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The Good, The Bad, and the Unknown: Cal Edition

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 07 Cal at Washington Photo by Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Good

The pass rush was good. Four sacks in week 1 and three sacks in week 2 is something to be very pleased with. It’s also a good sign of things to come, as three sacks against a Pac-12 caliber offensive line looks better than four sacks against an FCS offensive line. The Dawgs also had 4 tackles for a loss on Saturday. We’ll talk about containment issues later though...

The Huskies ran the ball well. The Dawgs amassed 186 rushing yards on 46 carries, amounting to 4 yards per rush. This is not a stellar yards per rush figure, but it’s respectable given Cal’s very good defense. Notably, Salvon Ahmed had a career game was 119 yards on 21 carries for an average of 5.7 yards per carry. He also tacked on a touchdown for good measure.

Peyton Henry was 4/4 on field goals! Given that the much maligned sophomore kicker was struggled at times last season (see the Oregon game), it was awesome to see him make all four of his attempts on Saturday, including a career long 49 yarder to give the Huskies the lead late in the game. If the defense had held in the final two minutes, Henry might have been the game’s hero.

The Bad

Run defense. Cal rushed for 192 yards and averaged 5.1 yards per carry. In the third quarter alone, Cal rushed for 124 of those yards on just 14 carries. Tackling was the main issue here, as neither of Cal’s backs were going down on first contact and were frequently running through arm tackles.

Joe Tryon and containment. There were a few plays, including Cal RB Marcel Dancy’s second touchdown run, in which Tryon failed to contain the ball carrier by holding the edge. Tryon wasn’t the only Husky guilty of this on Saturday, but his mistakes were the most obvious and egregious.

Kyler Gordon. On Cal’s final possession of the game, Gordon gave up a 19-yard completion, then committed a 15-yard pass interference penalty. The incredibly poorly timed combo was more or less the nail in the coffin for the Huskies hopes of winning, given that it placed Cal within field goal range with 1:31 left on the clock. This of course comes the week after he committed two holding penalties against Eastern. Gordon is young and extremely athletic, but he also needs to clean up his game. Quickly.

Drops by the wide receivers. After a stellar first game against Eastern, Jacob Eason and the Huskies passing game really struggled against Cal’s vaunted secondary. To some degree, this would be expected given the quality of the opponent. However, what was most troubling were the five(ish) drops committed by Washington’s wideouts, most of whom were seniors. Maybe Eason needed to take a little more juice off the ball, or perhaps the wet field conditions were to blame, but neither is a good excuse for that many drops by veteran players.

Eason is not free of blame however, as he was late on a number of crucial throws, including what appeared to be a sure thing touchdown to Aaron Fuller that arrived a second or two too late. Although, all coaches will probably tell you that there are pretty much no sure things in football. That aside, Eason also threw an interception and lost a fumble. Turnovers kill, and Eason was responsible for the only two in the game.

The Unknown

Did the delay impact the game? There have already been a lot of opinions on this. My thought is that at a bare minimum, while both teams had to deal with the delay, having fewer fans in the stadium once the game got started again was only good news for Cal.

Is Kyler Gordon’s spot up for grabs? After back to back rough outings, could we see Elijah Molden or Dominique Hampton slide into Gordon’s starting corner spot? Gordon is still young (redshirt freshman) and learning the game. There have been and will probably continue to be some growing pains with him, like all young players. We’ll have to wait and see if Jimmy Lake gives Gordon more chances, or if he’s seen enough to make a change.

Could Laiatu Latu take Tryon’s starting spot on the depth chart this season? Like Gordon, this might be an overreaction to one or two bad outings. However, the true freshman Latu is a DUDE and while Tryon looks the part, he’s made quite a few mental mistakes already this season. Tryon is now in his third year (redshirt sophomore) but still has lots of room for growth in the mental aspects of the game. Again, we’ll have to wait and see on this one, but my guess is the coaching staff will let Tryon play through these early mistakes with the hope that he noticeably improves in the near future.

Will younger wide receivers get a shot at more playing time after the lackluster performance by the veterans? Same train of thought as the previous two unkowns, but its a question that multiple reporters asked Coach Pete after the game. He gave a noncommittal answer, but didn’t rule out the possibility that some of the younger receivers could get more looks as the season progressed. Think of guys like Austin Osborne, Marquis Spiker, Trey Lowe and Puka Nacua.

How does the loss to Cal impact Washington’s post season? It’s tough to say with any certainty until more of the season plays out, but losing to another team in the north division has knocked us back in the standings. There’s plenty of games left for the Huskies to rally and win the north division, play in the Pac-12 championship game, and make a major bowl. If you’re curious about specifics, I’ll let you play through all the scenarios on your own by reading about all of the tiebreakers here.

Go Dawgs!