SEATTLE — Mother Nature caused Pac-12 After Dark to morph into Pac-12 after midnight Saturday night.
And when the game finally came to an end in the wee hours of Sunday morning, the University of Washington football team had yet another disappointing loss to California.
Greg Thomas made a 17-yard field goal with 8 seconds remaining, and the Cal Golden Bears upset the 14th-ranked Huskies 20-19 in the lightning-delayed Pac-12 opener for both teams at Husky Stadium.
Washington thought it had it won when Peyton Henry drilled a career-long 49-yard field goal with 2:05 remaining to give the Huskies a 19-17 lead.
However, Bears quarterback Chase Garbers led Cal the length of the field over the final two minutes, setting up Thomas’ game winner.
Cal (1-0 Pac-12, 2-0 overall), used the one-two punch of Marcel Dancy and Christopher Brown Jr. to rack up 192 yards on the ground as Washington’s defense struggled to stop the run, particularly during the second half.
Salvon Ahmed gained 119 yards on 21 carries and scored a touchdown to lead Washington (0-1, 1-1), which came in as a two-touchdown favorite.
Huskies quarterback Jacob Eason, a Lake Stevens High School graduate, had a more modest outing compared to his record-setting debut last week, when he passed for 349 yards and four touchdowns in Washington’s 47-14 victory over FCS Eastern Washington. Eason finished 18-for-30 for 162 yards and no TDs. He was also intercepted once and lost one fumble.
“Hats off to Cal, they played better than us,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said. “I thought two things jumped out. We need to tackle better, I think that showed up tonight, we missed too many tackles. And we need to get our passing into a better rhythm. It just seems like we were a little out of sorts there and weren’t throwing the ball like we’re capable of. We had some drops that kind of stymied us a little bit, and it’s tough sledding against a good secondary. All of that kind of adds up.”
The game, which already had a late kickoff time of 7:40 p.m., was suspended 11 minutes later due to approaching thunderstorms. The delay lasted 2 hours, 39 minutes because of a spectacular two-hour stretch of persistent lightning, which twice caused the main lights in the stadium to go out. When play resumed at 10:30, the crowd at Husky Stadium had thinned considerably.
“We went into the locker room and relaxed,” Petersen said. “The weather kind of broke, we did a good job rallying and going out there and playing. Both sides had to do the same thing, I don’t think it had anything to do with the outcome. It would have been nice to play the game and keep all the fans in the stadium, but I think the people who stayed really did a great job.”
Last year Washington turned in an inexplicably poor performance when the Huskies traveled to Cal, falling 12-10 against a team that finished with a losing record in Pac-12 play. The loss seemed to doom Washington’s Pac-12 championship hopes at the time, though the Huskies eventually rallied to win their final three conference contests en route to the title.
There was no revenge to be had this year. When Cal got the ball back at the end of the game, Garbers completed passes of 19 yards to Jordan Duncan and 27 yards to Kekoa Crawford, sandwiched around a 15-yard pass-interference penalty, taking the ball to the Washington 4-yard line. The Bears thought they’d scored a touchdown when Brown lunged toward the goal line, but he was ruled just short. Thomas made his field goal on the following play.
Washington spent much of the first half with great starting field position, but had just three points to show for it before finally breaking free midway through the second quarter. On fourth-and-1 from the Cal 21, Ahmed took a handoff heading left, made a cut in the backfield, found a lane to the right, then outraced the defense to the corner to give the Huskies a 10-0 lead.
After Cal made a field goal late in the second quarter to make it 10-3, the Bears received the kickoff to open the third quarter and proceeded to march 75 yards in eight plays, with Dancy finding a hole up the middle, then spinning out of a Cameron Williams tackle for a 20-yard touchdown that tied it at 10-10.
Washington regained the lead on another field goal, but then the Cal rushing attack went to work again, with 70 of the 73 yards on the ensuing drive coming on the ground, including Dancy’s 8-yard TD scamper after reversing fields in the backfield, giving the Bears their first lead at 17-13.
Henry made a 25-yard field goal to pull Washington within one with 7:10 remaining before hitting the 49-yarder that gave the Huskies the lead. But it ended up being for naught.
Washington center Nick Harris, who was an injury doubt, played Saturday. The senior, who was an Associated Press second-team preseason All-American, left last week’s game with an apparent leg injury and did not return. He played Saturday with a brace on his left knee. … Huskies redshirt freshman cornerback Kyler Gordon, an Archbishop Murphy High School graduate, made his second straight start at right cornerback. He finished with four tackles and a pass defensed, though he was also flagged for the pass-interfence penalty on Cal’s final drive.