Takeaways from Washington football’s crucial win over Cal

Washington football won their Pac-12 opener against the California Golden Bears.

Heading into this game, despite their struggles, the Washington Huskies had huge expectations riding on them to win their conference opener. In a nail-biting ending, Washington ended up winning against Cal 31-24 after overtime play.

Some big injury updates become known to the media before the start of the game, including the announcement that starting cornerback Trent McDuffie would be inactive.

Tight end Cade Otton was also reported as out as he is currently in COVID-19 protocol. Devin Culp was announced as the starter in his place.

It was nerve-racking at first to learn that Huskies would be without two of their biggest difference-makers but ended up just fine without them.

On offense, despite a few good passes, they looked as boring as they have this whole season. On defense, they continue to show the good and the bad but what a game on part of cornerback Kyler Gordon.

This was a must-win for the Huskies and they got just that.

Washington football’s defense remains good, bad, and ugly

The Husky defense started off with a boom against California when linebacker Ryan Bowman sacked Cal quarterback Chase Garbers on the Bears’ first possession of the game. Two plays later, Kyler Gordon picked off Garbers for his first career interception.

Gordon also earned a second incredible toe-tapping interception in the third quarter.

Up to this point, Washington had (and likely still has) a top-five passing defense in college football. The Huskies gave up 319 passing yards against Cal, the most in a game this season. This was also the first game this season that the defense allowed a touchdown pass.

Upfront, Washington’s run defense has been M.I.A this season and it shows. They gave up 138 rushing yards against Cal and had difficulty stopping Garbers on the move (16 carries, 71 yards, one touchdown).

While Cal out-performed Washington in terms of yardage (by 131 yards), it was the UW’s defense who ultimately prevented them from getting into the endzone (for the most part).

When the game mattered most, the run defense stepped up to force the fumble and win the game in overtime.

UW’s offense remains inconsistent

Washington’s offense opened the game on another three-and-out and it felt like it was going to be another stale, play-it-safe kind of night for them.

However, things quickly began to turn around when the Huskies left the ball in quarterback Dylan Morris’ hands and let him make rhythmic passes downfield. Well, in the first half anyway.

The Huskies had three straight touchdown drives following their opening three-and-out but that soon faded as their next several possessions went as follows:

  • Field goal
  • Punt
  • Fumble
  • Failed field goal attempt
  • Punt
  • Punt
  • Touchdown (overtime)

Even though the Husky offense wasn’t creating over-the-top, explosive plays, they started off well when Morris could find his open receivers downfield—and when he had time to throw.

As we saw following half-time, the complete lack of execution on offense crept up on this team once again and made its appearance in the most crucial moments of the game.

Washington football’s inability to convert in the second half opened the door for Cal to tie the game and force it into overtime.

At the beginning of the game, the UW had running back Sean McGrew involved but seemed to abandon that idea later on, even though they had 31 rushing attempts. It wasn’t until overtime that they utilized him again to earn the (eventual) game-winning touchdown.

Even though the offense saw a drop-off, it is a bit ironic how in the two games that Washington’s offense performs well (in part), offensive coordinator John Donovan is up in the booth where he can see the field better instead of on the sidelines.

However, being in the booth isn’t going to be enough for the Huskies offense to be successful. Donovan still isn’t the right choice and it all depends on when head coach Jimmy Lake and athletic director Jennifer Cohen realize that.