With almost an entire quarter left to play, Cal was hoping beyond hope to make a comeback, despite being three scores down against visiting Washington.
But after grabbing a quick pass from quarterback Jared Goff, Cal wide receiver Trevor Davis lost possession of the ball, with Huskies linebacker — and Richmond native — Travis Feeney forcing the fumble — Cal’s fifth of the day. With Washington nose tackle Danny Shelton recovering, the Bears’ chances of defeating the Huskies for the first time since 2008 were out the door.
“It was a let down for us. That was a big game for us to come in and defend our home, and Washington just beat us down. They physically destroyed us last year,” said Cal linebacker Michael Barton. “We’re looking for redemption for that this year. It’s gonna be very important that we play physical and that we communicate and that we make sure we all do our job.”
Just more than a year later, the Bears are traveling to Seattle for their conference opener, looking to secure that elusive win over Washington (2-1). Cal is currently 3-0 for the first time since 2011, after managing to beat Texas on the road Saturday, thanks to a missed extra point on the final play of the game.
As usual, the Bears will be guided at the helm by Goff, who now holds 22 program records after breaking the marks for career leader in total offense (8,266), completions (704) and passing yards (8,379). If the junior throws for three touchdowns against Washington at Alaska Airlines Field, he will pass Kyle Boller’s record of 64 touchdown passes. Goff is also ranked eighth in the country in completion percentage (73.1) and passer efficiency rating (181.9).
Goff leads a team that is ranked 11th in total offense, but will be facing a Huskies defense that is 13th nationally in total defense, surrendering an average of only 267.7 yards and 11 points a game. Last season, Washington’s front seven frustrated the Bears’ all game, namely, Shelton, and linebackers Hau’oli Kikaha and Shaq Thompson, who are now all seeing playing time on NFL teams. If Cal wants to avoid a similar result to last year’s, its offensive line will have to hold up against a still-dominant Washington defensive line.
“They look remarkably similar. They still have big guys inside that’ll knock you off the ball,” said Cal head coach Sonny Dykes. “They still have good pass rushers, the guys that are fast coming off the edge and have length.”
The Huskies are one of the youngest teams in the country, with only 13 seniors on the current roster compared to the 52 freshmen and 24 sophomores. One of the freshmen is quarterback Jake Browning, who finished Saturday’s game against Utah State 22-31, throwing for three touchdowns and 368 yards, the most passing yards ever by a Huskies freshman. Browning’s primary targets against the Aggies were junior tight end Darrell Daniels and junior tailback Dwayne Washington, with the latter catching five passes for 131 yards out of the backfield, registering two touchdowns.
“I think that they’re excited to start Pac-12 conference play. We realize how important every game is in conference, particularly when you’re playing against people in the North,” Dykes said about his team. “Those guys have an idea how big these games are.”