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Grading the Game: Cal

It was 52-19 after the third quarter as the Huskies dominated the Golden Bears.

California v Washington Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Pass Offense - A-

Michael Penix Jr. played his fewest snaps of the season (46) and still threw for 300+ yards and 4 touchdowns, with over 12 yards per attempt. Down one of the best receivers in the country in Jalen McMillan, the pass game did not miss a beat. Surprising no one who watches this team, WR Ja’Lynn Polk put in a masterful performance, besting WR Rome Odunze in catches (8) and yards (127), and tying him in touchdowns (2). His helmet grab touchdown in the corner of the end zone was not only an inch perfect catch, but an accurate strike from Penix.

Odunze was obviously no slouch either, with 125 yards on just 5 catches. He showed his full array of skills on Saturday night, including his run after the catch ability on his touchdown from a middle screen. Pass blocking was terrific with zero sacks given up, and neither LT Troy Fautanu, RT Roger Rosengarten, nor C Parker Brailsford even allowed a QB hurry. A slight ding for the interception.

An interesting stat of note - this was the highest “time to throw” so far of the season (3.16 seconds) - meaning Penix was taking longer to find a receiver, likely due to Cal’s defense and Justin Wilcox’s scheme. But, it didn’t matter as Penix stayed patient and found open receiver after open receiver.

California v Washington Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Run Offense - A-

The run game certainly looked more like what fans and coaches would envision as a compliment to the pass game. When Washington eventually ran an offensive play with 5:30 left in the first quarter, it was a 19-yard run from RB Dillon Johnson, who is looking better by the week. Run plays with pulling linemen in particular looked good, and helped open some sizable holes for not only Johnson, but RB Will Nixon. He only had 5 carries but got loose for 18 yards and finished with 39 rush yards total. Even late in the fourth quarter with the backups, the blocking remained largely good; RB Sam Adams II took a handoff 9 yards into the end zone through a hole you could drive a truck through. Running backs finished the night with 27 rushes for 140 yards - a healthy 5.1 yards per carry. And they did it without starting G Julius Buelow, who spent the game in a walking boot.

Pass Defense - B

The final stats won’t tell the full story, but the Husky secondary played a solid game against a struggling Cal passing attack. QB Ben Finley got the start, and immediately threw a pick 6 to LB Edefuan Ulofoshio, who had to break a tackle to return it all the way. He came in averaging less than 7 yards per attempt, and finished with 207 yards (6.5 YPA) and 2 touchdowns, but had 3 interceptions. When the game was well over in the fourth quarter, Sam Jackson V gave Cal a spark and threw for 135 yards against UW backups, significantly inflating Cal’s numbers. CB Jabbar Muhammad continues his stellar season and S Dom Hampton snagged his first career interception.

Other than the 3 interceptions thrown by Cal QB Ben Finley (huge grain of salt, obviously), the final stats for Cal don’t actually look awful. Between Finley and QB Sam Jackson V, they finished with 363 yards, 3 TDs, and almost 8 yards per attempt. The Washington pass rush didn’t register a sack, but as has been the case for most of the season, opposing quarterbacks haven’t been comfortable against this defense. However, some penalties and coverage mistakes lower this grade.

Rush Defense - B+

Cal came in wanting to establish the run with Jadyn Ott, and he finished with 14 carries for 40 yards and a touchdown. Cal running backs in total finished with 30 rushes for 122 yards and two touchdowns. They probably wanted to get Ott going earlier, but the quick 14-0 lead meant they abandoned the run sooner than OC Jake Spatial would have hoped. This was a team that came in decidedly favoring the run (139 rushes to 103 passes) but flipped that against UW - 46 pass attempts, 35 rushes.

Overall a strong performance when it mattered, but only two TFLs (and one was a on a screen pass from S Kam Fabiculanan) continues the trend of his defense largely playing fine, but not making tons of plays behind the line of scrimmage. DT Tuli Letuligasenoa had only two tackles, but both were “stops” per PFF and constituted a failed play for the offense. Edge Vol Tunuufi had two as well.

NCAA Football: California at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Special Teams - A

Special teams seems like a real upgrade over last year. Kickoff coverage was strong and Cal’s average starting field position was the 24 yard line. P Jack McCallister put both his punts inside the 20, and K Grady Gross hit his one field goal attempt for 41 yards. And of course, Rome Odunze housed a punt return, essentially putting the game out of reach for California before it even started. He looks more like a first team All-American with each passing (heh) game.

Coaching - A-

Against a defense that has given two Washington coaching staffs some trouble (if you call last year’s 28 point outing in Berkeley in which Penix through for 374 yards “trouble”), the Huskies left no doubt and did whatever they wanted through the air against the Golden Bears. Yet again this offense - masterfully called by OC Ryan Grubb - set opposing team records. The 45 points scored in the first half were the most given up ever in the first half by a Cal team, and it was against a Justin Wilcox coached Cal team to boot. The defense is playing aggressive and knows all they need to do is get the ball back to Michael Penix Jr. for this team to win.

There really isn’t much to complain about. The competition hasn’t been incredible but this team is coming out ready and they seem hungry for big things this season. For the second game in a row the penalties were much more than you’d want, and I guess the second- and third-stringers could play better late in the game, but they are currently backups for a reason.