SEATTLE -- Facing a fourth-down play with the game on the line, Cal couldn't duplicate Washington's magic from last year.
Quarterback Zach Maynard overthrew wide receiver Keenan Allen from the Huskies' 2-yard line with 21 seconds remaining Saturday, allowing Washington to hold on for a 31-23 victory before an earsplitting crowd of 60,437 at Husky Stadium in the Pac-12 opener for both schools.
Maynard led the Bears (3-1) on a 15-play, 85-yard drive that began at their 13 with 4:19 remaining, converting a fourth down from their 20 along the way. But after getting first-and-goal from the Washington 2, Cal couldn't come up with the game-tying score.
Last season, Washington running back Chris Polk scored on a 1-yard touchdown run as time expired on a fourth-down play to lift the Huskies to a victory and eliminate the Bears from bowl contention.
"It's obviously a great matchup between the two teams," Cal safety Sean Cattouse said. "It's just going to be one of those games that can go either way every time. They happened to get the best of us today."
The Huskies (3-1) did so by slicing up Cal's defense for 409 yards, including 292 through the air. Washington quarterback Keith Price, a redshirt sophomore who looks like a budding star, completed 19 of 25 passes and threw for three touchdowns, including a 70-yarder to Polk that gave the Huskies the final margin of victory with 12:13 remaining.
The Bears sacked Price twice, but too
Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast and some of the Bears' key defensive players insisted no major changes need to be made, whether it be schematically or with personnel. But Cal coach Jeff Tedford allowed some re-evaluation might have to take place.
"Very concerned," Tedford said. "You have to give them a lot of credit, but we have to play better. We'll go back and look at it and grade it and see what the issues are. We'll make appropriate decisions from there."
Ryan Davis and Dan Camporeale started at outside linebacker for the Bears, but it didn't take long for them to be replaced by freshmen Cecil Whiteside and Chris McCain. The duo, used primarily as pass rushers the first three games, played almost the entire contest.
Pendergast is balancing the desire to get their talents on the field at the expense of experience. Whiteside had his second forced fumble of the season, and McCain had five tackles.
"Those are guys that we want to get out on the field and work more," Pendergast said. "They are guys that need to play for us and need to continue to get better to make us be the type of defense we want to be."
Things started well enough for the Bears. On their fourth offensive snap, Allen caught a pass from Maynard over the middle and raced 90 yards for a touchdown, the longest reception in Cal history. Allen made a couple moves on Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant to turn him around, then kept his balance after an attempted tackle by Quinton Richardson.
Allen also caught five passes for 66 yards on the final drive to finish with career bests of 10 catches and 197 yards.
The Bears offense, which has surprisingly outplayed the defense this season, racked up 457 yards but failed to come away with touchdowns on four of five trips inside Washington's 20-yard line.
Giorgio Tavecchio finished three of those forays with field goals, the last one giving Cal a 23-21 lead with 7:51 left in the third quarter.
The Bears still trailed by only a point after Erik Folk's 40-yard field goal gave the Huskies a 24-23 lead. Washington then would have faced a third-and-13 from its own 17 early in the fourth quarter, but Cal nose tackle Aaron Tipoti was called for roughing the passer to give the Huskies a fresh set of downs. Three plays later, Price benefited from good pass protection and connected with Polk in stride down the middle of the field for the final touchdown.
"We just have to get back to work," said Cal linebacker Mychal Kendricks, who had 14 tackles and a fumble recovery. "I'm not concerned. It's small adjustments that we have to make."