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Washington, California cling to bowl hopes

Associated Press Modified: November 1, 2012 at 2:18 pm •  Published: November 1, 2012

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Having already proven capable of beating some of the Pac-12's best teams this season, Washington coach Steve Sarkisian's team faces another monumental task as it tries to close in on a bowl berth.

The Huskies are winless in their last six road games dating back to 2011 and have been outscored 145-41 in their three games away from CenturyLink Field this season.

That's the primary reason Washington (4-4, 2-3) heads into the final month of the season needing to win two of its final four games in order to become bowl eligible. Three of those four games are on the road, beginning Friday night at California.

"More than anything it's understanding what the challenge is and embracing it," Sarkisian said. "It's a great opportunity for our football team to mature, to take another step in the right direction of understanding the focus that is needed when you go on the road as a team. We have to find that energy from within and play disciplined football."

The Huskies are coming off an impressive 20-17 win over then-No. 7 Oregon State, their second victory against an AP Top 10 team this season. Washington beat then-No. 8 Stanford 17-13 in late September.

That helped keep the Huskies' bowl hopes alive heading into the final stretch of the regular season. They got a boost this week with the news that California's all-time leading receiver, Keenan Allen, would miss the game with an injured left knee.

After playing at Cal (3-6, 2-4) this week, Washington closes out with a home game against Utah before back-to-back road trips to Colorado and Washington State. The three teams have a combined conference record of 2-13.

The first hurdle for the Huskies is playing their second game in six days, something they haven't done since 1944.

"We are really not making that big a deal out of it," Sarkisian said. "We just need to do a good job of utilizing our time and our time management, not only from a coach's standpoint but a player standpoint. We are in the midst of midterms right now ... so it's just utilizing our time really well to make sure we are prepared."

Running back Bishop Sankey rushed for 92 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Washington's upset of Oregon State last week, but quarterback Keith Price remains the team's best offensive threat.

The Huskies junior, who set numerous school passing records in 2011, has thrown for 1,530 yards and rushed for 163. Price has also found a steady go-to receiver in sophomore tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

"(Price) can really hurt you if he gets outside the pocket," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "If he gets out and he's moving around he does a real nice job of keeping his eyes downfield making plays."

The Bears need to keep Price contained if they are to avoid missing out on the postseason for the second time in three years.

Cal must win its final three games just to become bowl eligible. If the Bears fail, the pressure and criticism surrounding Tedford is surely to increase after what has been a monumentally disappointing season.

"There's been a sense of urgency in every game and that's the way we approach this game," said Tedford, whose team has lost three straight against Washington. "I don't think we're going to play any harder this week than we always play, because I have confidence that we always play hard. It's not like we haven't been motivated to go into any other game."

After going 67-35 and playing in seven bowl games during Tedford's first eight years in Berkeley, California is just 15-19 over the past two-plus seasons.

Winning the final three games and earning a bowl berth would go a long way toward smoothing over some of the Bears' failings this season.

Tedford, though, has cautioned his team not to look too far down the road.

"We're not going to look at this three-game stretch as a broad product," linebacker Robert Mullins said. "When you're in the game you can't be thinking about 10 plays ahead of you. You can't be looking 10 days behind you, either. You have to play that play, and that's just a bigger representation of how we have to take these last three games."


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