Saturday, October 21, 2006

Seattle Times: Washington falls to Cal in overtime

By Bob Condotta

BERKELEY, Calif. - In their most desperate moments, the Washington Huskies used to be able to call on Cal.  Four of UW's nine greatest comebacks have come against the Bears, as well as several others that simply fell into the "improbable ending" category, many here at Berkeley's Memorial Stadium.  The Huskies appeared ready to possibly top them all when Marlon Wood caught a pass that tipped off several California defenders and dived into the end zone for the tying touchdown on the last play of regulation.  "With that play, the way I could tell, we were supposed to win this game," said Washington cornerback Dashon Goldson of the 40-yard pass that sent the Huskies' bench into delirium.  Instead, the Huskies were again left with nothing but the dreaded moral victory to assuage the pain of a 31-24 overtime loss to the Bears, who came in as 23-point favorites and played for much of the day like a team that wasn't expecting much of a fight.

Once pushed against the ropes, however, the Bears didn't flinch, scoring on the second play of overtime to take the lead.  New Huskies starting quarterback Carl Bonnell then threw his fifth interception of the game on Washington's ensuing possession to end it, allowing the Bears to make their own great escape. "I will remember this game for the rest of my life," said Cal defensive tackle Brandon Mebane.  So will the Huskies, tagged again_just like the final two seconds controversy at USC_with an ending they won't be able to get out of their minds. Washington (4-4 overall, 2-3 Pac-10) has lost three in a row and needs to win two of its last four to qualify for a bowl game.  "We lost," said UW linebacker Scott White. "We know in the back of our mind that we could have won. But that doesn't really matter now."  The Huskies, in fact, had the upper hand for the entire first half, shocking those who might have figured they were ready to roll over now that quarterback Isaiah Stanback's career is over because of an foot injury.

Bonnell, making his first start in two years in place of Stanback, threw five interceptions but also led the Washington offense up and down the field against a Bears team that had won six in a row by an average score of 40-16.  Washington led 10-3 at halftime, and after Cal rallied to take a 13-10 lead at the end of the third quarter, Bonnell ran in from 7 yards early in the fourth quarter to cap an 86-yard drive and put the Huskies ahead 17-13.

But Cal hit a field goal to cut the lead to 17-16. The Bears then stopped a UW run on third-and-one on the next possession to get the ball back, and drove 82 yards for a touchdown and a two-point play to take a 24-17 lead with 1:52 left.  Lynch scored the TD from 17 yards, and Justin Forsett ran up the middle for the two-point conversion as Washington was caught with just 10 men on the field. The Huskies anticipated the Bears were kicking the extra point, and with the lineup shuffling quickly, E.J. Savannah didn't make it on the field.  "I thought we had him wrapped up," said Washington defensive coordinator Kent Baer of Forsett, who fought through White and several other Huskies into the end zone. "Unfortunate."

Bonnell, though, stayed steady, helping Washington convert three fourth-down plays to stay alive. With six seconds left, UW had one last chance with the ball at the Cal 40-yard line. "It was desperation," Bonnell said. "Everybody's going deep and hope a guy can come up with the ball. And that's what happened." Wood caught the ball at about the 2 and fell forward into the end zone for the tying touchdown.  Willingham said he never wavered in kicking the point and forcing overtime. "I felt very comfortable that we would be able to get it done in overtime," Willingham said. Washington won the toss and decided to play defense first. Cal responded on the second play when Lynch ran around the end and cut through the Husky secondary for a 22-yard touchdown. The Huskies appeared set to force another overtime when they moved to the 6-yard line. But on first down, Louis Rankin was stopped for a 5-yard loss.  Then Bonnell, in his words, "tried to stick a ball in there" on a pass to Corey Williams, "and the gap closed real quick."

Cal linebacker Desmond Bishop, the Cal player who had the best shot at knocking down the pass with six seconds left that instead fell into Wood's hands_picked it off. Willingham was asked to compare Cal and USC. "They were both very good football teams and each day we played them we went toe-to-toe with both of them," he said.  And lost by a nose.


No comments: