Call it the Cal Walk of Shame.
When Washington scored a game-winning touchdown on the final play against Cal last season, it eliminated the Bears from bowl contention and abruptly ended their season.
To make matters worse, the Huskies notched the decisive score in the south end zone at Memorial Stadium, meaning Cal's players had to walk all the way across the field to reach their locker room, which is up the tunnel from behind the north end zone.
As the Bears made the slow, demoralized walk off the field, Washington players danced with delight behind them while a stunned Memorial Stadium crowd was silent.
"That was a long walk," Cal safety Sean Cattouse said. "(The Huskies) were screaming on the field. It was unreal. I didn't know what to think. It was kind of unbelievable to be denied on the last play."
That final play, the long walk off the field and the teary-eyed locker room afterward stuck with Cal's players the entire offseason. It was on their minds as they went through spring drills, summer conditioning and training camp.
Now, a long 10 months later, the Bears finally get a chance to see those Huskies again when Cal visits Husky Stadium on Saturday.
"Walking across the field, there were so many emotions," Cal linebacker D.J. Holt said. "Seeing the fans in shock and so many players disappointed -- you never want that feeling. As soon as that finished, we had to get back to work. That's motivation. They ended our season last year, and we couldn't play in a bowl game. We don't want to dwell on the past, but it's still on our minds."
The 16-13 loss gave the Bears their first losing season in Jeff Tedford's nine years as coach (5-7), preventing Cal from going to a bowl game for the first time since 2002. It's one thing to miss out on a bowl game by losing a season finale, but it especially stung for the Bears because the Huskies went for a touchdown instead of a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line with two seconds remaining.
After Cal's defense had stopped Washington quarterback Jake Locker short of the goal line on back-to-back quarterback sneaks, the Huskies put the ball in the hands of tailback Chris Polk, who marched into the end zone easily. Washington players poured into the end zone from the sideline to celebrate.
"It was a feeling like I've never had before," Tedford said. "I've never had so much riding on one play, and it was over. I reminded the team to remember how our season ended last year. It's motivation for preparation, but on game day, that stuff goes out the window."
Not only did it end Cal's season, but it also sparked the Huskies to a late-season surge. Washington, needing to win out to become bowl-eligible itself, then beat Washington State in its season finale to qualify for the postseason. The Bears were home for the holidays while the Huskies beat Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.
"It was tough sitting at home," Cattouse said. "It left a sour taste in our mouth, but that was last year. It's definitely something we use as motivation, but the bottom line is it's about us. It's something we think about, but really it's a new season."
Last season's game was another in what has become a series of devastating losses to the Huskies in recent years. In 2009, the Bears went to Seattle coming off a benchmark win over Stanford and eyeing a high-profile bowl bid but were routed 42-10. In their 2007 trip to Washington, Cal fell behind early and lost 37-23.
"Everyone knows what happened last year," Cal linebacker Mychal Kendricks said. "We're pretty fired-up about it."