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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Huskies Open Pac-12 Play With 31-24 Overtime Victory Over Cal

By Khalid Bennett, The Seattle Medium

With the picturesque backdrop of a sunset casting over lake Washington, the Huskies would begin conference play with a match up against the Golden Bears of the University of California. This is the 100th meeting all time between the two schools. Coming off a big win last week over Arkansas State, Washington was finally able to find their offense after struggling to score in their first two games. Cal started their season very similar to Washington dropping their first two games to Nevada and TCU, before picking up their first win last week over Sacramento State.

The Huskies would start the game by making a big play on the defensive side of the ball. Sophomore defensive back Kyler Gordon jumped a deep out route thrown by Cal quarterback Chase Garbers for a Husky take away. The interception led to Washington getting on the scoreboard first. Husky receiver Taj Davis caught a pass from quarterback Dylan Morris and was able to stretch across the goal line for a touchdown catch from 22 yards out to give the Huskies an early 7-0 lead. Cal answered back with a long drive that included two fourth down conversions. After driving 67 yards in 6:32, Cal’s second fourth down conversion came on a play action pass that resulted in a one-yard touchdown from Garbers to senior tight end Jake Tonges tying the game at 7 all.

The Husky offense came alive on the next drive in particular the passing game. Morris came into the game as the conference leader in passing yards as well as attempts and they went right back to what he does best. Morris was able to find 4 different receivers on a 6 play, 75 yard drive culminating in a 6 yard touchdown pass to Jalen McMillen to put Washington up 14-7 early in the second quarter. While the Huskies’ scoring drives were quick and efficient, Cal took their time on long, drawn out drives putting pressure on the conditioning of the Washington defense. Cal worked the ball into the Husky red zone but a penalty forced Cal into a field goal attempt. Washington then caught a break when a bobbled snap led to a turnover on downs as the Bears came away empty handed.

Washington went right back to the air on their next possession but was able to lean on their rushing attack to finish it off. Another fourth down conversion kept the drive alive and senior running back Sean McGrew found the end zone on a 5-yard plunge from the wildcat formation to give the Huskies a 21-7 lead late in the first half. Cal moved the ball quickly into field goal range and was able to make up for the last failed attempt with a 39-yard field goal as time expired making the score 21-10 Washington at the half.

California would start the second half with the ball but the defense stayed aggressive and a big sack on 3rd down by Brenden Radley-Hiles forced a 3 and out. Offensively, the Huskies were winning at the line of scrimmage. With the offensive line getting a good push as well as providing time for Morris to operate in the pocket, Washington was able to gain positive yardage seemingly at will. But penalties kept them out of the end zone, but the Husky offense was able to add to their lead with a 32-yard field goal by Peyton Henry made the score 24-10 Washington.

The Golden Bears would not go away without a fight. An interception by Radley-Hiles was overturned because of a defensive holding call, which kept the Cal drive alive allowing Garbers to find sophomore running back Damien Moore on a swing play for a 26-yard touchdown pass cutting the Husky lead to 7, 24-17. The Husky defense would need to play big in order to keep Cal from gaining any momentum and that’s just what they did. Another turnover for the Husky defense couldn’t have come at a better time. Gordon picked off his second pass of the day with an outstretched toe tapping display to give Washington the ball back with 1:31 left in the third quarter.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, the California defense stepped up big when Kamari Pleasant was stripped by senior safety Elijah Hicks and the Bears would take over possession. Down by a touchdown, Cal would be forced into another short fourth down conversion but another big play by Gordon to stop the receiver short of the line to gain forced a turnover on downs and an opportunity for the Huskies to milk some time off the clock and try and preserve a victory. However, the Huskies were unable to sustain a promising drive, as a missed field goal attempt by Henry kept it a one possession game with 9:44 left in the game.

The Huskies struggles offensively persisted throughout the second half only scoring 3 points since scoring 21 on their first 3 possessions. If Cal could win the field position battle at this point, they would be in position to possibly tie the football game. This is the time in the game when the long drawn out drives by Cal would come back to bite Washington late, as Garber took over with his legs. It was a 23-yard run by Garber that set up his 7 yard scamper to pull even at 24 with 2:51 remaining in the game. Another Husky offensive drive came up empty forcing a punt and giving Cal the ball back with 44 seconds remaining. After confusion with the clock, Cal was able to move the ball into Washington territory and set up for a long field goal to win the game but the kick fell short and the two PAC-12 north teams would play an extra period with the score 24-24 at the end of regulation.

In the overtime period, both teams would get possession of the ball at the 25 yard line with a chance to score. Washington would get the ball first and they decided to go to the ground with Sean McGrew picking up tough yards inside the tackles. McGrew fought his way to the goal line and scored his second touchdown giving the Huskies a 31-24 lead in overtime. This put the pressure on Cal to match the 7 put up by Washington. Cal was able to get the ball down to the 3 yard line, the Washington defense came up big once again. Cal running back Damien Moore was met by Husky linebacker Jackson Sirmon and sophomore defensive back Cameron Williams jarring the ball loose and recovered by the Husky defense to seal the win for Washington over Cal 31-24 in overtime. Dylan Morris finished the game with 2 touchdown passes, Sean McGrew had 2 touchdown runs and Kyler Gordon had 10 tackles to go along with his 2 interceptions in the ball game. Washington will travel to Corvallis to take on Oregon State next week.

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