Given the craziness that transpired in several Pac-12 stadiums over the weekend, maybe the Washington Huskies and coach Chris Petersen were fortunate to be on a bye, sitting and watching and learning.
“A lot of people sweating,” Petersen said on his weekly radio show. “But not us.”
Instead, the Huskies were able to watch their next opponent, California, fling its way to a 60-59 victory over Washington State in Pullman, improbably moving into first place in the Pac-12 North.
That wild game, which climaxed with WSU missing a 19-yard field-goal attempt with 15 seconds remaining, was one of a bevy of ridiculous contests Saturday in the Pac-12.
USC appeared certain to defeat Arizona State. But the Sun Devils scored two touchdowns in the final three minutes, including one on a last-second Hail Mary, to win 38-34.
Pac-12 South favorite UCLA took a late lead over Utah, but the Utes drove and kicked a field goal to escape with a 30-28 upset.
Those games followed Thursday’s contest, in which the No. 2-ranked Oregon Ducks lost at home to Arizona … which is now the lone undefeated Pac-12 team and debuted at No. 10 in the AP Top 25 poll this week.
The biggest lesson learned from such a slate, senior center Colin Tanigawa said, is “looking at all the little details, keeping your mind on that, and playing throughout the whole game, because there’s going to be ups and downs throughout the whole thing.”
Said Peterson: “I said this when I first came here — I’ve never seen a conference so balanced and so even. All these games are coming down to the last plays. It shows the parity. I think it shows the money in college football has evened everything out. Everybody’s got good coaches, everybody recruits good. You stay healthy, you develop some guys, and everybody has a chance.”
Cal might be the Pac-12’s most striking example of that this season. The Golden Bears finished with a 1-11 record in 2013, Sonny Dykes’ first season as coach. But they’re off to a 4-1 start and would be 5-0 if not for a last-second, Hail-Mary loss to Arizona on Sept. 20.
And as one might have guessed by looking at that 60-59 win over WSU, the Bears are not doing it with defense. They rank 125th nationally in passing yards allowed, 121st in total defense and 119th in scoring defense. WSU quarterback Connor Halliday threw for 734 yards against them, and WSU gained 812 yards of total offense.
Cal’s offense is a different story. Sophomore quarterback Jared Goff ranks fifth nationally with 385 passing yards per game, and the Bears rank second nationally in passing efficiency.
“They’ve got a good system, really good quarterback, really good receivers, really good running back,” Petersen said. “Their O-line is big, mauler-type guys that keep guys covered up. They are hard to get off blocks. So they’ve got a really good thing going. When you see that, game after game, all of a sudden you’re saying, ‘This is pretty good.’ That’s what I see out of those guys.”
The Huskies practiced last Wednesday, then took Thursday and Friday off before practicing Saturday. In between, there was much self-evaluation and recruiting — and an effort to rest everyone before a stretch of eight games in eight weeks.
“That’s usually the plan — get a few new things in, clean up some things, to get a little healthy, to get better,” Petersen said. “That is the plan. We’ve got a long season in front of us still to make sure we’re rested up and ready for this grind that’s going to take place. Nobody else in the conference has one bye. We’re the only team that does, so now we have straight games all the way through.”
Kickoff for Washington’s game against Oregon on Oct. 18 has been set for 5 p.m. The game will be broadcast on FoxSports1.