California hopes to weather the start vs. No. 4 Washington
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) For most of the season, Washington's games have been over shortly after they started. The fourth-ranked Huskies have outscored the opposition by 200 points in the first half and didn't trail after halftime at all until last week.
For California, it's been the opposite. The Golden Bears have gone down to the wire almost every game, narrowly ending up on top at home while falling just short on the road.
So the Bears (4-4, 2-3 Pac-12) know the key when they host the Huskies (7-0, 4-0, No. 5 CFP) on Saturday night is to survive the early onslaught and then come up with a big play late to win it like they did in home wins against Texas, Utah and Oregon.
''I think our guys play with confidence at home,'' coach Sonny Dykes said. ''You feel a sense of security I guess. When we play here, guys have figured out ways to make plays in critical situations.''
Washington hasn't faced many critical situations this season, outscoring the opponents 107-7 in the first quarter and 234-34 in the first half this season.
But the Huskies did need to survive tough road games at Arizona and Utah. They needed overtime to beat the Wildcats in September and then a go-ahead punt return for a score to knock off the Utes 31-24 last week.
Coach Chris Petersen sees no signs his team will let up after that emotional win a week ago.
''If Cal beats us, it's not because we're overlooking them. I guarantee that,'' Petersen said. ''Our guys watch film. They know this is a prolific offense. They're going to score a lot of points. We'll have to score a lot of points.''
Here are some other things to watch:
PROTECT THE BALL: Washington leads the nation in turnover margin (plus 1.63 per game) and has turned its 19 takeaways into 69 points. The Huskies have turned it over just six times all season and have forced a turnover on four of the six possessions following their own giveaway.
RESTED UP: After being on the wrong side of the short rest in last Thursday's loss at Southern California, Cal has the benefit of a few extra days off this week. The Bears had just five days off before playing the Trojans, who had a bye the previous week. Cal hopes the extra two days off this week helps make the team fresher against the Huskies.
''That was definitely a quick turnaround,'' defensive lineman Cameron Saffle said. ''We didn't want to make any excuses with that turnaround. Having these couple of days off put everyone in reset mode. Everyone has a little bit heathier bodies now.''
HOPING FOR HANSEN: Cal has played the past two weeks without star receiver Chad Hansen, who averages 9.8 catches per game. Freshmen Demetris Robertson and Melquise Stovall picked up the load with Hansen sidelined by an injured ankle, with each catching nine passes last week. But a healthy Hansen will open things up downfield for the other receivers.
''It will be awesome to get him back because he's one of the best in the country,'' Robertson said.
DYNAMIC RETURNER: Washington's Dante Pettis broke a school record with his fifth career punt return for a TD last week to provide the winning margin at Utah. Pettis has brought two punts back for scores this season and also has 29 catches for 470 yards and eight TDs.
TEDFORD'S INFLUENCE: Former Cal coach Jeff Tedford is now on the other side of this rivalry. Tedford, fired at Cal after the 2013 season, is now a consultant for the Huskies. He is not able to do any coaching of players but can participate in staff meetings where his experience as a head coach proves valuable to Petersen.
''He brings things to my attention that not a lot of other guys can because he's been in my shoes,'' Petersen said.
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