SEATTLE (AP) — California head coach Sonny Dykes sees improvement from his team in short spurts but his team still isn’t playing with the consistency needed to win in the Pac-12.
The Golden Bears (1-7, 0-5 Pac-12) hung with Washington for most of the first half before the Huskies (5-3, 2-3) pulled away to a 41-17 victory on Saturday night. California lost its sixth straight and hasn’t beaten a FBS opponent since winning at Washington State in October 2012.
Bishop Sankey ran for a career-high 241 and two touchdowns, Keith Price threw a pair of long touchdowns to Jaydon Mickens and Washington snapped a three-game losing streak.
“It’s tough because you play good in spurts but that’s not good enough against the people we’re playing against week in and week out,” Dykes said. “You have to play consistent for every play in the game and that’s what separates the good teams from the bad teams and right now we’re not able to play at that level of consistency.”
Freshman quarterback Jared Goff had his job put into question this week by Dykes, but responded with an efficient performance in the loss. Goff was 32 of 54 for 336 yards, no interceptions and a 5-yard TD pass to Chris Harper in the second quarter.
“I see definite improvement. It’s hard to imagine but I think we’re really coming together as a team through all this pain and struggling,” Goff said.
California trailed just 17-7 late in the second quarter. The Golden Bears’ embattled defense had forced Washington’s fast-paced attack to punt on four consecutive drives to keep within reach of the Huskies. That changed in an instant as Sankey broke free for a 59-yard touchdown run inside the final minute of the half to extend Washington’s lead to 24-7.
“I told our guys after I was really proud of the way they played and how hard they played,” Dykes said. “Obviously we have to play better. We’ve got to coach better, but there is no quit in this team at all. None. And I’m incredibly proud of them for that.”
California’s problem was an inability to stop the big plays. It’s been an issue all season with a defense that came into the game ranked 121st in the country giving up 525 yards per game. Washington had 373 yards in the first half and 557 after three quarters. Washington finished with 642 yards.
“We have great glimpses of us playing really good football,” Cal linebacker Khairi Fortt said. “With football, five plays messed up for us to lose a game. We just need to minimize those faults.”
Sankey had 188 yards at the half — near his previous career-high of 208 earlier this season against Illinois — and averaged 11.8 yards per carry in the first half. He set a new career mark early in the fourth quarter, then expanded on it thanks to a 23-yard run cutting against the flow of the play. His performance was eighth best in Washington history.
Sankey gashed the Bears defense for runs of 42, 32 and 22 yards before breaking off his biggest run near the end of the half. Sankey took a third-and-3 handoff, waited for a pair of key blocks and ran untouched to give the Huskies a 17-point lead at halftime.
Price finished 20 of 32 for 376 yards, the second best passing game in his career. Price hit Mickens on TDs of 68 and 47 yards.
“The explosive plays on offense, when we’re at our best we can get yards in chunks and we were able to do that today with the running game with Bishop and in the passing game with Keith and Jaydon doing their thing,” Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said.
Khalfani Muhammad added a 73-yard TD run late in the fourth quarter and finished with 90 yards rushing on four carries for the Bears.
Washington paid tribute to former coach Don James, who died last Sunday at age 80 due to pancreatic cancer by thumping the school James dominated as the Huskies coach. James went 12-2 in his career against California.
A flag with James’ initial was flown atop the Space Needle in downtown Seattle on Saturday and the same “DJ” logo was painted on the field at the 25 -yard lines. The Washington band lowered its on-field flag to half-mast during the national anthem and both California and Washington wore helmet decals honoring the coach.
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