HUSKY STADIUM/SEATTLE, WA -Just another day in the office for the California Heart Attack kids, as the Bears went on the road and pulled out another tight win, holding off the Washington Huskies 30-24 in front of a raucous 61,066 crowd at Husky Stadium.
"Boy, it feels good to win," said Cal head coach Sonny Dykes. "It was a tough, hard-fought, physical football game like we thought it would be. Washington's got a very good football team.
"I was really proud of our guys. We hung in there. We didn't play great. We dropped a lot of balls offensively and kind of stubbed our foot a little bit moving the football at times but I thought our defense played lights out."
Once again, it was a case of the Bears taking a solid lead and holding on for dear life, as the game wasn't settled till junior quarterback Jared Goff scrambled for a critical 4th-and-4 first down in the final minute, just getting past the marker to seal the game.
"I wasn't planning on it," said Goff of his run. "We had a nice little play call.
"Their defense scouted us very well and switched off what we were trying to do so then I just instinctively ran."
Coming into the game completing a scorching 74% of his passes, Goff suffered from a combination of misfires and dropped passes, going 24-for-40 for 342 yards and two touchdowns and one interception on the final play of the first half on a jump ball in the end zone.
It was billed as a classic battle between the nation's 7th-rated scoring defense and the nation's 7th-rated scoring offense coming into game four of the season.
Something had to give.
The Bears drew first blood, taking over at midfield after a Husky punt and driving to the Husky 13 before their drive stalled on a sack of Goff by Washington defensive end Travis Feeney, forcing a 32-yard field goal by kicker Matt Anderson for the 3-0 Cal lead midway through the 1st quarter.
The Bears defense started strong, allowing no first downs in the first two Husky possessions, stuffing the run and pressuring Husky true frosh quarterback Jake Browning, including a pair of Kyle Kragen 1st quarter sacks for 10 and 11 yards.
The Huskies finally got things rolling in their third possession, gashing the Bears for runs of 12, 15 and 27 yards by freshman Dwayne Washington before Washington danced up the middle for a 14-yard touchdown, giving UW a 7-3 lead on the Cameron Van Winkle conversion with 1:32 remaining in the 1st quarter.
The Husky lead wouldn't last long, as the Bears took over at their 21 and drove 79 yards in 11 plays to take a 10-7 lead 3:32 into the 2nd quarter.
After being stubborn with the run their first few possessions, the Bears passed to set up the run, with quarterback Jared Goff gashing the defense with a 20-yard completion to receiver Stephen Anderson and a 21-yarder to Darius Powe before the Bears' running attack took over, with tailback Vic Enwere bulling over half the Husky defense en route to a 12-yard touchdown run.
"We practice that every day," said Enwere, who set a personal record with 84 yards and a touchdown on the day. "We work on finishing our runs every practice. It was just a natural thing. You play one play at a time, the best you can."
Following the touchdown drive, the Bears' defense got back on track, sacking Browning at the line of scrimmage and forcing a fumble, with Cal taking over on the Washington 29. The sack was Kragen's third of the game.
At times throughout the game, it seemed like Kragen felt as if he could get to the quarterback at will.
"Yeah, I did," said Kragen. "I don't know why today. Looking at the film, their line looked solid but it did feel like I could get to the qb almost every time today."
"I thought we rushed the passer incredibly well," said Dykes. "We needed to get pressure.
"Jake Browning's a good young quarterback and when he has the opportunity to sit in the pocket, he's very effective throwing the football.
"I felt like that was a key early in the ballgame to pressure him the way that we did.
"We got some pressure late, as well, and I was really proud that we got some pressure rushing three guys in some critical situations."
The freshman qb completed 17-of-28 passes for 152 yards and no touchdowns with two interceptions on the day, as the Bear defense made things rough on the prolific prep passer from Folsom with consistent pressure and tight coverage all day.
Overall, the Bears held Washington to just 259 net yards on probably their most complete defensive performance of the year.
The Bears were unable to capitalize on the turnover, moving to the Husky 1 before getting stuffed on four straight plays, as Washington took over on downs.
"You've got to give Washington credit," said Dykes. "They're a very good football team. The closer you get to the goal line, the better they are defensively.
"We have to execute better down there."
On the ensuing play, Browning made a freshman error, airing out a pass upfield, with cornerback Darius White swooping in for an athletic interception at the Husky 44, returning it 21 yards to the 23.
"The d-line just got enough pressure on the qb and they linebackers were there where they were supposed to be and I just made a play on it.
"Darius has been a big play guy for us all year long," said Dykes. "He's playing hard and he's playing with tremendous confidence and making a lot of plays."
Again, the Bears couldn't fully-capitalize on the turnover, with the drive stalling on the Washington 24 after a penalty. Anderson hit the 41-yard field goal to stretch the Bears' lead to 13-7 with 6:14 left in the half.
The Cal defense stepped up again following the score, with cornerback Darius Allensworth forcing a fumble on an Isaiah Renfro reception, recovered by Hardy Nickerson at the Cal 38.
