Cal Football’s Dominant Defense Leads to Upset Win over Washington

BERKELEY, CA - OCTOBER 27: Camryn Bynum #24 of the California Golden Bears celebrates after making an interception against the Washington Huskies at California Memorial Stadium on October 27, 2018 in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
BERKELEY, CA - OCTOBER 27: Camryn Bynum #24 of the California Golden Bears celebrates after making an interception against the Washington Huskies at California Memorial Stadium on October 27, 2018 in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

The Cal football defense was at its best on Saturday, holding down the Washington Huskies to come away with a huge upset win.

When the Cal football team met with the 15th-ranked Washington Huskies on Saturday, only two touchdowns were scored. Cal again went with Chase Garbers as the starting quarterback, but he was unable to put together a touchdown drive with his offense. The Huskies used two quarterbacks, Jake Browning and Jake Haener, and both threw for scores. It just so happens that one of those scores went to the wrong team.

Browning and the Huskies got off to a quick start, putting together a 14-play drive that ate up 64 yards on their first try. It ended with Browning throwing a three-yard strike to a wide-open Ty Jones in the back of the endzone, putting Washington on top 7-0 early.

The Bears defense was stout after that, not allowing the Huskies to add on to their lead. Over the eight drives that followed the opening touchdown, the Bears didn’t allow a single point. They intercepted a pair of passes and forced a turnover on downs.

Cal’s offense, though, didn’t have much success either. They were able to move the ball on a few drives, picking up a couple first downs at a time, but they always bogged down before they could push it into the endzone. They settled for two field goals, cutting the deficit down to 7-6, but Greg Thomas missed his third attempt, a 41-yarder, just before the half.

With Washington’s offense struggling, head coach Chris Petersen made the difficult decision to switch quarterbacks. He pulled his veteran Browning in favor of Haenar, a redshirt freshman with just one game played under his belt.

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Cal, whose own indecisiveness with quarterbacks has cost them at times, benefited greatly from their opponent making a change. Haener was clearly in a bit of disarray on his first drive. His first pass bounced in front of an open receiver to his left, and he then had to call a timeout as the play clock neared zero. The next play turned out to be the biggest of the game.

Haener dropped back and scanned downfield, eventually settling on a throw over the middle. Linebacker Evan Weaver was there, timing his leap perfectly to come down with an interception. After a long run that included some jukes and jives, Weaver dove toward the endzone, just hitting the pylon with the ball. That pick-six gave Cal their first lead of the day even though they failed on the two-point attempt, putting them ahead 12-7.

Browning was back on the field after that, and finally snapped Washington’s drought late in the fourth quarter. With under five minutes to play, Peyton Henry kicked a 26-yard field goal to make it 12-10. Cal was able to eat the final four minutes and 51 seconds off the clock as Garbers and Laird took care of the rest, sealing the Bears’ biggest win of the season.

The defenses lived up the the billing. Washington entered the game as the stingiest scoring defense in the Pac-12, ranking 10th nationally with 15.6 points allowed per game. They were also 16th nationally and second in the conference at 308.6 total yards allowed per game.

Cal’s defense was continuing its transformation. They were fourth in the conference and 21st nationally, allowing 320.9 yards per game, and were the toughest team to pass against in the conference. Their 166.4 passing yards allowed per game was lowest in the Pac-12, and 10th in the nation.

Washington gained 109 yards in the first quarter, but the Cal defense held them to just 141 yards over the next three quarters. The Huskies gained just 159 yards through the air over the entire game, while completing less than half of their pass attempts (12 of 25). They also scored a season-low 10 points while gaining a season-low 250 yards.

Cal was held to just 242 yards throughout the game, which is also a season-low. They picked up just 14 first downs, but the last one was the biggest. That third-down conversion allowed Cal to continue their last drive and wind the clock down to preserve the win.

Most importantly for the Bears, they didn’t commit a turnover for the first time since the season-opening game against North Carolina. After opening conference play with three straight losses, in which they were -11 in turnover differential, they have won the turnover battle in each of their last two games, winning both games as well.

Next. Garbers Back, Leads Cal to Win. dark

This win gives Cal five victories on the season, matching their win total from last year, head coach Justin Wilcox’s first season. It also leaves them one win shy of bowl eligibility with four chances to play their way in.

Next up, they visit Washington State, who are currently ranked 14th and figure to move up a bit following a shootout win against Stanford. A road game against USC follows, and they are currently 4-4 after losing to Arizona State. Stanford comes next at home, and they sit at 5-3 after losing to Wazzu today. The season ends against Colorado, who lost to Oregon State today to also fall to 5-3. If Cal can beat just one of them, they will be bowl eligible for the first time since 2015.