The No. 11 ranked Golden Bears look to extend their winning streak to seven games when they host the Huskies at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
California, despite not scoring 40 or more points for the first time since week one, continued its winning ways with a 21-3 matter of fact victory over Washington State last Saturday. The Golden Bears while extending one streak ended another as it snapped its nine game losing streak at Martin Stadium in Pullman, dating back to 1979. The Golden Bears dominant offense was held in check on Saturday and for one week took a back seat to the Defense which completely smothered the Cougars offense.
"Sometimes, one side of the ball has to step up," California coach Jeff Tedford told reporters after the game.
Step up they did. The defense held Washington State to just 88 yards rushing (70 of which came on one play), had two sacks and intercepted two passes, while keeping the Cougars out of the end zone. Additionally, California's defense held Washington State to 0-for-11 on third down conversions a week after holding Oregon to 2-for-10 on third down conversions.
Sophomore linebacker Zack Follett and senior linebacker Desmond Bishop led the defense with eight tackles apiece and senior cornerback, Daymeion Hughes picked off his sixth pass, which ties him for second nationally. The senior corner shut down a top receiver for the second straight week on Saturday as he held Cougars receiver, Jason Hill, to 23 yards on two catches.
Overall, the California defense has been outstanding, yielding just 94 points over the last six games and it is holding opponents to 18.4 points per game.
This is going to be a great test for a Huskies team that comes into the game limping, literally. Washington has lost back-to-back game to Southern California and Oregon State and is without its starting quarterback, senior Isaiah Stanback, who underwent surgery this week on his right foot and will be out for the season.
It was just two weeks ago that Washington (4-3, 2-2 Pac-10) was 4-1 with a chance to pull off the biggest upset of the season on the road against unbeaten USC. The Huskies had the ball inside the Trojans 20 yard line in the final seconds down six, but were unable to get off a final play before the clock ran out and Southern California escaped with a win. The final score notwithstanding, Washington looked like it would be a force in the Pac-10. Then last week after leading 17-10 half, the Huskies saw Oregon State rally to win, but more importantly lost their quarterback and leader Stanback.
Junior Carl Bonnell, who completed 2-of-6 for 10 yards in relief of Stanback, will be making only his third career start against California. He will have some big shoes to fill as the senior Stanback was second in the Pac-10 in total offense and was the team's third leading rushing prior to the injury.
Tedford admitted not facing Stanback will make his team task a little bit easier on Saturday.
"Isaiah was a major part of their team," he said. "He was so dangerous running the ball."
The quarterback situation completely changes the Washington game plan and the Huskies are really going to have to rely on running backs, senior Kenny James and junior Louis Rankin. James leads the team with 362 yards and three touchdowns and Rankin has rushed for 355 yards (5.5 average) with two touchdowns. The two backs must be able to run the ball effectively to take the pressure off of Bonnell and keep Washington out of third and long situations.
Although the Golden Bears offense was not as potent as it had been last Saturday, senior running back Marshawn Lynch stepped up and carried them, rushing for 152 yards and two touchdowns. The senior continues to lead the Pac-10 in rushing with 757 yards, despite missing parts of two games due to ankle injury.
He was able to carry the offense on a day when sophomore quarterback Nate Longshore had a sub par performance. The sophomore was held without a touchdown pass, but did rush for a touchdown, while tossing two interceptions, his worst game since the opener against Tennessee.
The offensive line, which has been great all year, continued its fine play last Saturday. It allowed just one sack to the Cougars, who were leading the nation in sacks with 25 coming into the game, while creating holes for Lynch.
The Golden Bears offensive line has been one of the reasons that Longshore has been so effective this year. It has been its best during the six-game winning streak surrendering just five sacks over that span.
Longshore and the California passing game should get back on track on Saturday because the Huskies have one of the worst passes defenses in the country. Washington ranks 107 out of 119 teams in pass defense, allowing over 250 yards passing per game.
Despite the poor game against Washington State, Longshore still leads the Pac-10 in passing efficiency and has 17 touchdowns and six interceptions during the winning streak. The sophomore quarterback's great season has helped propel California to a 4-0 start in league play for the first time since 1950.
Aside from not having to face Stanback, the Golden Bears have history on their side, winning their last four against Huskies including last year's 56-17 blowout.
Notes: Washington leads the all-time series 45-36-4. Washington is 22-19-1 all-time in Berkley