California is one of the oldest foes of the Huskies and though the Dawgs do own the all-time series, 56-41-3, the average point difference chalks up to less than two points per game. That probably changed a wee bit after last Saturday’s thrashing - a trend that’s seen UW go 31-9 against the Golden Bears since 1977.
Some quick math and you realize that means the Bears had UW’s number up to that point, leading the all-time matchup 32-25-3. That is until Don James got his footing and launched UW to a 19-game win streak versus the Berkley Bears. And while Cal hasn’t been close to a national power since the Aaron Rodgers and Marshawn Lynch days, they still rank as the fourth-winningest team in conference history with 684 wins, 14 conference titles, and five national championships to their name (though none after 1937).
Cal had a pretty dominant run up to 1951, the last time they were ever ranked tops in the nation. Since then, they’ve only finished ranked in the AP Poll seven times. Their highest finish was 8th in 1991, and they only cracked the top ten one other time (9th in 2004).
“So, basically Cal has sucked since 1951. Is that what you’re saying?”
Does a Bear shit in the wood?
No, in all seriousness, even without a ton of high-profile teams in recent memory, you’ll see the Bears have got their claws into the Huskies on more than a few occasions. And the relationship between California and Washington goes much deeper than numbers on a page.
We all know about the hubbub over UW’s hiring of former Cal assistant Tosh Lupoi back in 2012, and the subsequent commitment of former Cal commit, Shaq Thompson. But did you know the Dawgs were also the last team to face the Bears in both old California Field (a 9-0 Cal victory in 1923) and the original Memorial Stadium (a 16-13 UW win in 2010)?
See, the Bears and the Dawgs have a special relationship that goes all the way back to 1915 when the Dawgs won the first-ever matchup 72-0 (a classic Dobie thrashing). The two West Coast teams have thrived on being spoilers for many important moments in each’s history through the years.
In fact, Cal was the team to end UW’s historic unbeaten streak from 1908 to 1916. The aforementioned Dobie had resigned after the 1916 season, and after a win against Whitman in the season opener, UW marched down to Cal and got blanked, 27-0.
Now that you’ve got a birds-eye view, let’s zoom in on some of the best games across the 100 matchups between the Dawgs and the Bears.
Oct. 19, 1991 - #3 UW (5-0) @ #7 CAL (5-0)
This was a doozy. Aside from all the crop tops flying around out there, UW came in with one of the nation's top defensive units, and Cal, led by QB Mike Pawlawski, brought one of the most explosive offenses in the country down to Montlake.
This game ended up being the Jay Barry game. Starting tailback Beno Bryant was no slouch (12 carries, 99 yards, TD) but he had been fighting an illness leading up to the game and even reportedly passed out at one practice earlier in the week.
So Barry stepped up and did his best Barry Sanders impression, bursting and juking through the Cal defense for 143 yards and a TD on 19 carries. He was the heartbeat of the UW offense that day while the passing game floundered. It was a game to remember for everyone but Billy Joe Hobert, especially in the second half where he completed just 4-15 passes for a measly 36 yards.
It was a pretty underwhelming start to the game. The first five series ended in punts and while the Husky defense looked pretty menacing, the Husky offense looked equally futile. In a game that had huge implications for both teams’ Rose Bowl hopes, it was Cal who punched first with a 54-yard bomb to leading receiver Sean Dawkins.
From there, the Dawgs managed to outscore Cal 17-3 in the rest of the half with a 36-yard touchdown pass of their own to the speedy Mario Bailey, a 9-yard scamper by Jay Barry, and each team booting in a field goal.
The second half was marred with Husky penalties. Every time they had a big play or got deep into enemy territory you’d see laundry litter the field. I swear the replay I watched even went completely yellow for a blip as a referee's flag flew by the camera.
The boys in purple and gold did a great job stifling the Cal offense for most of the game but late in the third quarter Bears’ tailback Lindsey Chapman burst through the line and was immediately gone. As soon as he emerged from out of the big uglies there was no one within 10-15 yards of him side-to-side, and nothing but pale green turf in front.
He ran it 69 yards for the score. Tying the game at 17 apiece.
