Updated Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 09:38 PM
BERKELEY, Calif. — The public-address announcer should've played a laugh track throughout the entire game. Washington and California didn't come to Memorial Stadium to play football Friday night. They came to perform physical comedy.
It was a joke, for sure.
It was a knee-knockin', pass-droppin', football-fumblin' gong show. At the end, though, Washington claimed something rare: a nightmarish victory. The 21-13 win just might set the Huskies up to finish the season on an extreme high, but pardon the lack of excitement this performance stirred. The Huskies snapped a six-game, 13-month road losing streak, but instead of celebrating, the appropriate reaction was to try to sleep it off.
When was the last time a victory felt so exasperating?
"It was ug-leeeeeeee," quarterback Keith Price said, stretching out that fitting adjective for maximum effect.
In a game marred by eight turnovers and enough missed opportunities to frustrate an entire tribe of sports-radio hosts, the Huskies beat the Bears by slipping on fewer banana peels. The ugliness overshadowed a career day from Washington sophomore running back Bishop Sankey, who rushed for 189 yards and two touchdowns. The ugliness was even bigger than the heroics of sophomore tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who had two amazing leaping catches on a late third-quarter drive, the second of which was a 29-yard touchdown that gave the Huskies a 14-13 lead.
How bad was it? Consider this asinine sequence in the fourth quarter of a one-point game.
Keith Price fumbled, which led to a fumble by Cal's C.J. Anderson, which led to a fumble by Seferian-Jenkins, which led to Bears quarterback Zach Maynard throwing an interception to Washington freshman Shaq Thompson.
Only after that series of back-to-back-to-back-to-back follies did the Huskies close the game with a Sankey 1-yard touchdown run, his second of the game.
Uh, a win is a win?
No, this time, an uninspiring win felt like a loss. Neither team could win after a game so awful. The Huskies merely earned the right to be criticized less.
They'll take it, though. They've had the most circuitous route ever to a winning record (5-4), and maybe this game just shows that surviving struggles and winning by any means is this team's defining trait. It's not the most glorious trait, but again, they'll take it.
"For a while there, it was just like, 'Man, what is going on?' " safety Sean Parker said. "This game was testing our character all the time. But I'm just proud of us for not giving up, and winning together."
This game was decided inside the 30-yard line. Washington drove the ball that deep into Cal territory six times and came away with three touchdowns, an interception, a fumble and one turnover on downs.
It was a frustratingly inefficient effort until you consider what the Bears did. In seven tries from that range, the Bears managed just one touchdown and two field goals. They fumbled twice, missed a field goal and had one turnover on downs.
"We showed a lot of perseverance," Price said, laughing as he remembered the game. "We came out on top."
Hey, at least the dream of an 8-4 record and five-game winning streak to end the season remains intact.
Instead of a football game, a "No, you take it!" contest broke out. Washington and Cal engaged in a battle of unintentional comedy from the start. The first half was full of follies and missed opportunities. The Bears lost fumbles on their first two possessions to ruin drives deep into Husky territory. Not to be outdone, the Huskies twice failed to convert on fourth-down-and-one, Jaydon Mickens dropped a sure 68-yard touchdown pass on a third-down play and Price threw an interception with the Huskies 9 yards from the end zone in the first half.
Down 13-7 late in the third quarter, Seferian-Jenkins, who had eight receptions for a career-high 152 yards and tied the UW record for most catches by a tight end in a season (48), did his finest work. His leaping 43-yard reception would've been the play of the game, if not for his leaping, juggling 29-yard touchdown catch. He amassed 72 receiving yards on a 63-yard drive. He wouldn't let penalties and Price taking a ridiculous 16-yard loss on a sack get in the way. Seferian-Jenkins willed the Huskies to a 14-13 lead that they would not relinquish.
And they tried to relinquish. Boy, they tried. But they ran into a team even shakier.
This game was a blooper reel that inspired hysterical laughter. It would be worth having amnesia to forget it. But at least the Huskies went home laughing.
They should retire this comedy act as soon as possible, though. Gallows humor rarely warrants repeating.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org,Twitter: @JerryBrewer
EZRA SHAW / GETTY IMAGES
Even Bishop Sankey, who had a career day with 189 rushing yards and two touchdowns, joined in on the mistakes with a third-quarter fumble on the first play of UW's drive.