This was a disjointed affair through the first 21 minutes of the game. Our offense looked both inept and world-beating; our defense looked both dominant and susceptible to the big play; and our special teams: the less said about them, the better. The Huskies had a 21-13 lead after the first quarter, and with 9 minutes left in the first half, were clinging to a 21-20 advantage. My worst nightmares were being realized. Going into this game, my only fear was Cal pushing this game into shootout territory and keeping it close throughout thanks to our offense not being on top of its game.
I don’t know how you score 21 points in the first quarter and still feel like your offense is spotty, but it was. A couple of 3 & Outs deep in our own territory, followed by a couple of the most miserable punts you’re ever going to see, gave Cal good field position on our side of the 50. We essentially spotted them 6 points on a couple of field goals, and it certainly could’ve been a lot worse. Beyond that, our three scores were on two bombs to John Ross and a trick play where Dante Pettis threw a TD to Darrell Daniels. None of these were sustained drives, and we had no semblance of a running game early (against the worst rushing defense in college football). Cal was only a couple of tweaks in their secondary away from making a game of this!
But, when Cal pulled to within 1 point, the Huskies finally turned on the jets. 38-unanswered extended our lead to 59-20 before the Bears finally got a late garbage time touchdown. We followed that up with a lengthy run for a score with our backups in the game, and there was your final, 66-27.
In the end, we finished with 287 rushing yards on a whopping 44 carries, with both Gaskin and Coleman going for scores. Browning had a great game, going 19/28 for 378 yards and 6 TDs against 0 INTs. On the Heisman front, it looks like too-little, too-late, but in the Husky record books, we’re talking about a guy who – in 9 games – has already broken the single-season record for TD passes (34, over Keith Price’s 33). He needs just 10 more to break the all-time Pac-12 record, held by Jared Goff (43). He’s still pretty far off of the pace for the single-season Husky record for yards held by Cody Pickett (4,458 in 2002), but that’s what happens when you don’t play in the 4th quarter of most of your games because you’re blowing teams out too much. But, assuming all goes according to plan, Browning should be alone in 4th place on the all-time Husky passing yards list, on pace to absolutely shatter the record if he stays in school all four years.
The aforementioned John Ross had himself quite the night, with 208 yards receiving on only 6 receptions, 3 of them for touchdowns. Pettis, in addition to throwing for a touchdown, caught 3 others en route to an 8-catch, 104 yard evening.
The stars were out in full force on both sides of the ball. The Huskies nabbed 3 picks, 2 of them going to Sidney Jones. The line only managed 1 sack, but even though they were depleted, they were able to harass Cal’s quarterback with regularity most of the night.
I’d say, if the playoff selection committee went to bed after the first quarter, they wouldn’t have been all that impressed with the Huskies. Considering the game didn’t start until after 10:30pm eastern, I’d say those odds are pretty good. But, on the whole, a 66-27 drubbing has to look pretty good.
If I had to bet the family farm, I’d wager the Committee will have Ohio State in the top 4, with the Huskies on the outside looking in once again. If, however, they wise up and put Washington in at #4, as long as we win out, I don’t think there’s any chance of us ever falling out of the top 4 between now and the end of the year. Tomorrow could be big. I’ll have more on the issue on Wednesday, once everything has sunk in.
Next up, the Huskies host USC at 4:30pm on Saturday. Thanks to a bunch of early-season losses, the Trojans haven’t been on my radar, so my last impression of this team is throttling them down in L.A. last year, followed by the dramatic fall from grace for Sark. Those Trojans would somehow rebound to climb into the Pac-12 Championship Game (because the Pac-12 South is the God damned worst), only to lose to Stanford before rounding out their season with a bowl loss to Wisconsin.
This year, USC came into the season ranked 20th, and was immediately humbled by Alabama. The Trojans would lose 3 of their first 4, including games to Stanford and Utah, before turning things around and winning 5 in a row, including handing Colorado their only conference loss. A big part of that turnaround is attributed to the Trojans dumping former Husky recruit Max Browne in favor of Freshman Sam Darnold. Darnold looks like the real deal, and a perfect fit with all-world receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (who is somehow still a Junior, but will hopefully be declaring for the draft after this year).
I would also argue that part of their turnaround has to do with the schedule easing up. It’s probably no coincidence that their conference losses were on the road (the Alabama game was played in Texas, but still probably more of a road atmosphere). In their 5-game winning streak, 4 of these games have been at home (including the victory over Colorado). The other wins, against the Arizona schools, Cal, and Oregon, are about as soft of a landing as you can get. I don’t know if any of those teams have a defense that’s worth a damn.
ESPN College Gameday is coming back to Montlake for the first time since 2013, when we were ranked #16 and hosted the #2 Oregon Ducks. That game turned out to be a disaster for all involved (unless you’re a Ducks fan, in which case, yes, I will have fries with that). This time, the tables have turned though. USC isn’t ranked, though they’re 26th in both the AP & Coaches polls. People are touting the Trojans as the biggest test we’ll have faced all year. I’d say that honor still belongs with the underrated Utah Utes, but this is what happens when one of the L.A. schools goes on a 5-game winning streak. Everyone loses their minds and starts writing checks their asses can’t cash.
The fact of the matter is, yes, we’re talking about a hot USC team. If the national rankings happen to be in love with that school, it’s all the better for the Washington Huskies. Anything that boosts our national profile is good for our chances. By the same token, it will have been 3 full weeks since our last home game. It will have been a whopping 6 full weeks since the Husky fans have had an opportunity to get jacked up about a significant opponent (the Stanford game, on September 30th). This is our last opportunity to get all lathered up on a national stage. The next game is at home, but against a pretty hapless ASU team; then, we have the Apple Cup on the road. My point is: I expect Husky Stadium to be as loud and raucous as I’ve ever seen it.
GOD I CAN’T WAIT FOR SATURDAY!!!