From there, the Bears methodically drove the field, going 62 yards in seven plays, capped off by a perfect strike from Goff to receiver Bryce Treggs for 28 yards, stretching the Bears' lead to 20-7 that they'd take into the half.
The Bears picked up where they left off, forcing a 3-and-out that ended with their fourth sack of Browning -this time from linebacker Jake Kearney for a whopping 17-yard loss.
Taking over at their 38 after the punt, Goff hit Lawler for a twisting reception on the sideline that the big junior narrowly missed breaking for the touchdown before being dragged down at the Husky 10. Two plays later, Goff hit Lawler in the flat for an 8-yard td as the Bears extended their lead to 20, 27-7 4:09 into the half.
"Jared saw me and threw me the ball and I made a good play," said Lawler, who led the Bears with seven catches and 112 yards to go with his touchdown.
"I ran down the sideline and ended up getting caught but it's all good since our touchdown a few plays later paid off for us."
Taking over at their 35 after the ensuing kickoff, the Huskies finally got moving again, driving 65 yards in 10 plays, with running back Chico McClatcheysweeping around tackle for a 2-yard scamper, cutting the Bears' lead to 13, 27-14.
Washington continued to cut into the Cal lead, forcing a controversial fumble by Enwere at the Husky 30 where his progress was stopped by cornerback Sidney Jones and returned 70 yards for a touchdown.
Enwere's progress appeared to be stopped and his elbow also appeared to be down but the play was not reviewed, as the Huskies further cut Cal's lead to 27-21 after the Van Winkle conversion.
Another stalled drive netted the Bears another Anderson field goal from 37 to give the Bears a little more breathing room, pushing the lead to 30-21 with with 5:34 remaining in the game.
After a 24-yard return by Deonte Cooper gave the Huskies strong field position on their 47, Washington moved the ball to the Cal 19 before the defense held, forcing a 36-yard Van Winkle field goal, bringing the Huskies to a single possession deficit.
Taking over with 3:57 remaining, the Bears were unable to use up much clock and punter Cole Leininger came on to punt and give the Huskies one more chance at their 28 with 2:51 remaining.
But when the chips were down, the Bears cashed in, forcing Browing out of bounds for a 1-yard gain, followed by a Johnathan Johnson sack and a game-clinching interception by junior safety Demariay Drew at the Husky 40.
"I was really proud of Demariay to get that interception," said Dykes. "I thought our guys on the back end of our defense have really played well for us up to this point.
The five turnovers forced by the Bears constituted a third of last year's turnover production and propelled the Bears to victory, despite some missed opportunities and miscues.
"Turnovers are really a bye product of guys playing hard," said Dykes. "We're running to the football well and chasing guys better than we have in the past.
"When you play hard, you're usually in the right place and when they've gotten an opportunity to make a play, they've made it."
Taking over with 1:57 remaining, it was up to the Bears to get one final elusive first down to ice the game as the Huskies used their final timeouts.
Facing 4th-and-4 with 1 minute remaining, Goff rolled left to find his receivers covered, tucking the ball in and stretching for the final first down to clinch the game for the Bears and causing jubilant California fans to finally breathe a sigh of relief in stands as the Cal straw hat band played on.
"Man, he showed courage," said Lawler of Goff's tough first down scramble. "Skinny Jared had to get the first and he did. He's a leader and that's what leaders do.
"Jared's a tremendous leader. He lets us know what he wants and as a receiving corps, we give it to him. That's what makes it so great.
"I love playing with him. He can put the ball anywhere and even better, he's a great person. I'm just thankful to have him as a quarterback."
"I think the general sense is that whatever it takes, we're going to get the job done," said Kragen. "Everyone on the sideline believes that we're going to get the win somehow.
"My dad's (former NLF DT Greg Kragen) always said Cal can't win in the Northwest. It was a little bit in my head but I thought we were going to get the win."
"We just grind hard on every play and never give up," said White. "Our coaches have instilled that in us and we're just going to keep doing that every day and every game."
The Bears were missing starting defensive end Devante Wilson (sprained foot), defensive tackle Mustafa Jalil (sore knee) and running back Daniel Lasco (hip strain).
In recent years, missing three key starters would spell trouble for the Bears, particularly on defense but the depth the program has built is starting to pay dividends.
"I was proud of the way the team played," said Dykes. "We created five turnovers and that was probably the difference in the game.
"It was good to get a win against a very good football team."
"This win means a lot," said Lawler. "It give us a lot of momentum going forward to our next game against Washington State.
"We knew it was going to be a hard-fought game but this just shows our character.
"It means a lot."
The Bears moved to 4-0 for the first time since 2007 and are 1-0 to open Pac-12 play. After two week on the road, they'll return home to Memorial Stadium to face Washington State before another pair of games on the road when the Bears move into the meat of their schedule.
But don't talk to the Bears about the future. Next week's opponent in the chance to move to 5-0 is all that's on the victorious squad's mind after celebrating today's big victory.
To view the last play of the game by Goff and the postgame celebration from the field as well as postgame interviews, use the embedded viewers below: