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Instant Reaction: Thunderstruck Washington Shocked by Cal

The Huskies lose to California 20-19

NCAA Football: California at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Thunder and lightning rained down on Husky Stadium on Saturday night. But the weather did nothing to detract the Washington Huskies from opening their PAC 12 schedule with a tough loss to the California Golden Bears 20-19 in a game that concluded at an hour when many early risers on the East Coast were just beginning to think about breakfast.

Tallying just shy of three hours, the extensive delay presented a great challenge for both teams. On one hand, a traveling Cal team—already coping with the normal challenges that accompany a road game—had to deal with the extra hours tacked on to the game and the issue of logistics that go into the normal post-game departure routine. For UW, the home-field advantage that would come with a 71,000-person sellout was reduced to a raucous crowd of less than 10,000 die-hards. In fact, Coach Petersen did his best to get butts back in seats once it became clear the teams were going to get back on the field.

On the field, the Huskies were anything but electric. The explosive plays that defined Washington’s win over Eastern Washington last week, and the play of junior QB Jacob Eason in particular, were in shorter supply. In addition, the Huskies struggled with physical mistakes including dropped passes and turnovers (2) that have become somewhat unfamiliar to Husky fans in the last few years of the Petersen era.

The first half was especially difficult for Washington. Eason didn’t come out sharp, even before the lengthy weather delay. He was harassed constantly by Cal blitzes, racked up two turnovers (one pick, one fumble) and missed open receivers via drop and over throw. Still, Washington’s D held serve with three sacks, four TFLs, and just 3.5 yards per play (total of 90 yards). A Salvon Ahmed fourth down TD rush from 21 yards out was the only touchdown by either team in the half.

Things got worse in the second half. Behind some strong running by reserve RB Marcel Dancy, Cal recorded their first TD against Washington in three seasons early in the third quarter. Dancy would follow up with a second TD late in the third to cap an 11-play drive that temporarily gave Cal a 17-13 lead.

Beleaguered Husky PK Peyton Henry kicked the Huskies back into the lead in the fourth quarter. The former walk-on, who most Husky fans had associated with the loss at Oregon a year ago, accounted for two field goals that would put UW up 19-17 with less than two minutes to play.

But it wouldn’t be enough. The Cal offense broke loose in the two-minute drill thanks in large part to a questionable pass interference call on RS freshman Kyler Gordon. The Bears drove the field in a minute and finished their drive with a game-winning field goal from 17 yards out.

This is the first time in some 13 years that UW has lost back-to-back games to Cal. It is also the first time that a Chris Petersen Husky team has ever been beaten at home as a double-digit favorite. The loss is a gut punch for a Husky team that had grand plans for the season. While most of their goals remain in front of them, this game is yet another early-season disappointment reminiscent of last season’s Week 1 loss to Auburn. It is pretty clear that the Huskies haven’t yet solved the offensive woes that plagued them most of last year and are not yet ready to be a serious contender on the national scene.

Game Dots

  • The game was delayed for a total of 2 hours 38 minutes. Christian Caple took advantage of the moment to channel his inner comedian:
  • Eason struggled mightily. He was not good handling pocket pressure, seemed unable to look defenders off, and had poor timing on many throws. His stat line was a wholly unimpressive 18-30 for 162 yards and 1 INT.
  • It was actually a bad day passing for both teams. In fact, neither team had 100 yards in the air going into the fourth quarter. UW finished with 162 yards passing on the night while Cal only had 61 before Garbers’s game-winning drive upped that total to 111.
  • On the flip side, UW’s rushing attack seemed to take a step forward. Salvon Ahmed had a big night recording what we hope is the first of many 100-yard games on the season. He ended up with 119 yards on 21 attempts. Richard Newton had another impressive night with 9 carries for 42 yards.
  • Senior C Nick Harris returned to the starting lineup after being injured the week before against EWU.
  • Washington’s turnover-creation drought continues. The Dawgs have now gone three straight games without generating an interception and four straight since they last recovered a fumble.
  • The UW secondary is still a work in progress, particularly when it comes to run support. Watching true freshman Cameron Williams get trucked by Cal backup RB Marcel Dancy on his third quarter TD run was a reminder of just how good Taylor Rapp and JoJo McIntosh were last season.
  • Tim Horn kicks touchbacks very far. That is all.
  • Long live the pooch punt! A Chris Petersen staple made its first appearance in the first quarter when an ill-advised Jacob Eason slide left the Huskies a yard short of the first down on the Bears side of the field. After flashing a conversion attempt, Eason backed off and delivered a perfectly executed pooch that pinned Cal on their own 5-yard line.
  • Joe Tryon recorded his first sack of the season on an interesting play in the first quarter. He actually lined up on the inside (at the three technique) of Levi Onwuzurike, who lined up wide to the right of the defensive line. Just another example of how Pete Kwiatkowski and Jimmy Lake utilize formations to force their opponents to adjust on the spot.
  • It’s weird how long it has been since we’ve talked about drops with these Husky receivers, but the drop bug struck on this night. Chico McClatcher, Salvon Ahmed, Andre Baccellia, and Aaron Fuller each dropped critical passes during the game.
  • Kyler Manu still has the best mustache the PAC 12 has seen since Steve Prefontaine (yes, I know who you are, Gardner Minshew).
  • Jacob Sirmon got a snap at QB as a result of Jacob Eason losing his helmet in the first quarter. He was promptly sacked on a safety blitz by Cal.
  • Speaking of Sirmons, LB Jackson Sirmon made his presence felt today...on offense. UW ran Sirmon as a fullback on at least five snaps in the I-formation. He was even targeted once on a poorly conceived pass by Eason in the third quarter.
  • The UW running back rotation seems to be 1) Salvon Ahmed, 2a) Sean McGrew and 2b) Richard Newton. Kamari Pleasant did not record a carry.
  • The Huskies offense converted three fourth downs against Cal. They’ve not done that since they went 3 for 6 against Oregon State in 2015.
  • Husky PK Peyton Henry had a career day converting all four of his FG attempts, including the 50-yarder, to temporarily give UW the lead in the fourth.