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Huskies, Bears Really Don't Want Lightning to Strike Twice

The teams meet for the first time since they stayed up all night, and into the morning, to settle things in 2019.
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Everyone knew it was going to be a wet one two years ago at Husky Stadium when the University of Washington football team hosted the California Bears on a cold, September night. 

Everything else that happened, however, was a shock to the system because all parties involved underestimated the approaching weather system.

The sky lit up and sounded like a Normandy bombing raid, and the teams and the fans ran for cover.

While Cal might be used to totally weird college football moments — after all, the Bears supplied the biggest mistake in history in Wrong Way Roy Riegels' run in the Rose Bowl and used the Stanford band as blockers to score on a game-ending kickoff return — this was as bizarre as it gets.

Once Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready stood on the field and played the national anthem, the UW and Cal kicked off at 7 p.m. and ran just 11 plays, an offensive series for each team. The fearsome, fast-moving storm brought the game to a scoreless halt.  

"First I remember the electric atmosphere that was in Husky Stadium, minus the lightning; the electric atmosphere with our fans," said Husky coach Jimmy Lake, then the defensive coordinator. "We had a punt return, I believe it was. We had a big stop on defense. The crowd was going crazy. 

"You could feel the momentum in Husky Stadium and then, all of sudden, the big break. I remember how awkward that was."  

Lightning flashed all around the metal facility. Monsoon rain pelted the artificial field. Fans huddled in the concourse areas. Officials suspended play for 2 hours and 39 minutes, the equivalent of speedy game in some football circles.

The teams returned to battle into bar-closing hours where California, between increasing yawns, turned to kicker Greg Thomas to settle this marathon struggle with a 17-yard field goal with 8 seconds remaining. 

On Saturday night, the Huskies (1-2) and the Bears (1-2) will meet for the first time since that turbulent outing. Kickoff is slated for 6:30 p.m., a half hour earlier than in 2019. Here's hoping the conclusion of this game comes three or four hours sooner, too.

Weather reports call for a cloudy evening, with temperatures topping out at 72 degrees earlier in the day — and no thunder and lightning to declare.

Lake previously was an assistant coach for the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where the weather interrupted many football outings, but he hadn't experienced anything quite like what took place in Seattle 24 months ago. 

"That's the lightning capital of the world, if you didn't know that," he said of Florida's Tampa. "I had a ton of delays before, but this one was unique because it lasted so long."

A lightning bolt streaks over Husky Stadium in 2019.

Lightning flashes over Husky Stadium, delaying the UW-Cal game in 2019.

UW players holed up in their locker room. They watched other games on TV. They stretched.

“We were talking with each other and relaxing,” said defensive back Myles Bryant, now with the New England Patriots practice squad. “We were still doing stuff to get ready. We wanted to come back out with an edge.”

They just wanted to come back out, period. There was some haziness about that.

Pearl Jam's Mike McCready played the national anthem at the 2019 Cal-UW game.

Pearl Jam's Mike McCready played the national anthem in 2019 before the UW met Cal.

During the extended layoff, officials gave a lot of thought to simply canceling the game right there. The Huskies argued against it, stressing it would hurt their divisional chances.

"I remember them walking around saying there's a chance this is going to be canceled; not postponed, not redone, like it was going to be canceled," Lake said. "Nobody wanted that, because it would have given other people in the north an advantage; if they were playing all their games and had one more victory than us or Cal, that would put them at an advantage.

"I was ready to wait this thing out, let's wait for the clouds to clear, and let's go play this game, let's go do it."

The UW got its wish. Play resumed at 10:30 p.m. Twenty-three minutes later, the Huskies scored the first points of this late night. Peyton Henry, who's back for more this weekend, kicked a 35-yard field goal. 

The 3-pointer came after quarterback Jacob Eason, now with the Indianapolis Colts, had to leave the field shaken up following a short run and his back-up Jacob Sirmon, who plays for Central Michigan, was sacked.

Husky fans were dry and hopeful when the 2019 Cal game began.

Husky fans were excited -- and dry -- when the 2019 UW-Cal game began.

Two possessions later, the UW went up 10-0 on Salvon Ahmed’s 21-yard scoring burst over the right side. He juked a Bears defender at the line of scrimmage and raced in untouched. Ahmed, now with the Miami Dolphins, led all rushers with 119 yards on 21 carries. The night was still young — it was 11:13 p.m.

However, Cal settled in and put together its first scoring drive, getting on the board with Thomas’ 23-yard field goal to pull within 10-3. The teams broke for a 15-minute halftime, not really in need of another rest. It was 11:37 p.m.

Laiatu Latu sacked Chase Garbers in 2019; the edge rusher has since retired because of a neck injury.

The UW's Laiatu Latu sacked Cal QB Chase Garbers in 2019. Garbers returns, but Latu has since retired with a neck injury

Cal took the second-half kickoff and appeared more energized, coming up with an equalizing score on Marcel Dancy’s 23-yard run. The speedy back, who remains on the roster, broke two tackles to make it 10-10. The clock struck midnight.

Washington settled for a Henry field goal when wide receiver Andre Baccellia, now graduated, couldn’t stay in bounds on his end-zone catch, but Cal responded with a Dancy TD run from 8 yards as the third quarter pulled to a close. It was 12:26 a.m. Cal led 17-13.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Huskies squandered a big opportunity to take control of things. On fourth-and-1 at the Cal 2, they went for it with a power package. As Eason called the signals, Corey Luciano, a tight end and now a center, flinched and drew a false-start penalty. Mental mistake. Drive over. The UW settled for another Henry field goal and trailed 17-16. It was 12:44 a.m.

Cal coach Justin Wilcox, a former UW assistant, heads for the locker room when the game was delayed in 2019.

Cal coach Justin Wilcox, one-time UW assistant, heads for the locker room when play was stopped in 2019.

Obviously a night owl, Henry was ready when his team got the ball back and he coolly stepped up and curled a 49-yarder inside the right upright to put the Huskies up 19-17. That set off a brief on-field celebration. There were still more than two minutes left. It was 1:04 a.m.

Cal was hardly ready to call it a night. Or a morning. Sophomore quarterback Chase Garbers, who returns on Saturday for an encore, calmly moved his team 74 yards in nine plays. He drew a pass-interference call on Huskies cornerback Kyler Gordon, who likewise will be in uniform again, at the 30. Garbers found wide receiver Kekoa Crawford, another returnee, with a 27-yard pass over the middle to the Huskies 3.

A slight breeze wafted through the stadium as the Bears’ Thomas, who's since graduated, took two steps to set up, swung his arms back and forth and easily split the uprights for the game-winning points.

Cal's Greg Thomas kicked a 17-yard field goal with 1:57 left to beat the UW 20-19.

Cal's Greg Thomas kicked the game-winning field goal from 17 yards with 8 seconds left to play.

The Huskies were heavily favored to win this two-day competition, but couldn't close it out.  

"It was something we weren't expecting but, hey, no excuses, you've got to go out there and you have to finish the game," Lake said of the veracity of the storm. "But we didn't finish it and they played better than us when the lights came back on."

At 2 a.m., the UW had survived the storm, not the football battle. And if anybody was in need of a stiff drink to drown his or her sorrows, it was much too late to order that, too.

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