It’s hard not to be hyperbolic when talking about college football, as each game is seemingly more important than the last. The 2018 Huskies were out of the running for the College Football Playoffs well before our frustrating 12-10 defeat down in Berkeley. You could’ve argued, at the time, that losing to Cal (shortly after losing to Oregon, also on the road) eliminated our chances at a Pac-12 title, but thankfully the Ducks obliged and we were able to win out in conference play.
So, I don’t want to come on here all doom and gloom like. Whenever the Huskies lose, it’s always shocking, it’s always heartbreaking, and when you factor in the relative ease of our schedule, you can make the argument that even a single defeat drastically reduces our chances of making the College Football Playoffs. But, the fact of the matter is, these Huskies were never REALLY going to make the final four. That was always going to be far-fetched. There’s too much turnover on the roster (particularly on defense) and too much uncertainty around our transfer QB making his initial starts since leaving Georgia two years ago.
The win at home against Eastern was nice. It was convincing. But … they’re Eastern. They’re SUPPOSED to lose to Washington 47-14. The real test was always going to be Cal last week, and just like last year, it was a mess from the start. Only, this time was supposed to be different. This time, we were at home, and we were supposed to avenge our 2018 defeat!
I’ll admit, I was drinking at the tailgate all day, then I had a Marc Maron comedy show at The Moore that night, just as the game was getting started. But, I DVR’d the Dawgs, and with the considerable rain/lightning delay, I even managed to catch up to the live broadcast at some point in the third quarter.
I won’t blame the delay for the Huskies losing, but considering the game didn’t end until, what, after 1am local time? All I’ll say about that is I wonder how different the outcome would’ve been had there been no delay. Had it been just rainy without the lightning. Or, had it been comfortably overcast the whole time like it was the entire fucking day! That’ll haunt me as the season goes on, I’m not gonna lie.
The rushing attack for the Huskies was good enough to win. But, the passing game was severely lacking. There are numerous reasons: Colorado’s secondary might be the best in the country (or at least in the top 10), so it was going to be tough sledding regardless. There were also just a completely ridiculous number of drops from the receivers, which I still can’t comprehend. It didn’t look like Eason was throwing it too hard, but even if he was, those are balls that NEED to be caught. You’re playing for a Top 25 football program, you need to catch the ones that are thrown right to you. But, also, Eason wasn’t perfect; he missed a number of throws that could’ve kept the chains moving. And, some slice of the Blame Pie needs to go to the play caller, who had a brilliant game against Eastern, but obviously had his own struggles against Cal’s top tier defense.
Shifting gears, the Husky defense really shit the bed in the second half. Don’t get me wrong, they were fantastic in the first half, as the Huskies went into halftime up 10-3. But, for some reason, we couldn’t get to their quarterback anymore after the break, and we were allowing chunk plays left and right. Cal came right out and dominated from the kick to start the third quarter, tying the game in their opening drive, then taking the lead one drive later (with a Husky field goal wedged in the middle). We FINALLY forced a 3 & Out on Cal’s first drive of the fourth quarter, which gave the Huskies just enough of an opportunity to take a 19-17 lead thanks to a heroic 49-yard field goal with just over 2 minutes left in the game. But, facing those odds: two minutes left in the game, at their own 25 yard line, on the road in a relatively hostile environment (with, what, a tenth of the original crowd still in attendance?) against what’s supposed to be a Top 10 program in the nation, Cal was able to slice and dice down to our 1 yard line before making a chip-shot field goal with 8 seconds left in the game. I mean, at least provide A LITTLE resistance!
But, ultimately, the offense has to take more of the blame on this one. I mean, you’ve got to finish drives. You’ve got to score touchdowns, not field goals, particularly at home.
So, what does this mean going forward? I haven’t got a clue. It would be nice to not have our playoff hopes dashed quite so early in the season like they’ve been the last two years. But, this is college football, you get what you get. We’re only two games into the season, with two more non-conference games in a row before we get back to business. The division is still in play, the conference is still in play, and a major bowl game is still in play. Cal was always going to be the toughest defense we saw this regular season, we’ve gotten them out of the way, now we can move on and hopefully continue to grow this offense into something much more respectable.
I haven’t given up yet, is the point here. USC, Oregon, Utah, and Wazzu all have to come play us in Seattle. Our only real challenge on the road is probably Stanford and they don’t necessarily look like world-beaters at this point. We’ve just gotta keep plugging along – mostly undetected – and hope to catch some better luck in these close games.
Hawaii is on Saturday; they should be pushovers. Let’s take this one game at a time and see where we are by the end of September, when we get USC at home for our first major showdown.