SEATTLE (AP) — Just when it seemed like a second overtime was an inevitability, Washington’s Cameron Williams and Jackson Sirmon converged at the right moment.
Williams and Sirmon combined to force California’s Damien Moore to fumble at the 1-yard line in OT, and Washington escaped with a 31-24 win over the Golden Bears on Saturday night in the Pac-12 opener for both teams.
Washington started overtime with Sean McGrew scoring his second touchdown to give the Huskies the lead. California seemed poised to force a second overtime session but Moore was hit hard by Williams and Sirmon before he reached the goal line.
The ball popped free and Ryan Bowman pounced on the loose ball, setting off a wild celebration that was briefly muted while the fumble was confirmed by video replay.
“It’s just satisfaction because you put in a lot of hard work to get that done you’re going to be able to reap the benefits,” Bowman said.
The 100th matchup between the schools was another wild conclusion to a series that has recently featured close games. California was attempting to win its third straight over the Huskies after the game last season was canceled.
“Obviously Damien wants that one back. We all do,” California quarterback Chase Garbers said. “Stuff happens in football, you get unlucky sometimes, but we’re a really close group in the locker room so we’re all there for each other.”
McGrew scored on a 5-yard run in the first half and his 2-yard run in overtime gave the Huskies (2-2, 1-0 Pac-12) the lead. California (1-3, 0-1) looked poised to force a second OT, driving with ease to the Washington 2 before Moore’s turnover.
“It was quite a hit. It was a big-time hit,” Washington coach Jimmy Lake said.
Washington’s Dylan Morris threw a pair of first-half touchdowns, but the Huskies will lament the fact the game ever got to overtime. They led 21-10 at halftime and ruined several chances in the second half to extend the lead, giving the Golden Bears a chance to rally.
Garbers was great in the second half, making just one mistake when he was intercepted by Kyler Gordon for the second time early in the fourth quarter. Washington failed to capitalize on the turnover and Garbers’ 7-yard run with 2:51 left tied the game at 24-all.
Garbers was 30-of-41 passing for 319 yards and two touchdowns. He also added another 71 yards rushing. Moore rushed for 67 yards and had a 26-yard TD catch midway through the third quarter.
“I’m sure you can imagine it doesn’t feel real good,” California coach Justin Wilcox said. “So I’m proud of how our team competed. We had plenty of opportunities throughout the game and we didn’t quite get it done. It’s painful.”
Washington twice missed chances to extend the lead with a fumble and a missed field goal early in the fourth quarter and Garbers put together a late drive to pull the Bears even.
Garbers hit Jeremiah Hunter for 19 yards to convert one third-down and scrambled for 23 yards on another third-down to reach the Washington 11.
And on the last third-down of the drive, Garbers strolled into the end zone on a designed keeper to tie the game at 24-all.
“We knew we had to try to limit him as much as we could and he still got a bunch of yards on us, made a bunch of plays for them,” Lake said.
Morris threw touchdown passes of 19 yards to Taj Davis and 6 yards to Jalen McMillan as part of an impressive first half. After going three-and-out on its opening possession, Washington scored touchdowns on its next three possessions of the half, capped by McGrew’s first TD run.
Washington was without three key starters. Tight end Cade Otton was in COVID-19 protocols and unable to play. Cornerback Trent McDuffie was out after appearing to suffer a leg injury last week against Arkansas State. Tight end Jack Westover was also out with an apparent injury.
Lake said he anticipates Otton will not be available for next week’s game at Oregon State.
California: The Golden Bears had been outscored 53-37 in the second half in their first three games so allowing only three points before overtime was a significant improvement.
Washington: Gordon will be near the top of the list for Pac-12 defensive player of the week. Along with the first two interceptions of his career, Gordon made a terrific tackle of Moore on fourth-and-2 early in the fourth quarter.
California: Host Washington State next Saturday.
Washington: At Oregon State next Saturday.
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