BERKELEY, Calif. — Three quick impressions from the Huskies’ 31-7 victory over California on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium. The victory moves UW to 5-1 overall and 1-1 in the Pac-12 entering next Saturday’s matchup at Oregon.
Home run, Shaq. Say what you will about Shaq Thompson’s brief minor-league baseball career with the Boston Red Sox, but here, in his element, the ball in his hands, he’s a home run waiting to happen. The junior linebacker scored his fourth — yes, fourth — defensive touchdown of the season on a 100-yard fumble return in the first quarter. It was the biggest play of the game, no doubt, and the longest fumble return in UW history, turning a would-be Cal touchdown — Jared Goff tried to stretch his arms and the ball over Danny Shelton — into UW’s first touchdown of the game. It was the first of three fumble recoveries on the day for UW, which is now plus-14 in turnover margin on the season.
Four-man pressure: Cal came into the game averaging 50.0 points per game. UW’s defense shut out the Bears in the first half and held them to 180 yards. Hau’oli Kikaha had three sacks against a Cal offensive line that had allowed just eight sacks in the Bears’ first four games. For much of the game, the Huskies were able to put pressure on Goff, Cal’s sophomore quarterback, with just a four-man rush. That allowed an extra body to drop back into coverage, and UW’s young secondary responded with perhaps its best game of the season.
Offensive woe-woe-wow! Can we all agree now that the doomsday reaction from the Stanford loss was just a tad overblown? UW’s offense was bad that day, yes. But Stanford played a part in that, and it’s likely that the Huskies won’t face a defense that good again this season. And while it’s perhaps true that UW won’t face a defense as bad as Cal’s again this season, the improved play from Cyler Miles and the offense overall should be applauded — perhaps with the same vigor as they were criticized over the past two weeks. The Huskies aren’t perfect, but Miles was efficient in throwing for three touchdowns and a career high in yards with 273, the line was solid and John Ross III had his first 100-yard receiving game. Progress, indeed.