Washington running back Chris Polk celebrates a rushing touchdown against California on September 24, 2011
With an opportunity to possibly tie the game at the end of regulation, California's quarterback Zach Maynard dropped back to pass for the 43rd and final time and overthrew wide receiver Keenan Allen in the corner of the end zone.
Washington improved to 3-1 (1-0) on the season and started the Pac-12 season out on the right foot.
This game was up in the air for both teams after California forced the Huskies to punt on their opening drive. California struck first on the scoreboard after Maynard connected with Keenan Allen on a 30-yard pass, and Keenan had more on his mind as he took the reception another 60 yards and found paydirt.
In a classic case of "what you can do, I can do better," Washington quarterback Keith Price matched the Bears score with a drive that covered 66 yards and ended with a 20-yard touchdown reception by tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. His first of two touchdown receptions in the half.
It was back and forth between the two teams up through halftime as the Bears scored late in the second quarter on a one-yard rush by running back C.J. Anderson. The Huskies had 1:20 on the clock to get down the field and increase their slim lead by getting some sort of points on the board. But Coach Sarkisian's conservative play style set up a 52-yard field goal that was missed by Erik Folk. His first miss of the season. The Huskies led at the half 21-20.
The third quarter was a quick one as California took over seven minutes off the clock and ended their drive with a 25-yard field goal by Giorgio Tavecchio.
Washington's next drive took another huge chunk off the clock as they matched California's score with a 40-yard field goal which put them back up 24-23 going into the fourth quarter.
Washington running back Chris Polk showed NFL scouts that he isn't just a runner as he burnt Cal linebacker D.J. Holt and caught a 70-yard pass in stride on his way to the end zone and put the Huskies up 31-23 which would end up being the game's final score.
Now, what we have learned after this victory.
The Huskies suffered some crucial injuries including a scary one to linebacker Johnny Timu as a ambulance came out on the field and he was placed on a stretcher and headed straight to the hospital. Starting defensive end Hau'oli Jamora suffered a sprained knee in the third quarter, and it kept him sidelined the rest of the game.
Aside from the injuries, there were some bright spots in this game. Keith Price continues to amaze fans as he added three touchdown passes putting him at 14 on the year. The thing that is incredible in a fan's eye is that he is still somewhat mobile in the pocket, and he has two sprained knees.
When he gets back to full health, the Huskies are going to have a tremendous player. Polk had a tough day on the ground which was expected, but he still found the end zone once running and another through the air. The Huskies also have been looking to their freshman tight end a lot more which is a great sign. Jenkins had two scores on the day and has four touchdown receptions for the year.
All good news goes hand in hand with the bad news.
The offensive and defensive lines were subpar today. The defense forced one sack and only managed maybe three rushed passes. The secondary had several pass-interference penalties and gave up some big plays on third down. Wide receiver Keenan Allen had 10 receptions for 197 yards, one covered 90 yards and he was the obvious favorite for Maynard. The Huskies need to key in on those receivers and cover them better.
Do the Huskies beat Utah?
Next week's game is a serious road test as the Dawgs travel to Salt Lake City to take on the Runnin' Utes in Utah. The Utes will be coming off a bye week after clobbering BYU 54-10 at home. This is an obviously talented team that can score at any point in the game. I wouldn't call this a must win for the Huskies, but we need to be able to steal one on the road this season from either Utah, Stanford or USC. If the Huskies show up with intensity on defense, I can see us winning by a slim margin, if not, we might be in for another shootout.
Offensive X-Factor: wide receiver Kevin Smith; Smith has big-play ability whether that be in the return game or at wideout. He will break out one of these days; I just hope its this weekend.
Defensive X-Factor: defensive end Josh Shirley; Shirley forced the only sack of the game and managed to knock the ball loose on the same play. I hope he can make life in the pocket a little harder for quarterback Jordan Wynn. If we give him as much time as we gave Maynard, he might throw for 500 yards.