BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — With a fully extended arm that barely grazed the end zone pylon with the ball, linebacker Evan Weaver did what California’s offense could not do and what No. 15 Washington managed only once.
On a day when the Golden Bears and Huskies combined for one offensive touchdown, Weaver matched it with a 36-yard interception return after Washington made a change at quarter, providing the difference in Cal’s 12-10 win over the Huskies on Saturday night.
“I just didn’t want to fall down,” Weaver said. “Maybe two or three more yards and I would have ran out of steam. They didn’t get me this time.”
Weaver’s interception was the highlight on an afternoon when Cal’s defense came up big and offset a slow day from the offense.
The Bears (5-3, 2-3 Pac-12) had only 245 yards and were limited to two field goals, but Weaver and the defense repeatedly bailed out the struggling offense while dealing a serious blow to Washington’s hopes of a second Pac-12 title in three seasons.
“It gives the guys validation and gives them confidence,” Cal coach Justin Wilcox said. “It’s a great environment in the locker room as you would expect but I also don’t think anybody’s surprised. We weren’t perfect but found a way to win.”
The Huskies (6-3, 4-2) entered the day with a half-game lead over No. 14 Washington State and No. 24 Stanford but fell to second place despite not allowing an offensive touchdown.
Washington starting quarterback Jake Browning threw his 90th career touchdown pass in the first quarter but was benched late in the third after the Huskies went three-and-out on their second drive of the second half. Redshirt freshman Jake Haener replaced Browning and threw an incompletion on his first pass before Weaver picked off the pass on a third-and-8 play.
Weaver leaped to make the interception then raced through a sea of players, extending his left hand to touch the pylon as he was going out of bounds.
“That was exactly what our team needed,” running back Patrick Laird said. “That got us the lead and we were able to hold it.”
Browning returned after two series. He completed 11 of 21 passes for 148 yards.
“I just think we’re a lot of evenly matched teams (in the Pac-12),” Washington coach Chris Petersen said. “If one team on one side of the ball doesn’t show up and do their part, that’s what’s going to happen.”
Peyton Henry’s 26-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter pulled Washington to 12-10, but California milked the final 4:51 off the clock to secure the win.
Greg Thomas added two field goals as the Bears ended a four-game home losing streak to the Huskies before a sparse crowd at Memorial Stadium.
“This was a great culture win,” Weaver said. “It shows where we’re headed as a team.”
Washington drove 64 yards in 14 plays on their opening drive but did little offensively after that. After Browning found Ty Jones in the back of the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown pass, the Huskies repeatedly broke down.
Browning wasn’t happy about being pulled from the game but Petersen defended his decision. “That had more to do with me trying to do something to help this offense than it did with Jake,” Petersen said. “Love Jake . but I just wanted to shake things up and see if we could get something done.”
LONG TIME AGO
Cal won without scoring an offensive touchdown for the first time since Sept. 26, 1998 when the Bears topped Washington State 24-14. Cal had three defensive touchdowns that day.
Washington: The Huskies were without running back Myles Gaskin which hurt the running game but it was the change at quarterback in the second half that was most puzzling and wound up costing Washington. Browning wasn’t very sharp but Haener’s interception was the turning point. To get in the Pac-12 title game Washington will need a lot of help now.
California: Beating Oregon State one week earlier was nice but this win will bring more legitimacy to the Bears. It wasn’t pretty and the rotating quarterbacks continues to hinder the offense but Cal’s defense came up with a second straight strong performance to pave the way for the first win over a Top 25 team since the Bears stunned then-No. 8 Washington State 37-3 on Nov. 6 last year.
The door was open for the Huskies to move up a few spots in the poll. Now the question is how far they will drop following a loss to an unranked and mediocre Cal team.
Washington: Hosts No. 24 Stanford on Nov. 3.
California: Plays at No. 14 Washington State on Nov. 3.