Saturday, October 27, 2018

California 12, No. 15 Washington 10: Golden Bears grind one out the hard way

Photo Credit: Lachian Cunningham- Getty Images

By: Devin Larkins
Twitter: @Devin_Larkins

BERKELEY, Calif.— Taking care of business is what every team strives for in late October football. Especially when you are fighting your way into the Pac-12 championship game.

Taking care of business means only one thing— win. Especially for the No. 15 Washington Huskies (6-2, 4-1) as they hit the road to take on the University of California Golden Bears (4-3, 1-3). Winning was the goal, but fell short as the Golden Bears pulled the 12-10 upset off over the Huskies at Memorial Stadium.

Washington was aggressive on offense early. Deciding not to punt and go for it on fourth down in the first quarter. Not much else went right for Huskies in the first half. However, Quarterback Jake Browning and Ty Jones connected on a very short three-yard touchdown pass. This would be the only touchdown for the entire game for the 15th ranked team.

Special teams play was top notch early on by the Bears’ Ashtyn Davis, who returned two kickoffs for more than 70 yards. Putting the Bears into great field position half way through the first quarter.

The Bears did a great job of keeping the momentum with big plays. Sophomore cornerback Camryn Bynum made a big interception to stop a driving Huskie offense late in the first.

“Jake Browning, he likes to scramble a lot, so he was trying to find work and then the receiver came back to the ball,” Bynum said recounting the play. “I just read his eyes and was able to come down with the ball.”

Even with the big plays and the momentum going against the Huskies, their defense had a bend, but don’t break outcome. Every time the Bears entered the red zone, the result was kick for a field goal. Junior kicker Greg Thomas on two out of three field goals in the first half.

Sophomore running Patrick Laird would be the Bears’ version of a workhorse. Laird gained more than 100 yards of total offense for the Bears, being an integral part to the team’s success. They took care of the ball and kept it from the Huskie.

The halftime score was grinding score of 7-6, in favor of Washington. “We knew it would be a tough, grimy and gritty game,” Bears coach Justin Wilcox said.

The Huskies started the second half the same as the first— going for it on fourth down with an incomplete pass and a turnover on downs.

Washington’s offense became so stagnant that it made a quarterback change. Putting in Jake Haener in attempt to give the team a spark. Surprisingly, this was a spark for California. Evan Weaver dropped comfortably in a hook to curl zone and intercepted Haener’s pass, returning the ball for a score. This would be the defining moment of the game. The pick six excited the team, crowd and all while giving the Bears their first lead of the game at 12-7.

“The guy is just a football player through and through, a true competitor. They ran a little dig and he played underneath it with some good depth, jumped up and caught and ran it in.” Wilcox said of Evan Weaver’s interception.

Washington would never see the lead again. They struggled mightily to move the ball and would not even sniff the end zone. The Huskies could not figure out which quarterback could give them the better chance win. Deciding to go back to the starter Jake Browning later in the fourth quarter.

The Golden Bears made all of the plays in the right moments, mostly on defense. They held the Huskies high powered, 400 yards per game offense to just 250 in this game. Picking the right mix of blitzes, zone coverages and zone blitzes to get one of many upsets on a topsy-turvy day in college football.