Nov. 26, 2010
|Gametracker||Live Audio||Gameday Central|
|TV: FSN-NW||Radio: Washington ISP Sports Network|
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
BERKELEY, Calif. - The edict is everywhere for the Huskies.
It's on their minds. In their meetings. Even on the chests of the black T-shirts many players were wearing Friday when Washington (4-6, 3-4 Pac-10) arrived here for Saturday's bowl-elimination game at California (5-6, 3-5).
Playing their best and winning the final two games of this season - including next week's Apple Cup at Washington State - would qualify the Huskies in their first bowl since 2002, just two years after a winless season.
It would also duplicate 2009. The Dawgs romped past Cal and WSU by a combined 72-10 to finish last season.
"It's very similar," junior defensive end Everrette Thompson said of where these Huskies find themselves at the end of November. "We've been here before."
They've heard it all before, too.
"Coach Sark always harps on it: Keep up the intensity and finish strong," said cornerback Quinton Richardson, who has had his best games of the season the last few weeks.
Kickoff Saturday for the final game at Cal's venerable Memorial Stadium before it gets renovated is at 12:30 p.m. Fox Sports Northwest has the live telecast. The Washington ISP Sports Network has the radio call. And GoHuskies.com has a live, in-game chat plus Gametracker and a streaming audio.
Forecasters say there is a 90 percent chance it will be raining lightly at kickoff, with a breeze and temperatures in the mid 50s. So when the offensive linemen led an impromptu parade of Huskies through the stands to the top rim of Cal's old bowl Friday to watch the sun set over San Francisco Bay to the west, it was likely the only time they will see the sun on this trip.
But a win would help ensure more sun for UW at a bowl in perhaps San Diego, Las Vegas or El Paso, Texas, sites of Pac-10 affiliated postseason games. Saturday is essentially is a loser-out game; the Bears must win their season finale to return to the postseason.
Washington last played on Nov. 18 when it beat UCLA. Cal lost big at home last Saturday to Stanford. So the Huskies have the advantage of two more days off, days that allowed Washington quarterback Jake Locker to further rest his broken rib.
The senior practiced all week and is expected to start for the 38th time in his UW career on Saturday. He needs five touchdown passes in these final two regular-season games to tie Cody Pickett's school record of 55 set from 1999-2003.
Some think the Cardinal may have taken the zest out of Cal by rolling in the Big Game. Not the Huskies. They expect the Bears to rebound with energy and urgency.
"I expect a very hard-fought game. Both teams are backed into a corner, in a sense," Sarkisian said. "We're fighting for our football lives."
Williams expects that fight to bring out the bark in his Dawgs.
"We know what's on the line," said Williams, who tied his career-high with 13 tackles against UCLA last week. "I think on Saturday you are going to see a pretty good Husky team come out and play."
Washington looked like it was starting another end-of-season surge in a 24-7 win over the Bruins last Thursday night. For one night, anyway, it appeared the Huskies had turned a corner and left their previous inconsistency behind.
The still-developing defense looked as good as it has all season, allowing UCLA just 163 yards on 61 plays. The Huskies started sophomore defensive tackle Semisi Tokolahi for the first time to add bulk inside against the run.
"A little changeup," said Thompson, who has moved back outside to end after starting four times at tackle earlier in the season.
The "changeup" resulted in the line being stronger in controlling its assigned gaps. That freed Williams, national solo tackle leader Mason Foster and fellow linebackers Cort Dennison and Victor Aiyewa to repeatedly make plays. The Bruins and their run-oriented "pistol" offense managed just 98 yards on 33 carries.
The offense gave Locker and his rib a break against UCLA by relying on the running of Chris Polk and Jesse Callier instead. Each set career highs for yards and carriers in Washington's first game with two 100-yard rushers in three years, and the Huskies ran for a season-high 253 yards in all.
Sarkisian said to expect more of that against the Bears, though he added "in a perfect world we would throw the ball even better." He also wants better production on third down. The Huskies were 1 for 12 converting third downs against UCLA, and are 5 for 29 in the last three games.
Running the ball well and creating short-yardage chances would help with that. Ten of UW's 16 first-downs in the win over UCLA came on runs.
"We'll play to that," the coach said of rushing more. He says that is the key to winning in November.
This is essentially the same Cal team against which Polk romped for 94 yards and Locker dashed for 77 with two touchdowns last season. Locker was also 19 for 23 passing with three scoring passes last Dec. 5 when Washington beat the Bears 42-10 in Seattle.
Locker will be making his second consecutive start with a protective pad over rib he broke Oct. 30 against Stanford. He anticipates a 2009-like approach against Cal on Saturday.
"I expect it to be pretty similar to what we did last year, because we had some success against them," Locker said.
Now, they must duplicate the result.
"Now it's a do-or-die attitude that we have," Dennison said. "We really have to bring it."