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Huskies, Bears Set to Play — What Could Go Wrong This Time?

After three consecutive forgettable match-ups, the UW looks for something positive to happen.

Eager to get the Pac-12 season started, the University of Washington football team says it's ready to play, but it can't help but cast a wary eye at Saturday night's opponent, the California Golden Bears.

The last three times they were scheduled, nothing went well for the guys in purple.

In terms of the win column for the Huskies, it just didn't happen, whether it was Cal pushing back, mother nature or perils of the pandemic.

It was either swing and a miss — or no swing whatsoever.

These two proud programs, who since joining in 1915 are the longest-serving members of what is now the Pac-12 Conference, will meet for the 100th time in their series history.

The Huskies hold a 54-41-4 advantage, but over the past three seasons, no edge at all.

Let us review what's happened in this wacky world of Seattle vs. Berkeley on the gridiron.

The Substitution

In 2018, the 15th-ranked Huskies ventured into the Bay Area and Strawberry Canyon and were upset 12-10 in a most curious fashion.

With his veteran team unable to move the ball, then-UW coach Chris Petersen made an impulse move: Trying to change things up, he yanked his four-year starting quarterback Jake Browning in the third quarter in favor of little-used redshirt freshman Jake Haener. 

The predictable took place when young Haener served up an interception that was returned 37 yards for a touchdown by linebacker Evan Weaver from Spokane, Washington, for what would prove to be the game-winning points.

A year later, both quarterbacks were gone, Browning as an NFL free agent and Haener as portal transfer possibly forever scarred as a Husky by that pick-six. Certainly it wasn't difficult for Haener to move on to Fresno State, where he's become a star, after so-called "Husky fans" text-messaged him all sorts of vile and insults in the aftermath of the crucial pass theft.

So the UW lost twice that day.

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot

Some people know the above title as a quirky Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges Hollywood film. Many of us, however, harken back to September 7-8, 2019, where that label described everything perfectly at Husky Stadium.

Cal won this one 20-19 on Greg Thomas' 17-yard field goal — yes, that's the light foot; after all, when's the last time someone, anyone, kicked a 17-yarder? That's like from, well,  the 7.  

On this night, though, either team would have done whatever it took to prevail under the extremely adverse conditions. 

This is where the thunderbolt enters the equation. Hundreds of them. Hour after hour.

Eleven plays into this night game that kicked off at 7 p.m., a lightning storm rolled into Seattle like B-52s carrying heavy ordnance, dropped its load and lit up the sky, shook the landscape, halted play and sent everyone to shelter in place. Two hours and 39 minutes later, the teams resumed.

Cal did a much better job of trying to play football all night long. This game officially came to an end at 1:22 a.m. in the morning. It began on the 7th and ended on the 8th. 

Three Strikes 

As football schedules were continually redrawn by a surging pandemic, Cal asked the conference to cancel its November 7 opener against the Huskies in Berkeley because a Bears lineman tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. He and his big-boy peers had to go into quarantine protocols, leaving Cal without an entire position group that couldn't be replaced.

In the process, the Huskies had their third opener canceled, coming after the original schedule offered a home game against Michigan that didn't happen and a redrawn Pac-12 conference-games-only configuration featuring an opening Stanford visit was scuttled.

Now it was no Cal.

No chance to avenge the pass-interception or the lightning-interruption games.  

Five weeks later, the UW, after holding its collective breath and playing four outings, had its season halted abruptly when one of its offensive linemen tested positive, and then another and another ... wiping out an Oregon game and later a Pac-12 title game appearance. 

So here we are again, the Bears against the Huskies. Football carnivores against hounds. Haves and have-nots.

Will the UW luck change or will the Huskies hit for the cycle?

Kickoff is at 6:30 p.m.

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