BY Art Thiel 08:49PM 09/26/2015

Thiel: Big time a bit much for Huskies’ youngsters

Down 27-7, the Huskies had some comeback in them, but five turnovers and a passel of missed tackles were way too much to give 4-0 Cal and their star QB, Jared Goff.

Dwayne Washington rushed for each of the 71 yards in a second-quarter Huskies touchdown drive. / Drew Sellers. Sportspress Northwest

Messy as it was, it was predictable. When a team of babes is force-fed Pac-12 Conference football, pabulum goes everywhere.

Jared Goff is one of the nation’s top quarterbacks, Cal is an improved team (4-0 for the first time since 2007) and the Pac-12 is gnarlier than the Cal State-Disneyland teams the Huskies beat earlier. But the Bears were hardly unbeatable, as a second half of just 10 points will attest.

But three lost fumbles and two interceptions are splendid ways to gift over a game that might have been ignition for Washington’s season. Instead, the 30-24 defeat gashed a beautiful fall Saturday at Husky Stadium and dashed the coaching staff’s hopes that their babes were quick studies.

“A group effort,” said UW offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith. “Everyone taking a turn making a good play, then taking their turn at screwing up something.”

With a freshman at quarterback, three in the offensive line and a couple more first-year players at running back and receiver, a high screw-up ratio was inevitable. It helped create a 40-20 disparity in time of possession, so that a good defensive effort was invisible under 481 yards of total offense.

Well, “good” is a tad generous, because a good defense would never allow so many tackles to be broken. A first-half run by Cal RB Vic Enwere (96 yards on 23 carries) and a second-half scramble by Goff were remarkable in that every Husky on defense and half the band must have had a hand on both runners but failed to stop them early in the carry.

“I was shocked when a couple of guys took shots without wrapping up,” coach Chris Petersen said. “(Including) a couple of good, experienced guys. That was really disappointing. You see what happens when you don’t wrap up, especially with running backs like that.”

The result was perhaps the most startling stat of the game — Cal’s 198 gross yards rushing again. The net yards were 139, thanks to five sacks of Goff and other tackles for loss. Coming into the game, everyone figured Goff for a 300-yard game, and he didn’t disappoint (342, on 24-for-40 with two TDs and a pick). But getting out-hit at the line was a novelty.

“It’s our youth and aggressiveness,” said nose tackle Elijah Qualls. “In all honesty, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I love how aggressive we are.

“It’s just remembering to wrap up the ball carrier.”


But the defense had its moments, including a goal-line stand in the second quarter that denied a fourth-and-one run, followed by the surrender of only a field goal after a short-field possession gifted by a UW turnover.

Washington come back from a 27-7 deficit to 27-21 late in the third period. But UW’s next possession ended with a fumble by RB Dwayne Washington. The next one ended with three consecutive incompletions by Browning, then a field goal.

And the final shot, with 2:51 left trailing 30-21, concluded with an interception under heavy pressure.

“We couldn’t move the ball,” Petersen said. “We didn’t convert third and fourth downs (combined two for 10), and that has to change.”

Browning didn’t complete his first pass until 5:39 was left in the first half, which may have been a record slow start in the spread-offense era. He picked it up thereafter, but against his first Pac-12 defense he seemed to regress from the past two games against lesser opposition.

“I’m sure there were times he could have stepped up (in the pocket)and probably times he couldn’t have,” Petersen said. “He was getting flushed a lot more than we anticipated.

“I think we can be better than that.”

A reasonable expectation, given the abundant youth. But after a bye, the next game is a Thursday night affair at the Los Angeles Coliseum and coach Steve Sarkisian, the coach who hired all the older players and then abandoned them.

It certainly offers a splendid emotional moment. All the Huskies need to do is get football mature in 11 days.





  • Ryan

    How many times did they run 2x’s in a row?

    • Eric K

      There first TD was a drive of 71 yards on all running plays by Dwayne Wadhington

      • Ryan

        Yep. And then after???

    • art thiel

      How is that relevant, given down, distance and scoreboard?

      • Ryan

        1. Reduces predictability. You aren’t just playing that one series. There are more series to come and it gives the defense something else to think about down the line.
        2. Reduces pressure on your freshman quarterback.
        3. Less chance for turnover.
        4. You can actually make a first down on 3rd and 7 on a run play. I’ve seen it happen.

        That’s four reasons…

        The score was 13 – 7 with 6:14 to go in the 2nd quarter.

        It just seems that Coach Pete panics, and that he wants to get back in a game in one fell swoop.

        Your distance question is fair and the penalties didn’t help. And clearly it is a young offensive line. But wouldn’t that make running a better option considering you want to protect your qb?

  • 3 Lions

    They’ve chosen to go with youth however they still need to play the game. The O line is weak so they should incorporate some quick dump off options. You cant be conservative if your not that good. Peterson looks like a sophomore himself, maybe redshirt freshman.
    Where’s the improvement?

    • art thiel

      More evidence that we live in a world of instant gratification.

  • Effzee

    Took my daughter to her first Husky game yesterday. She’s 8, and she had a blast! Honestly, I was pretty impressed with the Dawgs. Cal is a good team with a veteran QB and our D was good enough to keep them contained most of the day. I thought Browning and the young O-Line looked mostly good, and even with our glaring errors, there was a chance to win it at the end. I also didn’t walk away from the game wondering what planet Jonathan Smith was calling plays from, so that’s a good development. I swear without a couple of those mystifying penalties (officials are not supposed to call fair catches for players, right?) we may have actually taken that game. All-in-all, pretty much an expected result in the end, and I can see much progress being made, especially considering the turnover from last year to this year. We are pretty inexperienced, but its going to get better every game. Two specific calls I did not like: The deep pass out of the end zone on first down that was intercepted, right after the goal-line stand. That play was not necessary, and the WR has to know that he has to become a defender on that play and go knock the ball down. Also, taking a knee after another defensive stand with one second left in the half from pretty much mid-field. You gotta take a shot there.

    • art thiel

      It’s all about five freshmen among the offense;s starters.

  • rosetta_stoned

    Welcome to the Chris Peterson Error.

  • 1coolguy

    The 71 yard drive was remarkable and I thought we’d see more of the same. We never even came close the rest of the game, which was really weird. The drive was total dominance then nothing from the running game the rest of the way. I don’t think I have ever seen this.

    • art thiel

      You don’t suppose that Cal might have set its defense to respond to that, do you?