BERKELEY — Washington defensive tackle Greg Gains found himself in the strange position of having to root for rival Washington State last week.
He’s still not sure how he feels about it.
But with the No. 14 Cougars beating the No. 19 Ducks, the 15th-ranked Huskies moved back atop the Pac-12 North standings and kept alive their hopes for a second conference title in three years.
“It was weird because I was rooting for Washington State, which is something I’ve never done before,” Gains said. “I literally jumped out of my seat when they scored that last touchdown. It was definitely weird rooting for them but it was cool just getting to watch some college football.”
Washington bounced back from an overtime road loss to the Ducks and beat Colorado last week to slip back into first place in the North.
The Huskies (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12) will attempt to hang onto first place against Cal at Memorial Stadium Saturday.
That Washington is in position to control its own destiny in the race for the conference championship is quite a change to how the Huskies felt following their 30-27 overtime loss to the Ducks in Eugene less than two weeks ago.
“You want to be in a position where it’s on us to get it done,” linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven said. “You don’t want to be in a place where you feel like you’re at the will of whatever happens, so it’s nice to be in this position where as long as we play our game and do what we need to do we have a chance.”
Cal (4-3, 1-3) is coming off a 49-7 win over Oregon State that ended the Golden Bears’ three-game losing streak.
Quarterback Chase Garbers had his best game of the season while racking up career-highs in passing yards (226) and rushing (54).
“We have to build on what we’ve accomplished and continue to grow as a team,” Cal coach Justin Wilcox said. “We’ve got a great challenge this week. I think the guys are excited for that.”
The game between Washington and Cal is a matchup between the Huskies’ career passing leader, Jake Browning, and the conference’s top passing defense.
Browning is eighth all-time in passing yards in the Pac-12 and is one win shy of tying Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Stanford’s Kevin Hogan for most career conferences wins. Mariota and Hogan had 36 apiece.
Cal counters with a passing defense that is allowing 166.4 yards a game, ninth-best in the nation.
“(Browning) is just so efficient,” Wilcox said. “He operates their offense really well and gets the ball to the right guys on time. He’s seen a lot of different looks. Just a really good football player.”