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September 24, 2011SEATTLE - A year ago the Washington Huskies beat California on what's known as "God's play." Saturday in Husky Stadium, it was the Bears who were hoping to put the ball in the end zone in the waning seconds of regulation.
Trailing 31-23, California got the ball on their own 13-yard line with 4 minutes, 19 seconds left to play. The Bears needed to score and convert a two-point conversion to force overtime in Husky Stadium.
The Bears drove to the Washington 2-yard line, where they had first down and plenty of time to punch in a score. A back and forth game all afternoon had come down to whether the Huskies could make a stop at the goal line.
California went to the air on first down, but failed. On second and third down the Huskies defense stuffed running back Isi Sofele, bringing up fourth down and goal from the 3.
"I knew that we would stop them," defensive tackle Alameda Ta'Amu said. "I had trust in my corners. I trusted my linebackers. I trusted my safeties, and I trusted my D-line to make a play."
The play call by California was a fade route to Keenan Allen in one-on-one coverage by Quinton Richardson. Allen had already made several circus catches and Richardson had a rough day in pass coverage.
"Number 21 is a heck of a player," Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said.
Allen finished the game with 10 catches for 197 yards and one score. The one score was a 90-yard touchdown in the first quarter, the longest reception in California school history.
It didn't matter. the pass by Zach Maynard was overthrown and Allen had no chance at making a catch. The Huskies took over on downs and kneeled once to run the final 21 seconds off the clock to win, 31-23.
It made Washington 1-0 in Pac-12 play and 3-1 overall, the Huskies' best start since 2006.
"We got down to the 2 there and we tried to punch it in a couple of times," California coach Jeff Tedford said. "They stiffened up and then, last play tried to put it in the end zone for Keenan Allen. Just overthrown and didn't give him a chance to catch it."
"I knew it was going to come down to us getting a stop and I'm just glad we did," said cornerback Desmond Trufant.
The game was about as close as a game could be. At halftime, the Huskies led by just one point and the two teams were within 10 yards of one another in total offense. It was obvious neither team was going to pull away.
The Huskies offense was carried once again by quarterback Keith Price, who was 19 of 25 for 292 yards and three touchdowns.
He now has 14 touchdown passes on the season. He was tied for the national lead entering the game.
Price did fumble once, but didn't throw an interception.
"I thought he was a freakin' stud again tonight," Sarkisian said. "He's playing at about as high a level as you can as a quarterback. Tip my hat to Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley and the other guys in our conference, but the level of play that Keith Price is playing at is as high as anyone in our conference."
Price's favorite target on Saturday was true freshman Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who showed why he was one of the elite tight end recruits in the country.
Seferian-Jenkins caught four passes for 54 yards in the game, including two touchdown passes from 20-yards out. The first was more traditional with Seferian-Jenkins catching it near the goal line, twisting and then getting into the end zone, but the second was there he showed a new ability.
The play call was a screen play and Seferian-Jenkins caught the pass at the 20. He waited for a block then split two defenders with a juke and sprinted to the corner of the end zone, putting the Huskies up 21-10.
"I just do what we do in practice, so I wasn't expecting anything," Seferian-Jenkins said. "I just run my route and if Keith decides to throw the ball to me he throws the ball to me."
Tailback Chris Polk was the Huskies' other big playmaker on offense, but he came out with a new trick in this game.
Polk caught a 70-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, his first career touchdown reception, and also led the team with 85 yards receiving on the day. He only ran for 63 yards, ending his five-straight 100 yard rushing games, but his long touchdown reception made up for it as it was the final score of the game, putting the Huskies up 31-23.
"We got what we were hoping to get and we executed," Sarkisian said about the 70-yard scoring pass.
As good as the offense was for the Huskies, the defense made its presence known in the second half, limiting California to just three points. The Bears were able to move down the field throughout the half, but they didn't convert yards into points.
"We bent a little but we didn't break," Trufant said.
The Husky defense allowed California into the red zone throughout the afternoon, but only allowed field goals on the majority of their trips. California settled for three field goals on the day, the longest of which was 36 yards.
"In tight games against good opponents in conference you have to come up with more touchdowns than field goals today. We didn't today," Tedford said.
Washington is learning how to win tight games at home. At 3-1, it's the second time the Huskies have had a game come down to the defense making a stop in the final minute of regulation. Their other home win was by just eight points.
The Huskies don't care how they got to 3-1, 1-0 in conference. It's the best start since 2006 when the team started 4-1.
"It means a lot to our team," receiver Jermaine Kearse said. "Just getting off to a great start and being able to carry that momentum through the season is awesome."
Washington can't settle on their momentum at this point. The Huskies are banged up after several tough matchups and next week they go on the road for another tough test against their new conference rival Utah.
Freshman linebacker John Timu suffered a scary injury late in the third quarter when making a tackle. He was taken away in an ambulance and x-rays were done on his neck. Sarkisian said everything checked out fine and he should be released Sunday.
Cornerback Greg Ducre suffered a concussion and left the game early. His status is uncertain.
Defensive end Hau'oli Jamora sprained his knee and left the game early. No news on how his status. ...
Third string running back Johri Fogerson has a contusion on his knee that isn't serious, but it hit a nerve so he couldn't return to the game.
Follow UDubNation's Mitchell Larsen on Twitter @MLarsen_Rivals