If you were one of the Husky fans who stayed, you were on the cusp of a story for life.
You’d watched every flash of lightning, laughed off each delay, and endured all the mishaps for the payoff at the end.
Then in a matter of minutes, your ecstasy morphed into agony. That lifetime memory you craved became something you wished to forget.
One of the weirdest nights in Husky Stadium history doubled as one of the worst. Washington’s 20-19 loss to Cal on Saturday … and Sunday, was where surreal met stunning.
Extreme weather stopped play for two hours and 39 minutes, prompting about three-quarters of the fans to go home. Then a slew of errors stopped the Huskies from winning, prompting shockwaves throughout the Pac-12.
Cal was not supposed to be in this football game. It came in as a two-touchdown underdog against a Washington team that had won 15 straight at home.
And given how the Golden Bears upset UW in Berkeley last year, you’d figure the 14th-ranked Huskies would be particularly focused. They weren’t. Like the football did so many times, this one just got away from them.
Huskies quarterback Jacob Eason completed 18 of 30 passes for 162 yards, but also had five throws that were outright dropped. Not that Eason was blameless, as he had two fumbles — one of which Cal recovered — and threw an interception.
The Huskies also had to settle for field goals on three drives in which they reached the red zone, and bungled their timeouts in the final minute.
It was hard to watch. Then again, not that many people did.
At 7:51 p.m., less than 15 minutes after kickoff, a barrage of lightning strikes forced both teams back into their locker rooms and the fans onto the concourse. For the first hour or so, spectators oohed and ahhed at the bolts shooting down from the sky, but most rolled out as the delay continued.
Even Husky Stadium DJ Mikey Herrell exhausted his list of weather-related songs before discovering a YouTube channel for rain delays. By the time play resumed, there were probably 16 or 17 thousand people left in the stadium.
That seemed to be enough at first, as the Huskies took a 10-3 lead into halftime. But then Cal tied the game early in the third quarter and took a 17-13 lead after running at will through the Huskies’ vaunted defense.
Washington had a chance to recapture the lead midway through the fourth quarter, but committed a false start on fourth-and-one from Cal’s 2 before kicking a field goal to cut the deficit to 1. After forcing a three-and-out on Cal’s next drive, however, the Huskies got the ball back on their own 37 with 5:57 left to play.
This is where that story-for-their-grandkids scenario started to play out for those in attendance. The Huskies drove the ball to the Bears’ 32-yard line, where they decided to attempt a field goal on fourth-and-11 with just over two minutes to go.
The kicker was Peyton Henry, who last year missed a kick at the end of regulation that would have given UW a win against Oregon. This time? Money from 49 yards.
The 16,000 or so in the stadium suddenly sounded like 60,000. The Huskies took a two-point lead and just needed to hold off the offensively challenged Bears one more time.
Then Cal quarterback Chase Garbers completed a 19-yard pass to Jordan Duncan. Then Duncan drew a pass interference flag that put the ball on the Huskies’ 30. Then Garbers found Kekoa Crawford on a 27-yard pass that put the ball on Washington’s 3, which led to the go-ahead field goal with eight seconds on the clock.
Washington tried a few laterals on its final play but never had a chance of scoring. The dream scenario suddenly turned nightmarish.
Were there excuses from Huskies coach Chris Petersen after the game? No.
“Hats off to Cal,” he said. “They played better than us.”
They sure did. But they weren’t supposed to. Two years in a row, Cal stunned Washington.
The odds of that happening? Impossibly low. In this case, though, lightning struck twice.