University of Washington

Cal stuns No. 14 Huskies in Pac-12 opener after lengthy lightning delay

Head coach Chris Petersen on Huskies’ loss to Cal

Washington head coach Chris Petersen reflects on the Huskies' 20-19 loss to Cal.
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Washington head coach Chris Petersen reflects on the Huskies' 20-19 loss to Cal.

As Washington’s 15-game home winning streak came to an end, offensive lineman Trey Adams sat motionless on the Huskies’ bench. Head in his hands, Adams hardly flinched as Cal’s 17-yard game-winning field goal sailed through the uprights.

The Golden Bears’ sideline erupted in cheers. But on the other side of the field, Adams just paused for a moment before climbing to his feet. The Huskies were trailing by a single point with 8 seconds left on the clock. There was still a chance, however slim, that UW could pull out a win in Saturday’s bizarre Pac-12 opener.

The game had already featured a 2 hour and 39 minute lightning delay. Twice, the stadium lights were knocked out. And just minutes before the Golden Bears reclaimed the lead, UW’s Peyton Henry hit a 49-yard field goal to put the Huskies ahead, 19-17, with less than 4 minutes remaining in the game.

But there wasn’t a miracle in store on this wild night.

And when the Huskies’ final possession ended, Cal’s players immediately stormed the field to celebrate the 20-19 victory at Husky Stadium. After losing to the Golden Bears for the second straight season, UW’s players walked — stone-faced and quiet — toward their tunnel.

“I feel the game picked up right where it was,” UW defensive back Myles Bryant said of the weather delay. “I think we needed to come out with edge and energy and I don’t think we did a good job of doing that.”

The game officially kicked off at 7:40 p.m. But with 9 minutes and 46 seconds left in the first quarter, lightning illuminated the sky. The teams both left the field while fans searched for cover from the rain. The crowd initially cheered each lightning strike but by the final hour of the delay, the flashes received only boos.

On the big screen, Stanford battled USC. The stadium DJ worked through his collection of rain-themed musical options. Occasionally, cheers of “Go Huskies” would break out. For nearly three hours, the field remained empty — save the occasional fan vaulting over the railing.

Meanwhile, UW’s players passed the time by watching some of the other late-night games. As they talked about returning to the field, they also stretched and exercised in an attempt to stay loose.

“Obviously with the weather delay, it was a little strange,” said center Nick Harris. “We got to adjust when that type of stuff happens. That was probably the main thing that was weird.”

Then, just after 10 p.m., UW head coach Chris Petersen emerged from the tunnel. Microphone in hand, he made an announcement to the mostly empty seats at Husky Stadium: play would resume at 10:30 p.m.

Cheers erupted from the concourses where fans had been ordered to stand once the lightning moved closer. Ten minutes later, the teams took the field for warm-ups. And by 10:30 p.m., the Huskies were resuming their second offensive series at their 37-yard line.

“We did a good job rallying and we went out there and played,” Petersen said. “Both sides had to do the same thing and I don’t think that had anything to do with the outcome. It would have been nice to play the game and keep our fans in the stadium and all that.”

The first quarter ended with the teams knotted in a scoreless tie before Henry gave UW a 3-0 lead on a 36-yard field goal just 3 seconds into the second quarter. The Huskies then extended their advantage to 10-0 on a 21-yard run from Salvon Ahmed. The Golden Bears got on the board before halftime with a 23-yard field goal, sending UW into the break with a 10-3 lead.

When the teams returned for the third quarter, Cal’s ground game came alive. The Golden Bears rushed for 124 yards in the third quarter, a total that included two touchdown runs from Marcel Dancy. The second one — an 8-yard dash into the end zone with 50 seconds left — gave Cal a 17-13 lead heading into the fourth.

“I am sure that our guys were a little out of position and not working off each other the way that I would like them to,” Petersen said. “It seemed to me from the sideline just more tackles than we have missed in a while.”

Said defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake: “We got to tackle better. It’s similar stuff that we’ve been working on. (Cal) just did a better job of executing.”

Henry pulled the Huskies within one point, 17-16, on a 25-yard field goal with 7 minutes and 10 seconds left in the game. He then briefly gave UW the lead on a 49-yard field goal with 2 minutes and 5 seconds remaining.

But UW’s jubilation was short-lived as Cal strung together a 9-play, 74-yard drive that ended with the game-winning field goal.

“I just don’t think we were tackling the ball carrier enough. … We just had too many missed tackles and they were able to capitalize on that,” Bryant said.

Next Saturday, UW will attempt to rebound from the loss when it returns to Husky Stadium to face Hawaii.

“It’s only the second game so we’ve still got a lot more football ahead of us,” Bryant said. “We’ll look at it tonight, look at it tomorrow a little, and once Monday hits we’re getting ready for Hawaii.

“We understand that a lot of teams are going to try and hit us. They are going to try and hit us to where we missed a lot of plays. So, we’ve got to learn from those mistakes and move forward.”