The latest installment between the Washington Huskies and California Golden Bears needed overtime to be settled but in the end, UW stuffed Cal’s game-tying aspirations by forcing a fumble then pouncing on not only the ball but a 31-24 victory as well.
Back on May 17th, in response to Washington blocking Ethan Garber’s waiver to play immediately at UCLA - California Quarterback and Ethan’s older brother Chase Garbers tweeted, “I guess UW is still mad about us beating them, don’t need to take it out on little bro!”
131 days later, UW sophomore corner Kyler Gordon snagged the first 2 interceptions of his career along with 10 tackles en route to the Huskies' 31-24 victory over Cal at Husky Stadium.
It’s almost as if each game this season has felt like a must-win outing for the Huskies; they needed to beat Montana and had to at least show up against Michigan but after failing to do both of those, Arkansas State became a game with drastic implications for the future of UW and likely its coaching staff.
None of those previous outings were as important as Saturday night’s meeting against the Golden Bears because they still sit with an opportunity to eventually contend for the Pac-12 North crown but to do that, they likely can’t afford any blemishes on their conference record.
Before this game became the nail-biting overtime thriller that it was, Washington looked like they’d cruise to eventually get to cruise to the finish line.
It all began when a touchdown pass from redshirt freshman QB Dylan Morris to redshirt freshmen wide receiver Taj Davis from 19 yards out gave the Huskies an early 7-0 lead. Cal was able to respond to the scoring drive with a score of their own and tie the game up but minutes later UW was back sounding the siren after Morris connected on a 6-yard score to freshmen wideout and emerging star Jalen McMillan.
The Husky defense forced a turnover on downs and then came out on offense and drove down 71 yards on 10 plays which concluded with senior running back Sean McGrew punching the ball in from five yards out.
UW was leading 21-7 as the half began to wind down but Cal was able to net a field goal from 29 yards out as the clock expired to trim the lead to 21-10.
The second half is when things got hectic (as they seemingly always do when these teams meet up).
After Washington forced a punt and junior kicker Peyton Henry capped off the next drive with a 32-yard field goal, the Golden Bears zipped down the field in five plays that totaled 75 yards to trim the lead to 24-17.
They then forced UW to punt but that’s when Gordan got his second interception on the night after getting his first on Cal’s opening drive of the game. UW came back out on offense but only was on the field for four plays after senior running back Kamari Pleasant had the ball forced from out his hands.
California then took the field on offense again but was turned away on fourth down which was followed by a missed 47-yard field goal from Henry. The two teams exchanged punts before the Golden Bears were finally able to tie the game up after a 9 play, 62-yard drive that was capped off by a Garbers run.
With the game tied up at 24 and 1:16 left on the clock, UW was forced to punt the ball away after just three plays. It was now on the defense to try to force the game into overtime and they were able to do just enough to keep Cal out of comfortable range as they missed a 55-yard field goal with the clock expiring.
Washington got the ball to start overtime and scored out of the Wildcat formation as McGrew powered a direct snap past the goal line for the second time of the night.
When California seemingly was bound for the endzone on the following drive, sophomore’s defensive back Cameron Williams and linebacker Jackson Sirmon came together and crushed Cal sophomore Damien Moore at the goal line, forcing him to fumble the ball which was recovered by senior Ryan Bowman who sealed the Golden Bears fate as he pounced on the ball.
The Huskies weren’t perfect, but they did enough to pick up the victory. Offensively, they were paced by Morris who connected on 19/32 passes for 234 yards and two scores with no turnovers.
Overall they were outgained both through the air and on the ground but what proved to be most important was the fact UW forced two more turnovers than California was able to.
As stressful as it may have been, the Huskies are now 1-0 in conference play in 2-2 on the season. Next up is a battle with the 3-1 Oregon State Beavers in Corvallis, OR who are coming off a surprising 45-27 thumping of USC.