The ground game carried the Husky offense to that point, so what could Dawg fans expect other than a gashing Beno Bryant run to take back the lead. That’s right, Beno took the handoff from Hobert, made one sharp cut through the line, and was gone. 65 yards to the house. UW 24, Cal 17.
Cal did have one more shot after Washington missed a field goal late in the game. The Bears took over with 57 seconds left and got the ball down to the 22 of UW. After a spike five seconds remained. One more shot for Cal. Pawlawski needled one to the endzone and nearly hit his man but the pass fell to the ground and UW won.
Or did they...yet another Husky penalty (offside) gave the Bears one more, “one more chance.” The pass went up, and then it went down, smacking the turf and cementing UW’s victory, keeping all lanes open on the road to the Rose Bowl.
This was the only game all year the Huskies didn’t win by double-digits. Even in the Rose Bowl, the Dawgs mopped up Michigan by 20 points, 34-14.
Oct. 9, 1993 - #13 UW (3-1) @ #16 CAL (5-0)
The year was now 1993, just two years removed from winning the National Title. The Huskies had said goodbye to QBs Billy Joe Hobert and Mark Brunell, and next in line was a young Damon Huard.
Young being the key word.
As Seattle Times reporter Hugo Kugiya put it, “Damon Huard was born yesterday during the next to last minute of an incalculable game. The stadium that was to be his tomb became the delivery room.”
Tomb seems pretty appropriate here as Huard dug his own grave with six turnovers on the day, each one a metaphorical foot down deeper to his burial. But new HC Jim Lambright stuck with his young QB all the way and it paid off in the biggest moment.
1Q - California missed field goal
It was Doug Brien’s first miss of the season and in what would end up being a one-point victory for UW, this would come back to haunt the Bears.
1Q - Huard’s second pick of the game
The very next play QB Dave Barr would toss a 25-yard touchdown to WR Mike Caldwell.
2Q - This one’s a double feature: Huard’s third INT, followed by a roughing the passer call on LB Jamal Fountaine sets up Cal with a 1st & Goal
This series of events helped Cal stretch the lead to 20-3 on a 5-yard TD pass to FB Marty Holly.
3Q - Yet another Damon Huard turnover came on the Dawgs' opening drive of the second half. He fumbled away a promising UW push
D’Marco Farr stopped a rolling Bears offense with a red zone sack. Forced Cal to settle for a field goal.
3Q - UW calls for a little razzle-dazzle
The Dawgs called a magical punt return reverse to Napoleon Kaufman, catching the Bears completely off-guard. Kaufman housed it but the touchdown was called back on a terrible block in the back call on LB Andy Mason who simply dove on a player on the ground
With 3:47 left on the clock, Huard got sacked on a big 3rd down at the Husky 25-yard line. After the game, Lambright was quoted saying, “He started this game 20 years old. He’s a 40-year-old by now.”
This was the beginning of Huard’s maturation. He threw a dart to WR Theron Hill to convert on 4th down with plenty of extra yardage. This led to a D.J. McCarthy TD catch that made it a one-possession game with just over two minutes remaining.
From there, walk-on kicker Jason Crabbe kicked a marvelous onside kick. It bounced up high, hitting off a Cal player’s hands and falling right by another walk-on, Scott Greenlaw, who reached out and claimed possession for the Dawgs.
UW faced another 4th down with 1:47 to go and only one timeout left. Huard struck again, this time connecting with WR Joe Kralik to move the sticks. Huard completed the drive with another TD pass, this time to TE Mark Bruener who had a hell of a day (7 catches, 68 yards) to steal the lead away from the Golden Bears.
Huard went to the sideline after the score and was met with hugs and kisses that would rival your grandma. Cal couldn’t form a rebuttal and the Dawgs came away with the 24-23 W.
Nov. 27, 2010 - UW (4-6) @ CAL (5-6)
UW had just run through the gauntlet, losing games to #15 Arizona, #13 Stanford, and #1 Oregon before snapping the skid the week before against UCLA. Both the Bears and the Dawgs were fighting for bowl eligibility. With their backs against the wall, they needed this win badly.
All Cal had to do was win and they were good to go. For the Huskies, it was beat Cal on the road then head to Pullman and beat the lowly Cougs (2-9).
