SEATTLE — Down 20 early in the third quarter, Washington found itself with a chance to take the lead on California before the Huskies watched their chance slip away.
Losing the ball was a common occurrence for the Huskies on Saturday. Washington turned the ball over five times as Cal held on for a 30-24 victory in the Pac-12 Conference opener for both schools.
The Huskies watched Cal build a 27-7 lead behind two touchdown passes from Jared Goff. Washington rallied twice in the second half to pull within one score, only to see those comeback attempts thwarted by turnovers.
"I don't think you're going to win many games in this league when you turn the ball over like we did," Washington coach Chris Petersen said.
The five turnovers by Washington were the most by a Petersen-led team in his career as a head coach. And the one that sticks out the most came after the Huskies nearly took the lead.
Trailing 27-21 early in the fourth quarter, Washington (2-2, 0-1 Pac-12) was driving with a chance to take the lead. Dwayne Washington was open up the sideline for a potential touchdown, but couldn't haul in the pass from freshman quarterback Jake Browning.
On the next play, Washington fumbled and Cal's Darius White recovered. The Golden Bears kicked a field goal on the ensuing drive to take a 30-21 lead, but the Huskies still had a chance.
Cameron Van Winkle hit a 36-yard field goal for Washington with 3:57 left and Goff was sacked, for the fifth time, on third down with 3 minutes remaining. Washington got the ball back with two timeouts remaining but Browning was pressured and intercepted by Damariay Drew with 1:57 left.
"Penalties and turnovers. Those are the two things that will kill a drive," Browning said. "We were in first-and-25 a lot and first-and-ridiculous. A lot of that's on me, throwing picks and stuff like that, fumbling and things we haven't done much this year."
Cal started 4-0 for the first time since 2007 and beat the Huskies for the first time since 2008. It was the second straight week the Golden Bears saw a big lead start to evaporate, only to hold on.
"I would certainly be in favor of not playing so many close ball games like this but that's sort of who we are right now," California coach Sonny Dykes said.
Browning didn't complete a pass until the 5:42 mark of the second quarter but finished 17 of 28 for 152 yards and two interceptions. Dwayne Washington rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown in the first half.
"I think we were running the ball better than we were throwing it but we were playing catch-up the whole time, so that wasn't ideal," Petersen said. "...Turning the ball over, missing that many tackles, getting beat that bad in time of possession. That's a recipe for disaster."
Cal held the ball for 39 minutes, 49 seconds.
Goff threw for 342 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Golden Bears built a 20-7 lead at halftime. Cal looked on its way to a blowout after taking a 27-7 lead when Goff hit Kenny Lawler for an 8-yard TD on the Bears' first drive of the second half. That TD pass pulled Goff even with Kyle Boller for California's career touchdowns passing record with 64.
That's when the Huskies rally started. Browning hit 6 of 7 passes on Washington's next drive and Chico McClatcher went the final 2 yards on a fly sweep trimming the deficit to 27-14. That was followed by Sidney Jones' triple play of forcing the fumble, recovering the loose ball and returning it 70 yards for a touchdown to make it a one-score game.
Washington played without standout safety Budda Baker because of an ankle injury, while Cal starting running back Daniel Lasco missed his second straight game with a hip injury. Vic Enwere rushed for a career-high 84 yards and a touchdown in Lasco's absence.
"I thought the kids competed hard, especially on defense. They were swinging until the very end. I'm really proud of them for that," Petersen said. "Frustrating on offense. Couldn't hold the ball. They held the ball much longer than we did. Didn't convert third downs or fourth down and that needs to change."
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