BERKELEY -- “It was just a very frustrating day.”
Sonny Dykes' post game comment summed up the feelings of pretty much every Cal player, coach and fan after Saturday's 31-7 thumping at the hands of Washington. The Bears came into the game riding a high-octane offense that had carried them to first place in the Pac-12 North but left wondering if they really could measure up to the better teams in the conference.
The numasdbers didn't tell the whole story, as even though Jared Goff passed for 304 yards, it took him 51 attempts to do so, and he also lost two key fumbles early in the game that very abruptly switched the script.
The first was a gut-wrenching goal-line bobble on a quarterback sneak from the one-yard line. With the game still scoreless, Goff never appeared to really have a good grip on the ball, and when it popped loose, Shaq Thompson picked the ball out of the air and went 100 yards for a Washington touchdown. (This was an especially painful development as Thompson had originally committed to Cal and assistant coach Tosh Lupoi, but when Lupoi followed a big contract to Seattle, Thompson joined him.)
The defense came through again later in the first quarter, stopping the Huskies on fourth down, but Goff fumbled on the next play trying to hand off to Daniel Lasco (71 yards on 17 carries). Washington quarterback Cyler Miles immediately took advantage, finding Joshua Perkins for a 25-yard score – the first of three TD passes for Miles, who impressively went 22 of 29 for 273 yards.
Another Washington drive started at its own 12, but the Huskies methodically marched 88 yards in 14 plays to extend the lead to 21-0.
Nonetheless, Dykes gave credit to the defense after the game, taking into account the beleaguered unit was missing Brandon Scarlett (knee), Michael Lowe (head) and Stefan McClure (calf). The absences of Scarlett and Lowe were somewhat unexpected, but as Goff said, the offense gave Washington 14 points, and the defense held the Huskies to 17.
The special teams also played well, blocking a field goal and getting a fine punting game from Cole Leininger. One of his punts, in fact, was downed at the Washington three-yard line, but four plays later, Miles hit John Ross on a screen pass – Ross slipped a tackle, cut up field and outran the Cal secondary for an 86-yard score that made it 28-0 at the half.
The Bears did bring some hope to the sparse crowd, announced at 44,449, by putting together an 80-yard drive in the third quarter to get on the board, but Washington kept Cal from getting the big plays it had been getting so often earlier in the year.
“They played their safeties real deep – most of the time they were 15 yards back and back-pedaling,” said Dykes. “We've scored so fast and so often (up to this point) that our players expect it to be easy – we've got to have a different mindset. You have to be disciplined and you can't always rely on big plays,” he said.
“It was the worst performance offensively that I've been part of in a long time.”
Dykes also was upset that Cal didn't bounce back after the rough start. “We did not respond very well to a little bit of adversity early in the ball game and I was disappointed in that.”
Of course, Washington had a lot to do with it. “They were faster than we were,” he said, “and they were fresher coming off the bye week.”
Goff also noted that the Huskies had done their homework. “They did a great job of game-planning for us,” he said.
And they also did a great job of puncturing the Bears' dreams of a place at the top of the Pac-12 standings and spoiling an otherwise perfect Berkeley October afternoon. As Dykes said, very frustrating.