(We continue the looking back series for the 2009 season. We’re going to continue the trend of doing these in “matching order” instead of chronological order. Today we look at the 2009 Washington game. Go here for past looking back posts.)
Pre-Game notes and thoughts:
The Bears had re-inserted themselves in the conference conversations after two upset wins over Arizona at home and Stanford in Palo Alto. They were 5-3 in conference and 8-3 overall. If they won this game, as everyone expected, they’d be tied for 2nd in the conference with 3 other teams and could go anywhere from the Holiday bowl to the Nut or Vegas. If they lost, something no one was talking about, it was the lowly Poinsettia bowl. They’d had a bye after the upset in the Big Game, something it was unanimously assumed was good for the team after the bruising Big Game. But could the off-time, including Thanksgiving actually be to the detriment of the Bears? Was Washington better than their 4-7 record indicated? We were about to find out.
Scoring and momentum changing plays:
- Riley makes a couple of nice throws on the first drive of the game, one to Jones on 3rd down and one to Ross, that help get the Bears deep into Washington territory.
- UW makes a nice stand at the 25, first stopping Vereen for a loss on 1st down and then not giving anything up the following two plays, stalling the drive.
- D’Amato hooks the 42 yard field goal attempt and the Bears come up empty on their first drive.
- UW goes for a pass off a of a reverse, that goes for 38 yards despite reasonably good coverage from Nnabufee.
- Nnabufee gets taken advantage of again, when Locker throws a beautiful pass into the endzone and despite reasonable coverage, it was just too perfectly thrown. Two big plays and UW is up 0-7
- Shane Vereen makes a nice cutback move to get into the secondary for a 50 yard gain down to the UW 15.
- The drive stalls there and D’Amato this time succeeds on the kick. Bears slim the lead, but two trips this deep into UW territory and only 3 points is trouble: 3-7
- After completing a nice pass again, UW tries to pound the ball 3 times on their next series of downs, failing to convert on 3rd and 3 and the Bears are able to force the punt from midfield.
- After a 3 and out, Anger has one of his all-to-frequent for how good he is, less than stellar punts, giving UW the ball back around midfield.
- The Huskies go for it on 4th and 5 from the Cal 34 yard line. Locker throws a strike to a hole in the zone to his favorite receiver (at least in this game), Jermaine Kearse to convert the 4th down.
- UW goes for it again on 4th down, this time 4th and 2 from Cal 14 deciding to forgo the field goal, and the Bears sack Locker to get the ball back.
- After another Cal 3 and out, Anger’s punt is returned down to the Cal 34.
- Locker runs it on a designed run play, easily out sprinting around the outside and into the endzone for a 19 yard touchdown pass. The Bears had been dancing with disaster with their 3 and outs and finally UW capitalized to go up big: 3-14
- Locker caps a complete drive with a 2 yard keeper on 1st and goal from the 2. Just before halftime the deficit goes from a challenge to troublesome: 3-21
- Locker runs for a 1st down on 3rd and 7 and a busted play where it’s just amazing how fast he got around the outside pursuit and up field.
- On the next play Locker throws a back-shoulder pass into the corner of the endzone and UW extends out of the locker room: It’s officially a mountain to climb for the comeback to be a possibility: 3-28
- Riley throws two strikes on the Bear’s first drive of the 2nd half, the first to tight end Skylar Curran, the second to Marvin Jones, to get the Bears down the UW 17.
- Boateng catches one in the flat and cuts back to the inside and into the endzone. Bears finally get a look at the colored section: 10-28
- Washington bounces right back with a short (long kickoff return to midfield) but potent drive, capped by a 13 yard strike by Locker on a slant into the endzone. The Bears touchdown is for not: 10-35
- Sofele takes the kickoff return down the left sideline, showing off his speed in hitting the hole from the wedge, down to the UW 18 yard line.
