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Boller, Bears end Washington’s 26-year streak

By Tim Korte
Monday October 07, 2002

SEATTLE – Kyle Boller waited his whole life to play such a great game. The way he saw it, the Washington Huskies just happened to be the team on the other side of the line. 

Boller threw for 266 yards and a career-high five touchdowns as Cal defeated No. 12 Washington 34-27 on Saturday, snapping a 19-game losing streak in the series. 

“I can honestly say this is the best game I’ve ever played, high school or college,” a jubilant Boller said. “It was the best feeling to look up in the stands afterward. I saw my mom jumping up and down. It was awesome.” 

The Golden Bears (4-2, 1-1 Pac-10) beat Washington (3-2, 0-1) for the first time since Nov. 9, 1976. They also ended a 17-game homefield winning streak by the Huskies. 

“We can say, ’It’s history. It’s over,”’ Boller said. “People will remember 2002 as the year the Golden Bears came in here, played a good game and won.” 

Boller was 13-of-24 without an interception, outdueling Washington’s Cody Pickett, the nation’s No. 2 passer. Pickett finished 35-of-59 for 399 yards, but he threw two interceptions. 

“We kind of shot ourselves in the foot,” Pickett said. “I threw two picks, and you can’t do that in the Pac-10.” 

After the final seconds ticked off, the Bears gathered in front of the Cal band in the southwest corner of Husky Stadium to salute a contingent of fans. The celebration carried into the visitors’ dressing room. 

“This does worlds for our confidence,” Bears defensive back Nnamdi Asomugha said. “Everybody saw us start 3-0, then they kind of forgot about us when we lost the next two. We feel we’re back.” 

The Huskies rallied to beat California the last three years, and they seemed ready to do it again. Pickett’s 1-yard TD run on an option play pulled Washington to 34-24 with 4:03 remaining. 

Greg Carothers recovered a fumble by Joe Igber on Cal’s ensuing series, and the Huskies reached the final margin on John Anderson’s fourth field goal of the day, a 37-yarder with 1:54 to play. 

“That was scary, how similar this game was to what’s happened before,” Boller said. “This time, our defense stepped up. We didn’t let anything get to us.” 

Cal’s Geoff McArthur recovered the ensuing onside kick, and the Bears ran out the clock. 

“I would have never dreamed in my wildest dreams that I would lose to Cal,” Washington guard Elliott Zajac said. “It was horrendous.” 

Pickett barely missed his third straight game with at least 400 yards. He was contained by a steady pass rush, and Cal’s defensive backs smothered Washington’s talented receivers. 

“Our main goal was to get hits on Pickett,” Asomugha said. “When you come at him, the D-line gets hits on the quarterback. When the D-line gets hits on the quarterback, that forces him into making bad plays.” 

Huskies fans surely would say the Cal backs were too close. The Golden Bears blanketed Washington receivers, and several times fans booed when officials failed to call pass interference after contact. 

“Our receivers are so great, they tried to press and get our guys off our routes,” said Washington’s Reggie Williams, who caught eight passes for 116 yards. “We just didn’t get calls when somebody’s ripping off your jersey.” 

Williams continued to complain about the officiating. 

“They’re probably all cockeyed, or they have cataracts or something,” he said. 

Pickett’s second interception, by Jemeel Powell at Washington’s 15-yard line early in the fourth quarter, set up Boller’s fifth TD. The Bears needed only three plays, as Boller found LaShaun Ward for a 2-yard scoring play and a 34-18 lead. 

California extended a 21-16 halftime lead to 27-16 early in the third period when Boller found Washington freshman cornerback Nate Robinson out of position and threw a 23-yard TD pass to a wide-open Tom Swoboda. 

“Boller is really a sleeper,” said Cal’s Vincent Strang, who caught a 55-yard scoring pass. “I don’t know if people realize how good he is.” 

Boller moved past Gale Gilbert for fourth place on Cal’s career passing list with 6,643 yards. 

He also became only the third quarterback to throw for five TDs against the Huskies. The last was Washington State’s Jack Thompson in 1976. Tom O’Connell of Illinois, in 1952, was the other. 

“All that matters is we won,” Boller said. “I could have thrown for 8 yards or 800 yards. I don’t even know how many yards I had. It’s just awesome to see everybody so happy. We just performed.”