Washington Opens Pac-12 Conference Play with 31-24 Victory Over Cal in Overtime

Photo by Aaron Nelson / fi360 News

Seattle, WA – In the 100th meeting between the Washington Huskies (2-2) and the California Golden Bears (1-3) on Saturday, September 25, 2021, the Huskies pulled out an overtime victory, 31-24, to open their Pac-12 season in the win column.  

California joins Oregon, Oregon State, and Washington State as the only teams to face the Huskies 100 times. The Huskies improved their record in the series to 55-41-4 with the win.

Photo by Aaron Nelson / fi360 News

Despite Washington’s offensive struggles through the first two weeks, quarterback Dylan Morris has quietly produced consistently this season, coming into the week as the Pac-12 leader in completions per game, passing yards, and passing yards per game.

Morris did much of the same against Cal. He finished 19 for 32 through the air with 234 yards and two touchdowns. 

After tallying his first two touchdowns against Arkansas State last week, Huskies sixth-year running back Sean McGrew took over as the starter this week and contributed mightily again. Operating both as a true tailback and taking snaps in Wildcat formations, McGrew tallied 54 yards rushing and two touchdowns on the night, including the go-ahead score on Washington’s first and only possession in overtime. 

Jalen McMillan catches a touchdown. (Photo by Aaron Nelson / fi360 News)

Huskies receiver McMillan kept his coming-out party – started last week with ten catches, 175 yards, and a touchdown against Arkansas State – going with a more modest five receptions for 28 yards and his second career touchdown this week. 

Morris also leaned heavily on tight end Devin Culp, who was playing for the injured Cade Otton. Culp made the most of his starting opportunity, bringing in 6 receptions for 81 yards, including a game-high 27-yarder. 

Washington’s offense still has plenty of questions to answer. 

Photo by Aaron Nelson / fi360 News

Despite early success and a 21-10 lead at halftime, the Huskies added just a field goal in the second half of regulation, allowing the Bears to rally 14 points and push the game to extra time. 

The Huskies had opportunities to push the lead, but a fumble and missed field goal opened the door for the Golden Bears late. 

California’s rushing attack proved proficient through the first three weeks of 2021, coming into the week ranked 10th in the nation with 6.1 yards-per-carry. But the Huskies defense defied expectations, shutting down Cal’s traditional run game to the tune of 3.7 yards-per-carry on the night and 138 rush yards overall.

Damien Moore was the primary running back for the Golden Bears and managed just 67 yards on 18 attempts.

Leading the way for Cal in their attempted comeback was veteran quarterback Chase Garbers. He threw for 319 yards and two touchdowns on 30-of-42 attempts and led the team’s rushing attack with 71 yards on the ground and a touchdown up the middle to help his team even the score in the fourth quarter.

His scrambles seemed to come on every play – whether in planned rushes or sack avoidance. That style of play put him in a position to take big hits on several occasions, as has been the case for Garbers his whole career, but ultimately, he kept Cal close in a game that often felt more lopsided than the score might have shown.

Mistakes came consistently for both teams.

Photo by Aaron Nelson / fi360 News

Garbers gave up two interceptions, both to Huskies cornerback Kyler Gordon. And Washington’s Kamari Pleasant handed back possession on a fumble early in the fourth quarter.

But the Golden Bears’ errors came in worse moments, giving Washington the edge despite California’s more robust offensive performance, which gained more yards both through the air and on the ground, finishing with 457 total yards to the Huskies’ 326.

Photo by Aaron Nelson / fi360 News

California returns to Berkeley next week to take on Washington State (1-3), while the Huskies will hope to extend their winning streak when they travel to Corvallis next week for a match-up with the Oregon State Beavers (3-1).