Obviously, just about everyone expected No. 5 Washington to beat the Cal football team with ease Saturday, and the Huskies did just that, winning 66-27. But how did we get here?
This wasn’t Cal coming up short against a team it’s traditionally been dominated by, such as USC. Instead, this was just Washington, a program that’s generally been pretty comparable to the one in Berkeley. Just last season, Cal went to Seattle and beat Washington. How did these Huskies quickly become one of the best teams in the nation while the Bears became one that could be a 17-point home underdog?
This has long been in the works. In 2012, Cal was putting together one of the best recruiting classes in the nation when Tosh Lupoi, the team’s best recruiter, jumped ship to Washington. The Bears lost five top recruits from that promising class and Shaq Thompson — the 25th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft — followed Lupoi to Washington.
2012 also happened to be Jeff Tedford’s last season in charge of the Bears. The longtime head coach who helped lead the team to some new heights — including procuring the No. 2 ranking during the 2007 season — was fired as the team’s academics tanked and losses piled up.
Tedford is now an offensive consultant for the Huskies, who used a double pass to perfection for a score against Cal on Saturday. That double pass, made famous by Julian Edelman and the New England Patriots in the 2015 AFC Divisional Round against the Baltimore Ravens, was actually the exact same play Tedford employed for his first offensive down at Cal.
That one hurts.
And then, of course, we get to the head coach since Tedford’s departure, Sonny Dykes. Dykes has tallied an 18-28 record in his three and a half seasons at Cal. Since taking over and implementing the “Bear Raid,” Dykes has helmed teams with potent offenses but absolutely unsightly defenses.
Nothing has really changed during Dykes’ tenure other than the weakest part of those defenses — the Bears once had one of the nation’s worst passing defenses, but now it’s their run defense that’s holding the unit back. There’s no real reason to think it will change in the foreseeable future; at the end of last year, Dykes signed a contract extension through the end of the 2019 season.
So that’s how Cal got here, but what about Washington?
First of all, the Huskies were the beneficiaries of the first two moves mentioned, and when it comes to picking a head coach? Well, they pretty much got the best one around.
Chris Petersen, the former Boise State head coach, has led the Huskies from a team barely edging into bowl eligibility to one with legitimate gripes that it wasn’t ranked fourth in the nation last week. And the program is set up to continue succeeding, as much of the current squad is built on the backs of players eligible to return next season.
With a mix of impressive recruiting and better in-game adjustments — there’s a reason the Huskies came out of halftime and exploded Saturday while the Bears’ failed to do anything meaningful — Petersen has set up Washington to be one of the nation’s best. Just don’t be surprised that the Huskies are the ones winning all these games and the Bears are praying for two wins in their last three games to ensure a spot in a bowl game.