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Cal shows improvement but loses to Washington

By Dean Caparaz ,Daily Planet Correspondent
Monday October 01, 2001

Husky hex continues as Bears lose early lead 



Cal wasted a strong start and a 14-point lead as it lost another close game to Washington, 31-28, on Saturday. 

Thirteenth-ranked Washington scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and held off the Golden Bears at the end. The loss made the 2001 Bears the first Cal team to open a season with four losses. 

The Bears, who allowed 139 points in their first three games, looked like they might blow out the Huskies in the first half. The Memorial Stadium faithful, 35,172-strong, saw the Bears race out to a 21-7 lead thanks to some nifty play-calling by offensive coordinator Al Borges, a smothering Cal defense, and a tentative effort from the Huskies.  

After getting yanked in last week’s loss at Washington State, Cal quarterback Kyle Boller returned with a strong performance, throwing for a career-high four touchdown passes. He also threw for 265 yards, his second most of his career.  

Cal’s defense sacked Washington quarterback Cody Pickett three times. The Bears, who had no sacks in the first two games, now have six over the last two weeks.  

But the bigger statistics for the Bears were these: one fumble, one muffed punt, numerous dropped passes, and the first two career touchdown passes for Pickett. The redshirt sophomore threw a 42-yard scoring pass to Paul Arnold late in the first quarter and then a stunning 62-yard catch and run to Arnold late in the third quarter as the Huskies mounted their comeback.  

The Bears had the ball and some hope at the end but ended up with their third straight close loss to Washington.  

“The plays that they got were a couple of big plays, a couple of big passes,” Cal coach Tom Holmoe said. “Offensively, we had everything going for us in the first half and then we couldn’t continue that in the second half. And it came down to plays. We had to make plays.  

“We had a lot of key, key first downs that we missed, dropped balls, and we have to do that [make plays]. When you’re playing a team the caliber of Washington, you cannot spit the ball around and drop passes and jump offsides or whatever it might be.”  

Two years ago, Cal led 24-17 in the fourth quarter in Seattle before dropping a 31-27 heartbreaker. Last year, at Cal, the Bears had a 24-13 fourth-quarter lead over the Huskies before losing 36-24. This time, Cal led 21-17 in the fourth before losing. The Huskies have now won the last 19 straight games against Cal, a streak that dates back to 1976.  

Early on, it seemed the streak would end. Cal took the opening kickoff and marched 90 yards on 14 plays to score on Boller’s two-yard pass to Sean Currin. Borges mixed up his plays, calling six runs and eight passes, the highlight of the drive being tailback Terrell Williams’ option pass to Boller down to the Washington two-yard line.  

“It’s not very often (a quarterback) can catch a ball,” Boller said. “It’s a pretty cool play.”  

But the drive wasn’t perfect. Emblematic of a mistake-strewn season, Cal was whistled for a personal foul on the opening kickoff, starting at its own 10 instead of the 20-yard line after a touchback. Overall, Cal had seven penalties for 60 yards, while Washington had eight penalties for 76 yards.  

After a three-and-out for Washington, Boller led another long drive, this one lasting 10 plays for 72 yards, that ended with a TD pass to Joe Igber, finding the tailback uncovered coming out of the backfield. Igber caught the ball, scampered 19 yards and ran over a couple of Huskies before hitting pay dirt. It was the first time all season Cal scored on their first two drives.  

Boller was in complete command of the game, unlike what happened in Pullman, where his ineffective play led to Holmoe replacing him with backup Eric Holtfreter.  

“I told [Holmoe] last week, ‘I’m a competitor,’” Boller said. “I never like to sit. I was pissed off. This week, I just told myself I was going to go out there and bust my ass. I don’t want the coaches to have a reason to take me out of the game.”  

On Cal’s next possession, Boller made a nice throw to Charon Arnold for what looked like an 18-yard gain. But the senior wide receiver fumbled the ball away to Washington, which scored on the next play. Pickett threw his first collegiate touchdown pass when he hit Arnold for a 42-yard touchdown. 

Cal shrugged off its misfortune and scored again on its ensuing possession. This time, Cal ran the ball six times in eight plays. The two passes were a 33-yard throw to fullback Marcus Fields and a 14-yard strike to a wide-open Jordon Hunter for the touchdown, his first.  

“They played great,” Colorado coach Rick Neuheisel said of the Bears. “They outcoached us in the first half. I take full responsibility for not getting our team ready. We got whipped.”  

Washington’s John Anderson hit a 40-yard field goal to make the score 21-10 Cal at halftime.  

“We felt good,” Boller said. “We wished we didn’t have to come back into the locker room and that we could’ve kept playing.” 

The second half was a completely different game. Washington’s defense made some adjustments and its offense finally figured out how to score on Cal’s porous defense, which entered the game ranked 109th in the NCAA in total defense and 111th in pass efficiency defense. The 2001 Bears are also the first Cal team to allow 40 or more points in each of its first three games.  

Washington moved the ball through the air – Pickett threw 11 times for 168 yards and a score – and on the ground to outgain Cal, 227 yards to 19 in the third quarter after Cal had outgained UW, 269-96, in the first half. 

On defense, the Huskies clamped down on the passing game. They took away the passes in the flats – Igber and Fields combined for five catches in the first half and none in the second – and tightened coverage on the receivers downfield. Boller completed just one pass, an 11-yard toss to Charon Arnold for a first down, in the third quarter.  

Cal made another mistake when linebacker Chris Ball, trying to block a punt, missed the ball, ran into Huskies punter Derek McLoughlin and drew a 15-yard roughing the punter penalty. The special teams unit let the Bears down again, as Cal also turned the ball over when Washington recovered the ball after a UW punt hit the back of Cal’s LeShaun Ward.  

“Various individuals just flipped out, totally flipped out,” Holmoe said of his special teams. On Ball’s roughing the punter penalty, Holmoe added, “That wasn’t a call. The guy had no business being in there. We didn’t call a block. Those are the kind of things that make you wonder.”  

The only points in the quarter came on Pickett’s 62-yard bomb to Paul Arnold. Pickett’s throw beat cornerback Atari Callen, who generally played okay in his start in place of Ward.  

“He played a pretty darn good game, made a lot of breakups and played pretty good out there,” Holmoe said of Callen. “He wishes he had that one back.”  

Alexis finished off a couple of long fourth-quarter drives with one-yard plunges into the endzone to put Washington up 31-21.  

Boller masterminded a late drive and threw a 20-yard scoring pass to Chase Lyman. The Bears defense forced Washington to three and out on its next drive and gave the ball back to the offense. Cal had one timeout, the ball on its 30 and one last chance.  

“I was very confident,” Holmoe said. “He [Boller] had this look in his eye, like, ‘This is it. We’re going to do it.’ I’m proud of him. He’s taken a lot of heat. A lot of it is unnecessary and a lot of it is justified, but regardless he handles everything like a champion.”  

But a dropped pass by Currin ended their last drive.  

Cal has next week off before it looks for its first win of the season against the Oregon Ducks on Oct. 13.  

“We’ve got to look deep inside and bring out the best in us, cause there’s some guys who have some ghosts haunting them,” Holmoe said. “We called upon each other to play with their hearts and lay them on the line for each other, and I was proud of that. I was very proud of that. 

“I can’t be content. It’s not a moral victory. We don’t have any of those.”