Due to the individual brilliance of RB Bishop Sankey and TE Austin-Seferian Jenkins, Washington overcame one of its sloppiest performances of the season to eke out a 21-13 victory over the California Bears Friday night at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley. The Huskies (5-4) need one win to become bowl eligible with three games remaining.
Defeating California for the fourth consecutive season, Washington also snapped a six-game road losing streak that dated to Oct. 1, 2011 at Utah. The Huskies, playing the easiest part of their schedule after running through a gauntlet of nationally ranked teams, now have an opportunity to finish 8-4.
Against a stronger opponent, Washington would have been mashed. The Huskies lost three fumbles, were penalized 12 times for 109 yards, twice failed to score when they reached the red zone, and allowed three sacks, 10 hurries and multiple hits against quarterback Keith Price.
On the flip side, the Huskies forced four turnovers, all huge. And, fortunately for Price and the Huskies, they had the two dominant players, Sankey and Seferian-Jenkins.
Sankey ran 29 times for a career-high 190 yards and scored two touchdowns, including a one-yard run with 4:11 remaining to play that provided Washington with its final margin. On Sankey's final touchdown, following a 30-yard interception return by safety Shaq Thompson, he gained 28 yards on four rushes.
Sankey accounted for most of Washington's offense in the first half when he gained 126 of his 190 yards and scored the first of his two touchdowns. Seferian-Jenkins provided his highlights in the second half, especially on a late, third-quarter UW drive when he had a 43-yard reception and then out-jumped a cornerback for a touchdown that put Washington ahead 14-13, the key play of the game.
Seferian-Jenkins, playing on a bad ankle, had eight catches for 151 yards. Both totals rank among the best in UW history for a tight end in a single game.
Seferian-Jenkins' eight receptions tied Jerramy Stevens (vs. Arizona, 2000) for the fourth-most in school history. Stevens' 151 yards are the third-highest by a tight end in a single game, following 257 and 177-yard efforts by Dave Williams in 1965.
Before defeating California, Washington lost six consecutive road games by at least 17 points each. But in Cal, UW faced a 3-6 club riddled with injuries, including one to their all-time leading receiver, Keenan Allen. But the Huskies, who also knocked starting quarterback Zach Maynard out of the game in the fourth quarter, couldn't capitalize until the end.
UW quarterback Keith Price once again found himself fleeing from trouble, victim of an offensive line that rarely protected him. Price threw for 234 yards, one TD and one interception, but could have padded Washington's total if he hadn't fumbled in the red zone in the fourth quarter or thrown an interception during another red zone trip.
California drove deep into Husky territory twice in the first quarter, but came away with nothing because of two fumbles, one in the red zone. Washington had a great scoring opportunity just before halftime, but a Price pass intended for Seferian-Jenkins in the end zone was tipped and intercepted.
A California drive that reached the Washington 20-yard line suddenly went awry when the Huskies' Marcus Peters recovered an Isi Sofele fumble. Price then hit two big throws to Seferian-Jenkins totaling 41 yards and had a nine-yard completion to Cody Bruns that gave UW first-and-goal at the Cal nine. Sankey burst over for the touchdown from the four-yard line that gave Washington a 7-0 lead at 6:27 of the first quarter.
Cal reached the Washington 20-yard line again moments later following 15-yard taunting penalty on Washington's Travis Feeney and a long pass completion from Maynard to Chris Harper. But Brendan Bigelow fumbled at the 10, costing California its second scoring opportunity.
California tied it at 7 with 2:46 to play in the half when Harper ran 14 yards on a reverse. Washington abetted Cal's scoring drive with a third-down, 14-yard (half the distance to the goal line) penalty that gave the Bears a first down.
The Huskies had another scoring opportunity right at the end of the half when Price hit Seferian-Jenkins for 19 yards and Kasen Williams for 27, but the Huskies failed to capitalize when a Price pass intended for Seferian-Jenkins in the end zone was intercepted.
Cal took a 10-7 lead early in the third quarter on a 23-yard field goal by Vincenzo D'Amoto. The scoring drive was set up by a 64-yard run by C.J. Anderson, who finished with 164 rushing yards.
The Bears had their second takeaway of the game on Washington's second possession of the second half when they stripped Sankey, giving Cal a first down on the UW 36-yard line. The Bears got to the red zone but had to settle for a D'Amoto field goal, giving Cal a 13-7 lead.
Price then had a 43-yard completion to Seferian-Jenkins, giving the Huskies a first down on the Cal 10-yard line. A penalty plus a 20-yard sack on Price seemed to take the Huskies out of field-goal range, but on third down Price threw a 29-yard TD pass to Seferian-Jenkins for a 14-13 Washington lead. Seferian Jenkins out-jumped the Cal cornerback to make the play.
Washington had another scoring opportunity three minutes into the fourth when Bruns returned a punt 30 yards to the Cal 24-yard line, but Price lost a fumble on Washington's first play from scrimmage.
With six minutes to play, Thompson made a 30-yard interception to return to the Cal 28-yard line. From there it was all Sankey, who scored his second touchdown to give Washington the eight-point lead
The Huskies host Utah Nov. 10 at CenturyLink Field (time of game has yet to be announced) and close out their regular-season schedule with games at Colorado Nov. 17 and Washington State Nov. 23.