It was the second season under Sark and his defense had caught a lot of flack (for good reason). Let’s just say the Nick Holt experience was less than impressive. Cal came in with one of the best defenses in the PAC-10 that year, but it was the Husky D that came up big on this day in the bay.
I’m going to skip right ahead to the pivotal moment in the game. UW’s final drive, down 13-10.
Beginning at their own 20-yard line, the Huskies got a couple of modest gains (some quick passes to the outside - a signature of Sark’s reign) before Locker hit Jermaine Kearse down the sideline to get UW down to the Cal 20. It was a beautiful catch by Kearse who had to work his way back inside and layout to bring it in.
Then a reverse to Jesse Callier and a draw by Locker got the Dawgs down to the 7. The Dawgs dialed up another Locker run, this time up the middle, and the pride of Ferndale dove down to the 1-yard line.
Cal had no timeouts so up the gut went Locker again. He was stuffed. He tried another sneak on 3rd down and was completely shut down again.
Now 4th down, the clock running low, Sark called a timeout. Two seconds left on the scoreboard and everyone wondered if the Dawgs would kick or go for the win.
With the entire team huddled around him, Sark called the play. The Husky offense ran back out on the field and handed off to Chris Polk who squirted between the guard and tackle for the game-winning score.
UW would go on to beat Wazzu, duh (actually it was a close game, 35-28), and then get revenge in the Holiday Bowl against a Nebraska team that walloped them earlier in the year.
Fun Fact of the Game
UW’s punter got hurt in the second half and WR Cody Bruns had to come in as the emergency punter.
Sept. 7, 2019 - #14 UW (1-0) vs CAL (1-0)
Some of you might not remember this game all that clearly, I’ll admit, it’s a bit fuzzy for me too. This was the infamous “Lightning Game.” In the 2019 conference opener, #14 Washington welcomed the Golden Bears into Husky Stadium with high hopes for the coming season.
UW went 10-4 the previous year but lost in the Rose Bowl to Ohio State for Jake Browning’s send-off. Now, it was Jacob Eason’s time. The Washington native transferred back home from Georgia and brought a ton of hype along with him.
The game started off strong. The crowd was out in full force with 71,000 plus filling the stands. But after just eight plays the lightning rolled in, and a 2-hour 38-minute delay would ensue.
Fans were forced out of their seats and under cover, many finding refuge in the hallways and by concessions stands. Others, like me, would venture out into the great unknown to finish off whatever leftovers could be scrounged from the pre-game tailgate. Little did we know, it would get worse.
Soon the downpour became torrential and us fools in the parking lots had to seek cover. The next thing I remember is huddling under an RV awning with my Dad and brothers doing anything we could to not get any more soaked than we already were.
After some time, we were waved over by other Dawg fans taking cover under a canopy. And as bleak as it seemed at the time, our saviors had food and beer. We laughed, joked, looked at our clocks, and waited.
Finally, Coach Pete came out onto the field and we heard the call to come home.
Play was resuming.
It was an ugly game that saw a combined 273 passing yards. Back and forth the two teams went but you never got the sense the Dawgs had the upper hand.
UW took a 10-3 lead at the half but Cal RB Marcel Dancy would change that in the third.
Dancy punched in two scores on runs of 20 and 8 yards. Giving Cal the 17-13 lead.
The Dawgs would bark back and find themselves with a 4th & 1 at the 2-yard line, but a false start would force them to settle for a field goal.
Another UW field goal with 2:05 left in the game would give the Dawgs the 19-17 lead, but only momentarily. Cal drove down the field with a big chunk coming on a 27-yard pass to Kekoa Crawford, taking the Bears down to the UW 4-yard line. Cal ran one more play down to the 1 before Washington called its final timeout with eight seconds left. Cal lined up for a field goal and it was up and good.
The 14-point underdog Golden Bears had snapped a 15-game home winning streak for the Dawgs and set in motion a rocky 8-5 season on Montlake.
Cal would also finish the year 8-5 and get a win over Illinois in the Redbox Bowl.
UW would poetically beat Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl, Coach Peterson’s final game as Husky Head Coach.
Up Next: Arizona Wildcats
The next PAC in Time features the school down in Tuscon. I’ll run back more memorable games and moments between the Dawgs and the Cats.
Again, feel free to add in your own memories from UW’s history against Cal and keep the good time flowing.