.”
Unofficially, the Washington Huskies generally call it “God’s play.”
As UW coach Steve Sarkisian later explained: “In the football world, the power running play is often referred to as God’s play because God loves the power play.”
And it’s that play that may ultimately carry the Washington Huskies back to the promised land of the postseason for the first time since 2002.
Running back Chris Polk scored on a 1-yard run on fourth-and-goal as time ran out to give the Huskies a 16-13 win over the California Golden Bears on Saturday and keep UW’s bowl hopes alive.
UW is 5-6 and needs to win the Apple Cup this week in Pullman to get a sixth victory that will certainly earn a bowl bid, possibly as high as the Holiday Bowl, which had a representative at the game.
“To get this win keeps our season alive, allows us to go into Pullman next weekend and compete for something that we haven’t been able to do in a long time now,” said quarterback Jake Locker. “It’s exciting, it’s right where we want to be as a football team.”
To get there, though, UW had to overcome a flurry of mistakes early – specifically, three turnovers that stalled two good drives and led to one Cal TD – and then drive 79 yards in the final 4:39.
When the Huskies got the ball for the final time at their 21 with the rain that had been off-and-on all day picking up steam, they knew their season was pretty much on the line.
“I think we understood it might be the last opportunity to go down and tie or win the game,” Locker said. “So there was a sense of urgency.”
Two short passes and a Polk run got a first down at the 34. Then Locker decided to look deep to Jermaine Kearse, who made a mad dash to gather in a pass that Locker admitted “was kind of a bad ball, actually” to make a diving grab at the Cal 20.
A Jesse Callier run gained 5 yards. Then Locker – forgetting about the pain of a broken rib – ran for 8 more, setting up a first-and-goal at the 7 and then ran for 6 more to get the ball to the one with 1:29 left.
In a brief revival of bad memories of games past, Locker then was stopped on sneaks on second and third down.
After the latter, Sarkisian let the clock get to two seconds before calling a timeout. Asked if there was any hesitation about going for it, Sarkisian shook his head.
“None, really,” he said.
Locker said he would have been “shocked” if Sarkisian had opted for the tying field goal.
“I think every guy in the huddle expected him to call that and was ready for it and wasn’t surprised by it,” Locker said. “It was the call that everyone wanted.”
Sarkisian, though, decided that California might expect another Locker sneak, something a few of the Bears admitted later.
So he called the power play out of an unbalanced line, with reserve lineman Daniel Kancugowski shifting over to serve like a tight end next to tackle Cody Habben and guard Colin Porter.
Getting a good lead block from fullback Austin Sylvester, Polk pretty much walked into the end zone.
“I think we caught them off guard because they were expecting us to run up the middle, and we ran wide right,” Polk said. It was UW’s third last-play win of the year (USC and Oregon State the others) and a dramatic ending to a largely inartful game.
Washington 16, Cal 13
Cal—FG Tavecchio 53, :00.
UW—Goodwin 80 pass from Locker (Folk kick), 10:22.
Cal—Jordan 21 fumble return (Tavecchio kick), 3:34.
UW—FG Folk 37, :08.
Cal—FG Tavecchio 47, 10:53.
UW—C.Polk 1 run, :00.
|Time of Possession||29:54||30:06|
RUSHING—Washington, C.Polk 18-86, Callier 6-15, Locker 12-11. California, Vereen 23-106, Allen 7-60, Sofele 4-13, Mansion 2-12.
PASSING—Washington, Locker 17-27-1-237. California, Mansion 12-23-1-92.
RECEIVING—Washington, Je.Kearse 6-77, Goodwin 5-126, Aguilar 2-7, C.Polk 2-7, Smith 1-18, Sylvester 1-2. California, Allen 4-46, Calvin 3-29, Jones 2-17, Kapp 1-6, Sofele 1-(minus 2), Vereen 1-(minus 4).