When it rains, it pours.
“Keenan won’t play against Washington,” said head coach Jeff Tedford. “We’ll continue to evaluate him on a weekly basis.”
After suffering one of the worst losses of Tedford’s career last Saturday against Utah and virtually eliminating itself from bowl contention, the Cal football team added injury to insult on Thursday with the loss of star wideout Keenan Allen.
The loss of Allen — potentially for the rest of the season — severely inhibits the Bears’ chances of winning out as the team takes on the Washington Huskies (4-4, 2-3 Pac-12) at Memorial at 6 p.m. on Friday.
The Huskies resemble Cal in their enigmatic tendencies. After suffering a blowout against Arizona two weeks ago and allowing 52 points, Washington buckled down on defense and squeezed out a 20-17 win over No. 7 Oregon State. Earlier this season, the Huskies were also able to take down then-No. 8 Stanford in an upset victory.
Tedford appeared flummoxed in this week’s press conference by the inconsistency of Washington’s play.
“I don’t think there is any doubt that they have more insight into us than we have into them,” Tedford said.
It’s difficult to pin down the Huskies’ exact strengths.
The defense emerges in big games against average offenses — such as Oregon State’s and Stanford’s — but completely disintegrates when faced with a potent offensive attack.
There was the Arizona game, an unmitigated disaster for the Husky defense. Against Oregon, they allowed 52 points. LSU put up 41 points, letting off the gas pedal early in the fourth quarter.
But somehow, the offense is just as inconsistent as the defense.
Quarterback Keith Price began the year as a dark-horse Heisman candidate but has shown major signs of regression, and, partly as a result, the offense has taken a major step back.
Price completes just over 60 percent of his passes and has thrown more interceptions (nine) than touchdowns (eight).
Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and wide receiver Kasen Williams are two skill position players primed for NFL stardom. The pair has caught a combined 86 passes for 981 yards, catching more than 50 percent of Price’s throws.
Yet the offense has not scored more than 21 points against an FBS defense.
The source of the Huskies’ ineptitude on offense — 105th in the nation in scoring — starts with the offensive line, which has allowed 23 sacks in just eight games.
But that’s nothing compared to Cal’s offensive line woes. The patchwork unit has allowed 36 sacks, the most in the FBS.
Quarterback Zach Maynard spent the entirety of the Utah running game from the pass rush when dropping back in the pocket. After nine games, the line has shown no discernible signs of improvement.
The Bears will bring their own brand of offensive ineptitude to Memorial Stadium with an offense sans Allen. The offense played poorly enough without Allen, who served as the always reliable option in an inconsistent and inexperienced offense.
With the catalyst removed, Cal’s passing attack will rely on freshman wideouts Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper to receive the bulk of Maynard’s throws.
Both receivers have shown flashes of ability and potential, but asking them to carry the entire receiving corps will stagnate the passing attack.
The key to Cal’s success in this game lies in its ability to run the ball effectively. The Huskies’ run defense ranks second-worst in the conference in yards allowed per game.
With the passing attack suffering a devastating blow with the loss of Allen, the success of the run game likely determines the result of this game.
And, likely, the future of Tedford’s employment.
Michael Rosen covers football. Contact him at [email protected]