Washington quarterback Jake Browning hit receiver John Ross between the hash marks near the 21-yard line late in the first quarter. Ross then stopped on a dime to make Cal cornerback Chibuzo Nwokocha miss him, ducked below an incoming Marloshawn Franklin Jr. and stepped around Luke Rubenzer before circling toward the left end of the field to gain the remaining yards and his second touchdown of the game.
That score from 67 yards out increased the Husky lead to 21-6 in the first quarter, and Washington barely looked back, chowing down on the feast that was Cal’s defense, en route to a 66-27 win Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
The Bears managed to stay in the game early with two Matt Anderson field goals, the first of which gave Cal its first and only lead of the game, and a Davis Webb touchdown run to end the first quarter. But it was clear from the beginning that Cal was outmatched. It had incredible difficulty moving the ball, punting on three of the five drives before the Webb touchdown. In addition, the two field goals were gifted to it by subpar punts from Washington punter Tristan Vizcaino, which resulted in Cal drives starting at the Huskies’ 26- and 13-yard lines, respectively.
“I thought we hung in there pretty well early in the ballgame. I think that we had some opportunities early offensively — a short field, we had a good punt return by Vic (Wharton III), had some good field position — (but) had to kick two field goals,” said Cal head coach Sonny Dykes. “I thought that hurt us, not getting touchdowns in those situations.”
The Bears added another touchdown when Webb reconnected with Chad Hansen from 14 yards out in the second quarter for their first touchdown since Oct. 1 — the receiver had injured his ankle against Oregon State and then missed games against Oregon and USC. Cal came as close to taking the lead as 21-20, but the Huskies responded with two touchdowns in less than five minutes to close the quarter.
Four first-half Browning touchdowns — three to Ross, two of which went for at least 60 yards — in addition to a 39-yard pass from wide receiver Dante Pettis to Darrell Daniels had the Huskies leading 35-20 at halftime.
Much of the first half was defined by offensive struggles for Cal, with Webb missing his favorite target Hansen five times out of nine attempts, likely because the pair had limited reps this week.
“I didn’t practice as much as I usually do because they were trying to limit my reps to get me ready for today, but that definitely does play a factor — not getting as many reps in practice — but it’s a credit to the Washington defense,” Hansen said.
Webb finished the half 15-26, and the Bears had 34 rushing yards, while the Huskies had 93 rushing yards on 4.9 yards per carry as well as 283 passing yards.
The trend continued into the second half, as the Huskies immediately scored on their opening drive, with Pettis catching his second touchdown of the game. The Bears looked to catch a break, down 42-20, when they recovered a fumble on a punt at the end of their first drive. But the Washington defense stepped up, with Sidney Jones intercepting Webb in the end zone.
The Huskies took less than two minutes to exert their dominance again, and four plays later — including a 36-yard pass to Ross and a 34-yard run by Lavon Coleman — they pounced into the end zone with a 2-yard Myles Gaskin rush.
In a deja-vu sequence, the next two drives mimicked the previous two, as Webb threw another interception to Jones, and the Huskies scored quickly, this time in less than one minute. Browning hit Pettis, this time for his third touchdown catch of the game
The teams then exchanged punts, and the second-half process seemed to repeat itself yet again, with Webb throwing his third pick of the game, this one to Ben Burr-Kirven, but the Bears were able to hold the Huskies to a field goal and a 59-20 lead early in the fourth quarter.
The teams traded one more touchdown with each other, and then Washington ran the clock out with a final drive lasting more than six minutes. The 66 points tied Cal’s record for most allowed in the modern era.
Vikram Muller covers football. Contact him at [email protected].