Saturday, October 21, 2006

SF Chronicle: CAL 31, WASHINGTON 24

7 straight, barely

2 big TDs by Lynch, Bishop's interception send Cal past Huskies

Rusty Simmons

There was a buzz last week in Berkeley that Washington could provide a "trap game" for Cal, but Marshawn Lynch ran through the Bear trap Saturday and kicked it off his foot, unscathed in the end zone.  Twice.  "It was such a gutsy performance by Marshawn today," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "He put the offense on his back, and, to make so many plays, is just a phenomenal performance."  The junior tailback battled two sprained ankles while running 21 times for 150 yards and two scores, including the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter and the game-winner in overtime that gave the Bears a 31-24 victory over Washington.

Cal players swarmed linebacker Desmond Bishop after his game-clinching interception in overtime. The horde spilled toward the south end zone at Memorial Stadium as the 58,534 fans tried to scramble to the south end zone to reach the players. The celebration was capped off by Lynch driving a golf-cart type flatbed on a zig-zag path across the field.  He can do whatever he wants, because he scored the game-winner on a 22-yard scamper, and he also ran for a 17-yard score with 1:52 remaining. In normal Lynch fashion, he refused to take the credit.  "The start of the game was where we got lifted," he said. "My man, Justin Forsett, took the first snaps. I give big ups to Justin for getting me through today and through practice, because that's where it starts."  The big runs by Lynch were made necessary by a pesky Washington (4-4, 2-3 Pac-10) team. Carl Bonnell, who had 284 passing yards and rushed for 64 yards in his first start in more than two years, led the Huskies on a 13-play, 72-yard scoring drive in the waning two minutes of regulation.

He completed a fluky, 40-yard touchdown pass to Marlon Wood as time expired to force overtime. Three Cal defenders -- Bishop, Robert Peele and Thomas DeCoud -- had a chance to knock the Hail Mary pass down, but the batted ball fell into the hands of an unsuspecting Wood.  "I was shocked that I actually caught it," he said. "It feels good to catch it and score my first touchdown, but it didn't end the way we wanted."  Instead, the stunned No. 11 Bears (7-1, 5-0) didn't wallow. After showing that it could win with offensive dominance during a four-game stretch, Cal proved it could win with defense last week and pull out a roller-coaster victory.  "We kind of took turns today, and we won as a team," Tedford said.

It all adds up to the Bears' first 5-0 start in conference play since 1950. Since that year, the only time Cal matched its current seven-game winning streak was in 2004.  After completing 91 of 137 passes for 1,325 yards and 17 touchdowns while throwing just four interceptions during a fabulous five-game run, sophomore quarterback Nate Longshore was held without a touchdown pass for the second consecutive week.  He did, however, convert two third-down situations on what appeared to be the game-winning drive that ended with 1:52 remaining in regulation on Lynch's 17-yard TD and Forsett's two-point conversion.  Bishop, who had a game-high 16 tackles, also came up big in the defining moments for a Cal defense that played better than the numbers indicate. Although the defense allowed 446 yards in total offense to Washington's backup quarterback, it also intercepted Bonnell five times.  After giving up the game-tying touchdown, the defense was rallied by Bishop on the sidelines.  "He told us to put it behind us and seal the victory," said Peele, who had an interception in his first extended playing time of the season. "He said, 'We've still got a chance to win.' "  Tedford said he didn't see anything from his players that indicated they were looking past Washington, which was picked to finish last in the conference before the season.

"I thought mentally we were prepared, but Washington just played well," Tedford said. "We couldn't get caught up in looking past this team and looking at the bye week, and I don't think we did that."  The bye is, however, coming at the right time.  "We're pretty banged up, and we need to heal and refresh a little bit," Tedford said. "We need to recharge our batteries."  First, though, they'll fondly recall this week.  "This is one to remember," defensive tackle Brandon Mebane said. "I will remember this game for the rest of my life. I was proud of our guys for how they hung in there and stuck it out."

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