Huskies need a victory against California, just like last season
BERKELEY, Calif. — The Washington Huskies play here Saturday attempting to save a season.
They do so facing California, the school they handled so easily a year ago that it helped create all the as-yet-unfulfilled expectations that have hovered over UW in 2010.
Jake Locker threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more as UW beat Cal 42-10 last December in Seattle. It was a performance as dominating as the score indicated, and one that helped give a final nudge to Locker to return, which only heightened all the high hopes for this year.
Asked what the Huskies did right that day, Cal coach Jeff Tedford said, “Pretty much everything.”
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And through the offseason, it was that last image of the Huskies plowing through the Bears that made UW fans think this was the season their team would finally break through to a bowl game for the first time since 2002.
Instead, the Huskies have largely meandered, spending the first half of the year alternating victories and defeats before losing three in a row by 30 points each to maybe the three best teams in the Pac-10 — Arizona, Stanford and Oregon.
Still, despite the fits and starts, UW’s goal remains in reach thanks to a 24-7 victory over UCLA last Thursday that pulled the Huskies to 4-6.
And now the task is simple — win at Cal on Saturday and at Washington State next Saturday and in a bowl game will belong to Washington.
“We are fighting for our football lives,” UW coach Steve Sarkisian said earlier this week.
So, however, is Cal, which has played in a school-record seven consecutive bowl games, but needs to win Saturday to extend that streak. A defeat would end Cal’s season at 5-7, an unsettling thought for a team that usually has a bowl game already sewn up by this time of the season.
“It’s definitely a new situation for us and I guess it’s a bad situation to be in,” defensive end Trevor Guyton, a graduate of Redmond High, said. “But that just adds a little more motivation and urgency to it.”
So does avenging the defeat of last season
“Yeah, I mean we definitely want to get them back for that,” Guyton said. “I really don’t know what happened in that one.”
Guyton insisted that all of that — as well as the fact the game will be the last played at Memorial Stadium before it undergoes a major renovation — will be enough to get Cal emotionally up despite disappointing defeats at home the last two weeks against No. 1-ranked Oregon (15-13) and rival Stanford (48-14).
Those two results neatly encapsulated the season for a Cal team that has been more confounding than the Huskies.
“We’re still trying to figure out what is going on with that,” Guyton said of Cal’s split personality. “There’s really no rhyme or reason to it.”
UW will hope it gets the bad Cal team.
And there are better odds now considering the Bears have been markedly less effective offensively since Brock Mansion took over as the starter at quarterback for the injured Kevin Riley. Cal has scored just 47 points in three games since then.
That will put the onus on UW’s defense to contain running back Shane Vereen and make Mansion throw.
Offensively, Washington will be challenged by a Cal team that — despite some of its flameouts — ranks among the best run defenses in the Pac-10. In conference games only, Cal is third in run defense allowing 133 yards per game and first in total defense at 332.
The Bears, though, had some similar statistical edges a year ago when the Huskies ran through them as they haven’t against any team since.
“I think we were just relaxed and having fun and it showed,” UW receiver Jermaine Kearse said, remembering that game.
The task is to recapture that feeling again Saturday, even if the stakes are markedly higher.
“We are just going to play like we know how to play,” he said. “Play hard and relaxed and just have fun. There’s a lot riding on it, but putting more pressure than what it is is just going to cause more problems. So we’re just going to try not to worry about that type of stuff and just go out there and play.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com.