After going more than a year without a road win, Washington coach Steve Sarkisian had his players wear suits for the plane ride to drive home the message that this was a business trip.
The play on the field may not have looked as good as the players did on the plane but the result did.
Bishop Sankey ran for a career-high 189 yards and two touchdowns and Washington overcame four turnovers and 12 penalties for its first road win in 13 months, 21-13 over California on Friday night.
"That was the whole message," quarterback Keith Price said. "We're not here for vacation. A lot of guys were home back here playing. That's not what we were here for. We were here to get a win and we did that."
Austin Seferian-Jenkins caught eight passes for 154 yards and a touchdown for the Huskies (5-4, 3-3 Pac-12), who had been outscored 145-41 in three road games this season and had lost six straight away games since beating Utah on Oct. 1, 2011.
The Golden Bears (3-7, 2-5) lost for the fourth time in six games at their renovated stadium and are assured of missing out on a bowl for the second time in three seasons. That will only raise more questions about the status of coach Jeff Tedford, who has a 23-25 record since the start of the 2009 season.
"It is not something we're used to," Tedford said. "You work very hard, so it is always disappointing to not be able to play in the postseason. It does not happen to us often and it's not a good feeling."
Cal played the game without injured star receiver Keenan Allen and then lost starting quarterback Zach Maynard to a left knee injury late in the fourth quarter. Allen might not be back this season, while Maynard is undergoing an MRI and his status is unknown.
Backup Allan Bridgford drove the Bears to the 25 with just over a minute left but he missed C.J. Anderson down the sideline on fourth-and-5 to end Cal's hopes and send the Huskies home happy.
"I think it's big from a psyche standpoint that we're able to get on the plane and have success and feel good about winning a ballgame not, 'Woe is us, woe is me.' That takes a toll. At the end of the day, we found a way to win."
Each team had four turnovers in a sloppy game, including three lost fumbles in a span of six plays early in the fourth quarter. An interception on the next drive helped seal the win for Washington.
Shaq Thompson intercepted a pass by Maynard near midfield and returned it 33 yards to the Cal 28. Making that play even more painful for the Bears was the fact that Thompson originally committed to play at Cal before changing his mind when top recruiter Tosh Lupoi left for Washington just weeks before signing day.
Sankey ran four straight plays and scored from 1-yard out to give the Huskies a 21-13 lead. Washington needs just one win in its final three games against the bottom teams in the conference, Utah, Colorado and Washington State, to become bowl eligible.
"We knew we had to close it out and we knew we were on their side of the field," Sankey said. "It was on the o-line's back and on the running game and I feel like we did a great job with that."
Cal settled for field goals twice in the third quarter after driving deep into Washington territory, which proved costly when Seferian-Jenkins made a leaping grab over the smaller Steve Williams for a 29-yard score on third-and-goal to give the Huskies a 14-13 lead in the final minute of the third quarter.
The score remained there when Cal failed to capitalize on another good chance. Maynard overthrew an open Chris Harper in the end zone and D'Amato missed wide right from 41 yards, ending a streak of 11 straight makes.
"I don't think we executed all of our plays like we were supposed to," Harper said. "We had a couple of drops and fumbles. All of the turnovers, we need to try to eliminate them. When we're close to the zone we need to have the mentality that we have to get in."
Both teams had little trouble moving the ball in the first half but struggled to get it into the end zone. Washington scored on Sankey's 4-yard run on its second drive of the game but came up empty on three other trips into Cal territory. Sankey was stopped on fourth-and-1 twice in the first half and Price was intercepted by Nick Forbes in the closing seconds on third-and-5 from the 9.
The Bears also squandered good scoring chances with Isi Sofele losing a fumble at the Washington 21 on their first drive of the game and Brendan Bigelow losing a fumble at the 11 on the second drive.
Cal scored late in the second quarter on Harper's 14-yard reverse on a drive extended by a personal foul on Danny Shelton on third-and-long.