Any down and inches to go. That should be no problem when your running back, Jermar Jefferson, is one of the best in the country.
However, it was a big problem for the Beavers Saturday.
Given two chances to convert just inches away from a first down and inside the Huskies five-yard-line, the Beavers failed, according to the refs that is.
First, Jefferson took the ball on third and inches and appeared to convert the first down. Doing so would have given the Beavers a first and goal and had them just yards away from taking the lead in the final quarter.
But things aren't always as they appear. The referees said Jefferson was short of the line, setting up a crucial fourth and inches.
The Beavers once again went for it, and Jefferson once again appeared to easily covert... but the refs once again said Jefferson was short. Husky ball.
Fans were livid and social media was abuzz as no one understood how something so obvious could be missed, twice!
"First play, it was an inside zone...Felt like I got it,' said Jefferson. "The second play it was fourth and one, which I don't know how that happened. I don't know how I lost yards...I feel like the first run I had to get it was a first down... I thought I definitely had it."
The play didn't cost the Beavers the game, but it certainly changed it.
Rather than take the lead late, the Beavers had to rely on the defense to get a stop and hope for another chance. The defense did exactly what it needed to do, but with the ball back in their hands the Beavers offense fell flat. Ballgame.
The Huskies walked away with the 27-21 victory. It was a victory the Beavers made them work for. A victory that in the end shouldn't have looked as easy as it was. A victory, that had the ball been spotted correctly, may have never been a victory at all.
Back to that play in question. Right as the play-by-play crew announced it was a turnover on downs, the broadcast cut to commercial. Fans were left on edge wondering what had just happened. When it came back all that was said was that the call was confirmed.
"I was told they were getting reviewed," said Coach Smith. "Third down play they brought the measurement sticks. I asked to see if the call was getting looked at and they said they were looking at it... You get buzzed if it's close and they need to take more time. But they felt after the third down they had plenty of time, I'm assuming here because they're telling me they're looking at it because the play is getting measured. By them telling me that I don't want to challenge and waste a timeout when they tell me they are thoroughly looking at it."
To be honest, that doesn't sound like a coach that is all too confident in the fact that his team got a fair shake. Especially when he thinks his team got the first.
"My angle on the third-down call, I thought we had it. We were beginning to talk about first down. Then the chains came out and we had to be prepared for either way it went."
No one thought Jefferson was short. Not him. Not his coach. Not his team. Heck, I doubt the Huskies did.
It was arguably one of the worst calls you will ever see. That being said, the loss in the record books was not all bad.
A week after being beaten up upfront by the Cougars, the Beavers changed course. They played a more physical game and really hung with the Huskies. They proved they can win games in the trenches, and when the running game is rolling they can move the ball on offense.
They showed glimpses of what this team can be when they put it all together. In fact, outside of a slow start in the first quarter, the Beavers played an all-around solid game.
The sad part is that the fight they put up won't be what fans remember.
They will remember what happened near the four-yard-line inside Husky Stadium. A monumental blown call that may have cost the Beavers their first win of the 2020 season.
It's a tough pill to swallow. But given how the game played out and how the Beavers didn't quit despite the body blow, fans should be encouraged, and Cal should be on the lookout for a Beavers team next Saturday looking for a bit of redemption.