Looking back on 2006: The Washington Game

(Note to readers: Today we continue in our look back at the games in the 2006 season with Washington.  Here are links to our past look backs: Tennessee, Minnesota, Portland State, Arizona State, Oregon State, Oregon and Washington State).

The storyline:
A seemingly unbeatable Cal faced a down and out Washington that lost their star QB in the preceding week.  Cal stumbled in the first half, trailing 10-3 at halftime but manages to take a 24-17 lead on the back of Marshawn Lynch’s dominating 2nd half performance right up to the end of the game where a Hail Mary pass for Washington sends the game into overtime.  In overtime Cal quickly scores on their 2nd play with another awesome run by Lynch and then picks off Washington in their OT possession to end the game.

The reality:
There were more momentum changes in this game that just about any I’ve ever seen.  In the first half it looked as though Cal had managed to weather the storm of a very weak performance by both Longshore and the offensive line when Washington was able to go up 10-0 on a busted defensive play where Syd’Quan Thompson was expecting safety help on his receiver.  To start off the 2nd half, Cal quickly got the ball back and drove the length of the field to tie the game and then go up 13-10 on the subsequent drive.  But then a redzone stand for UW on the next drive completely turned the momentum back in the Husky’s favor and they used that momentum to drive the field and take the lead back.  It then took two drives for Cal to put up a field-goal and a TD with a two-point conversion to take a 7 point lead 24-17.  It seemed as though the game was over as the Cal defense held well on the final drive attempt for the Huskies when their final Hail Mary pass was successful.  It was only when everything went the Bears way in overtime that Bear’s fans could finally celebrate.

The forgotten:
Perhaps forgotten by some was that there were 5 interceptions in this game that had a huge impact in keeping the Bears in the game.  Also forgotten was the Washington QB did a lot of the work for the team with his legs.  After Stanback was injured, the Cal game-plan was no longer focused on containing a mobile QB, but Bonnel made the Bears pay for the change in plans.  Another forgotten sequence was the 3 failed attempts to get 1 yard at the UW 13 yard line.  Starting with 2nd down, the Bears ran inside and were stuffed including a 4th and 1 that didn’t stand a chance.

The 2006 learnings:
This was the 2nd game in a row where Cal didn’t have its offensive mojo.  Washington definitely learned from Washington State’s discovery regarding Longshore’s difficult with defenses dropping 8 men into coverage.  Unlike the WSU game, Cal was able, particularly in the 2nd half, to run the ball effectively in those situations.  However, on downs where running wasn’t an option, particularly 3rd and long, it was an effective strategy and it had a lot to do with Cal’s poor 3rd down conversion rate in the game.  Also learned in this game was that Lynch was still his incredible self when injured.  Towards the end of the game he had enough tape on his legs to look like the Michelin man but he still was able to win the game for the Bears.

The 2007 learnings:
Zack Follett had an incredible game including a 2 play sequence where he sequentially dropped UW running back Rankin for a 5 yard loss and then intercepted a pass thrown to the sideline.  He had a number of other impact plays that should make Cal fans excited about him playing as a starter in 2007.  In another hopeful play, Forsett ran a draw play up the middle for the 2-point conversion to go up by 7.  Despite getting tackled at the 2 yard line, he was able to drag the defender into the end zone.  Forsett shows some potential to play some power football.  Finally, the offensive line play in this game was atrocious.  If Cal is going to be successful in 2007, the offensive line will have to play better than they did in this game.

The Conclusion:
I waver on whether I consider this victory a pathetic instance of the Huskies pulling defeat from the jaws of victory or whether it showed Cal’s heart in the tough games.  In the end, one can’t question Lynch’s determination and it shows hope that Cal knows how to get down and dirty when the chips are down.

One Response to “Looking back on 2006: The Washington Game”

  1. Chris Fry Says:

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    Marketing Director