Marshawn Lynch swerved and danced behind the wheel of a trainer’s cart, his mother in the passenger seat next to him, driving the thing out of the tunnel in the minutes before No. 4 Washington’s game at California here on Saturday night.
This made sense. Ten years ago, Lynch, the former Cal and Seattle Seahawks star running back, celebrated an overtime victory against the Huskies by commandeering a similar cart and riding it gleefully around the Memorial Stadium turf.
Cal honored the moment on Saturday by giving out bobblehead figures of Lynch on that cart to the first 10,000 fans through the gates. So an appearance by Lynch – again behind the wheel – was fitting, and certainly nostalgic for many of the 47,756 in attendance.
What followed will not be remembered as fondly.
The visiting Huskies allowed for no such antics on this night, throttling one of the nation’s worst defenses with unsurprising impunity in a 66-27 romp that did nothing to damage UW’s case for inclusion in the College Football Playoff.
The Huskies (9-0, 6-0 in Pac-12) debuted at No. 5 in the initial CFP rankings last week, one spot behind one-loss Texas A&M. The Aggies promptly lost at Mississippi State on Saturday, creating an opening for the Huskies to snag the No. 4 spot when the new rankings are released on Tuesday … so long as No. 6 Ohio State, which thrashed No. 9 Nebraska 62-3, doesn’t jump ahead of them.
That will be sorted out later, as will potential ESPN “College GameDay” arrangements for UW’s home game next week against surging USC.
Regardless, this was impressive. Count the statistical achievements:
--- UW receiver John Ross caught three more touchdown passes and became just the sixth player in UW history to eclipse the 200-yard receiving mark in a game. He had six catches for 208 yards, and moved into second place on UW’s all-time single-season touchdown reception list with 14.
--- Jake Browning, UW’s sophomore quarterback, threw six touchdown passes (for the second time this season) and now holds the Huskies’ single-season record in that category with 34. And the Huskies have at least four games left to play this season.
--- UW receiver Dante Pettis also caught three touchdown passes – he has 11 this season – and Pettis and Ross are now the first receiver duo in school history to catch 10 or more touchdown passes each in the same season.
--- The Huskies finished with 704 yards of total offense, second-most in a game in school history (they had 734 against San Jose State in 1996). They also averaged 9.6 yards per play.
--- Washington’s seven touchdown passes set a single-game team record.
This was about as easy as it gets against a Pac-12 opponent. Cal, which allows more yards per rush than all but one other team in the country, stacked the box to try to shut down the Huskies’ running game. So they threw it. And it worked.
Browning’s first touchdown pass to Ross covered 60 yards. His second covered 67, a juking, weaving, highlight play that showcased the abilities that make Ross so difficult to cover.
“That guy’s ridiculous,” Pettis said of the play, remarking that he stopped to marvel at Ross’ athleticism for a moment before realizing he needed to go make a block.
In between, Pettis took a lateral from Browning and threw it 39 yards for a touchdown to tight end Darrell Daniels, a play Pettis joked that he thought UW would never call.
“In practice, I’d been throwing tighter spirals,” Pettis said. “I was a little upset that the spiral wasn’t as good. It was on TV and everything. But I was happy that he caught it.”
Ross later caught a 6-yard touchdown pass. Pettis caught a 1-yard touchdown pass. Pettis caught a 17-yard touchdown pass. It seemed the only time the Bears could stop UW’s passing game was by committing pass-interference penalties. There were three of those.
“We’ve been kind of hitting on run and passes, so it’s kind of come out, see what they were doing and adjust,” said Browning, who threw for 378 yards on 19-of-28 passing. “I wish we’d started a little faster in the first half, but (to be) able to get away with a road win in the Pac-12 is big.”
The little wrong the Huskies did in this game occurred in the first half. A pair of bad UW punts led to a pair of Cal field goals in that period, and it seemed for a while the Bears might be able to hang around. But the Huskies led 35-20 at halftime and 56-20 by the end of the third quarter, and there was little reason to watch the fourth … except to see a 49-yard touchdown run by junior running back Lavon Coleman, who finished with 108 yards rushing on just seven carries.
When the Bears did drive into UW territory, they usually struggled. Quarterback Davis Webb scored on a 3-yard run on fourth-and-goal at the end of the first quarter, and he did throw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Chad Hansen that made it 21-20 midway through the second.
But Webb also threw an interception to Sidney Jones in the end zone in the third quarter. He threw another interception to Jones at UW’s 35-yard line on Cal’s next possession. He threw another interception to sophomore linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven at UW’s 10-yard line that led to a 36-yard field goal by Cameron Van Winkle in the fourth quarter.
“They usually don’t throw many interceptions,” UW coach Petersen said. “These guys are going to get yards. There’s no question about that. I thought, like I said, the second half (the defense) settled down and played good. (Cal has) very good skill, an NFL quarterback. So I thought they played good.”