BERKELEY, Calif. – With a fully extended arm that barely grazed the end-zone pylon with the ball, linebacker Evan Weaver did what California’s offense could not do and what No. 15 Washington managed only once.
On a day when the Golden Bears and Huskies combined for one offensive touchdown, Weaver – a Gonzaga Prep grad – matched it with a 36-yard interception return after Washington made a change at quarterback, providing the difference in Cal’s 12-10 win over the Huskies on Saturday.
“I just didn’t want to fall down,” Weaver said. “Maybe 2 or 3 more yards and I would have ran out of steam. They didn’t get me this time.”
Weaver’s interception was the highlight on an afternoon when Cal’s defense came up big and offset a slow day from the offense.
The Bears (5-3, 2-3 Pac-12) had only 245 yards and were limited to two field goals, but Weaver and the defense repeatedly bailed out the struggling offense while dealing a blow to Washington’s hopes of a second Pac-12 title in three seasons.
“It gives the guys validation and gives them confidence,” Cal coach Justin Wilcox said. “It’s a great environment in the locker room as you would expect, but I also don’t think anybody’s surprised. We weren’t perfect but found a way to win.”
The Huskies (6-3, 4-2) entered the day with a half-game lead over No. 14 Washington State and No. 24 Stanford but fell to second place despite not allowing an offensive touchdown.
Washington starting quarterback Jake Browning threw his 90th career touchdown pass in the first quarter but was benched late in the third after the Huskies went three-and-out on their second drive of the second half. Redshirt freshman Jake Haener replaced Browning and threw an incompletion on his first pass before Weaver picked off the pass on a third-and-8 play.
Weaver leaped to make the interception then raced through a sea of players, extending his left hand to touch the pylon as he was going out of bounds.
“That was exactly what our team needed,” running back Patrick Laird said. “That got us the lead and we were able to hold it.”
Browning returned after two series. He completed 11 of 21 passes for 148 yards.
“I just think we’re a lot of evenly matched teams (in the Pac-12),” Washington coach Chris Petersen said. “If one team on one side of the ball doesn’t show up and do their part, that’s what’s going to happen.”
Peyton Henry’s 26-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter pulled Washington to 12-10, but California milked the final 4:51 off the clock to secure the win.
Greg Thomas added two field goals as the Bears ended a four-game home losing streak to the Huskies before a sparse crowd at Memorial Stadium.
“This was a great culture win,” Weaver said. “It shows where we’re headed as a team.”
Washington drove 64 yards in 14 plays on their opening drive but did little on offense after that. After Browning found Ty Jones in the back of the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown pass, the Huskies repeatedly broke down.
Browning wasn’t happy about being pulled from the game but Petersen defended his decision.
“That had more to do with me trying to do something to help this offense than it did with Jake,” Petersen said. “Love Jake … but I just wanted to shake things up and see if we could get something done.”