Washington’s defense smothered Cal in a 38-7 triumph Saturday that also saw the emergence of freshman TE Hunter Bryant.
The California Bears had some former locals in their entourage that showed up at Husky Stadium Saturday night. Head coach Justin Wilcox and quarterback coach Marques Tuiasosopo were former Huskies coaches, starting QB Ross Bowers was a Bothell High School star, and top defender LB Devante Downs was the same at Mountlake Terrace HS.
Too bad they left town.
They’re missing a fine football party.
Halfway through the season, the No. 6 Huskies are 6-0 and likely to be ranked in the top five teams when the polls come out Sunday morning. The latest trammeling, 38-7 over the Bears (box), suggested the visitors were incapable of pooping the party, especially when it’s considered that Cal finished with a minus-41 yards rushing.
The Huskies defense was magnificent. As coach Chris Petersen put it, “They played about as good as you can play.”
Thanks in part to seven sacks, Cal finished with 93 yards of total offense on 52 plays. The totals were further dented on the game’s final play, when the Bears inexplicably and foolishly called a timeout to set up for a field goal instead of taking a shot for the end zone. The snap flew over the holder’s head and ended up being a 40-yard rushing loss.
The 93 yards were fifth-fewest in school history and fewest since holding Oregon State to 83 in 1991. The negative rushing yards were a a UW record, eclipsing a minus-13 by Stanford in 1971. Only in that final drive against mostly third-stringers did Cal come close to an offensive score.
The Bears’ touchdown came on a 37-yard fumble return by CB Darius Allensworth, who scooped and scored after the ball was knocked from WR Dante Pettis’s hands following a short completion.
The episode was part of a third quarter filled with penalties and missed plays that Petersen called “sloppy . . . that was very frustrating. We can play better than that. I felt bad for the defense.”
For a second week in a row, the defense missed out on a coveted shutout. Their 42-7 win over Oregon State had a meaningless late TD.
But if that’s the extent of complaint, Petersen is in very good shape. Next Saturday they play Arizona State (2-3), idle this weekend, in Tempe, which figures to be another step toward an unprecedented Apple Cup. The 11th-ranked Cougars also moved to 6-0 Saturday with a 33-10 win over crippled Oregon in Eugene (box).
Washington’s offense, which was spectacular a year ago in a 66-27 win over the Bears in Berkeley, was effective but not overwhelming against a defense that denied UW the deep ball and also had early success against the run. But the Huskies took advantage of holes elsewhere by developing a new offensive weapon, TE Bryant Hunter.
The 6-2, 240-pound freshman from Eastside Catholic in Bellevue caught nine passes for 121 yards, including UW’s first TD when he out-fought two defenders in the end zone for QB Jake Browning’s risky 11-yard pass.
Browning added another TD pass to Jusstis Warren among his 27 completions in 40 attempts and also ran for a 21-yard TD on a fourth-down option keeper. But he had a modest 215 passing yards, with a long of 29 (to Bryant) as explosive plays were in short supply.
Petersen had one other lamentation: He had to switch kickers after senior Tristan Vizcaino missed a 38-yarder in the first quarter. It was the fifth miss in his past six attempts. Petersen went with freshman Van Soderberg of Olympia’s Capital High, who made a 23-yarder in the second quarter and four PATs.
Soderberg lost the weekly competition to start Saturday, but it looks as if he has won the the future job.
“I really wanted to give (Vizcaino) a closer field goal to build confidence,” Petersen said. “He was in that no-man’s land again (beyond the 20) . I wanted him to land a little pop shot. But it didn’t work out. It’s too bad. They both had a good week of practice.”
Petersen had more positive things to say about the Huskies’ latest fashion statement, an all-purple uniform topped by a dazzling purple chrome helmet with a gray W logo never before seen. The players even warmed up in gold helmets to save the surprise.
“The kids liked it — it was fun,” Petersen said. “If we win like that all the time, I might like it more.”
Six more wins and purple chrome will be all the rage in the College Football Playoffs.