Bears Fail to Become Bowl Eligible With Last-Second Loss to Huskies

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Washington football coach Steve Sarkisian waited until there were two seconds left on the clock before calling a timeout. With his team facing fourth-and-1 on the goal line - their season and Cal's hanging in the balance - he turned to the huddle.

"We've been preaching now for three weeks about how you've got to finish," he said. "There's no better way to finish than on the last play of the game. Here we go. This is what we do."

Across the field, the Bears felt sure quarterback Jake Locker was going to keep the ball. As they lined up, they were convinced they were about to win the game on a thrilling four-down stop.

But Locker didn't keep the ball.

Instead, running back Chris Polk rushed right into the end zone. Washington 16, Cal 13.

"I looked at the clock, realized there was no time left, no time for our offense," defensive end Cameron Jordan said. "I went numb and realized that was the end of my Cal career."

It was perhaps a sadly appropriate ending for what has been one of the most bipolar years that the Bears (5-7, 3-6 in the Pac-10) have endured in recent memory.

The game started slow, as the two offenses traded fruitless drives. Locker and Cal quarterback Brock Mansion went a combined 14-of-26 and both threw an interception. Neither squad was able to convert more than two first downs. Without a booming 53-yard field goal from kicker Giorgio Tavecchio as time expired, the half would have ended in a scoreless tie.

But coming out of the gate in the second half, the fireworks were intense if sporadic.

On one play, Locker's arm and wide receiver D'Andre Goodwin's luck gave the Huskies the lead. With 10:36 left in the third quarter, Locker threw a rocket to Goodwin, which deflected off defender Marc Anthony and into Goodwin's hands. From there, there was no one to stop Goodwin from scoring an 80-yard touchdown.

"I thought we played the pass well pretty much all game," safety Sean Cattouse said. "They got a tipped ball. It's one of those crazy plays."

With Washington (5-6, 4-4) leading 7-3, though, momentum seemed to swing in Cal's favor. Linebacker Mike Mohamed sacked Locker with a few minutes left in the third quarter, and the ball squirted out. Jordan bent down, snatched it up and rumbled 21 yards for the score.

As the fourth quarter began, hail fell and the Bears scored once more on a 47-yard field goal by Tavecchio.

It would have been the game-winner, but Cal never got close to the end zone again. Instead, Washington took four-plus minutes to drive down the field, setting up its game-winning finale.

"We had the talent, we had the team. We just didn't execute," said tailback Shane Vereen, who finished the game with 106 yards rushing. "Things didn't go our way at times."

The loss marked the end of Cal's streak of winning seasons. The last time the Bears had a losing record was in 2001, when Tom Holmoe was the coach. For the first time since the year he took over, Jeff Tedford's Bears will be not play in a bowl game.

Although one week of regular season play still remains, it looks as though the Bears will end up near seventh in the conference - where they were picked to finish in the preseason poll.

From the beginning, Cal chafed at that preseason ranking, taking it as a personal challenge to do better. In the end, they fulfilled the media's expectations, if not their own.

"There are going to be seasons where you don't do what you're expected to do," wide receiver Marvin Jones said. "That's fine. But we seniors have to train hard in the offseason and come back and have a better season than we had this year."


Katie Dowd covers football. Contact her at [email protected]

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