- Riley throws a horrible ball on 3rd and 4 for what should have been an easy TD. Then on 4th down, Riley gets a horrible spot on a run off a busted play and the Bears turn it over on downs in the redzone.
- Riley gets sacked for the umpteenth time with less than 7 minutes left in the game and the Huskies recover at the Cal 42.
- Polk caps the short field drive with a 10 yard touchdown run. That’s the final score with just over 3 minutes left: 10-42
- Riley fumbles again on a scramble (the ball was forced out) and Huskies recover again for their second turnover.
- Nnabufee really had a rough first quarter. Not only did he miss on the two long plays on the first drive, he also was out of position on a number of smaller plays as well.
- There was an interesting stat shown with Riley’s completion percentage in wins (62%) and losses (44%). It clearly shows how teams have been forcing the Bears to beat them through the air. When Riley was successful, the Bears would win. When he wasn’t, they’d lose. I’d say the same trend played true in 2010. It’ll be interesting to see if opposing defenses play things similarly in 2011. I kinda hope they do, because I think the Bears will burn that sort of strategy, but the less potent run game in 2011 may allow defenses to play the Bears in a more balanced fashion.
- One could definitely tell the impact of Matt Summers-Gavin not being able to play. Riley did not have a lot of time to throw and the running holes were inconsistent.
- Cal ran a lot of the wildcat in the 1st half this game and it just didn’t work. At least two drives were stalled because of losses on wildcat plays.
- The pressure on Riley started to take it’s toll in the 2nd quarter. He fumbled once (Bears recovered) and was sacked to effectively end another drive. He seemed to be much more skidish after those two plays.
- The final score before halftime was really demoralizing for the Bears. Not only was it a complete drive with successful runs, passes and a few 3rd down conversions, it also was clock sapping, not letting the Bears have a good opportunity to score before halftime. Down by 11 and down by 18 at half is a very different thing.
- Riley did not have a good half. He was 2 of 8 at one point and missed a number of open receivers (including a wide-open Verran Tucker in the endzone) as well as a having too many mis-throws. The pressure on him didn’t make his life easy, but that doesn’t deserve all the blame. It was just another off game for Riley.
- It’s really too bad the Bears couldn’t stop UW on their first 2nd half drive. 10-21 would have been a very doable situation and the momentum would be all on the Cal sideline. Instead the Bears were already in desperate catchup mode.
- Riley actually didn’t have a bad 3rd quarter. Minus a couple of key bad throws, overall he made most of his throws despite the heat that UW was bringing.
- You definitely got the sense that Riley was affected by the cold. Out of the locker-room in both halves, he didn’t do half bad, but later in both halves as he got cold both his accuracy and his decision making went downhill.
- The Bears were desperate and tired in the 4th quarter. Nothing went right after Cal’s lone touchdown in the 3rd quarter.
Implications for the future:
This being Cal’s last trip to Seattle, it’s instructive to the home-field advantage that the Huskies have. With Oregon’s rise to prominence and USC’s extended stay on top, UW’s storied home field advantage has gotten a lot less press. That doesn’t make it any less real. Let’s just be thankful this year we’ve got an early season day game instead of the late season games of the last few years and the night games have been killer as well. In most ways however, these are two very different teams than in 2009 (the soon to be published 2010 recap will not have that shortcoming). If there’s one thing that’s consistent it’s that UW is one team that can play the power game with Cal quite effectively. The Bears won’t just be able to power-up and win this one.
In some ways this game was every bit as terrifying as we all remember it. In other ways, it was much closer than the final score indicated. I will say this, this game was UW’s best performance of the season. They were clicking on all cylinders. You could argue they haven’t played a game this well since either, particularly on the offensive side of the ball (their victory in the Holiday bowl over Nebraska last year was an incredibly strong defensive performance). There’s not much about UW that scares me at this point, although saturday’s should be a fairly evenly matched affair. I wouldn’t expect them to as great as they were on this night. Not even that team could have repeated this performance.