University of Washington

Cal Golden Bears vs. UW Huskies: What to watch for in Pac-12 opener

Chris Petersen speaks to the media ahead of Cal game

Washington head coach Chris Petersen speaks to the media for the final time ahead of Saturday's Pac-12 opener against Cal.
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Washington head coach Chris Petersen speaks to the media for the final time ahead of Saturday's Pac-12 opener against Cal.

CAL (1-0) vs. No. 14 WASHINGTON (1-0)

When: 7:30 p.m., Saturday

Where: Husky Stadium

TV: FOX Sports 1

Radio: KOMO-AM 1000/FM-97.7

Outlook: With its season-opening 47-17 victory over Eastern Washington, Washington has now won 15 consecutive home games, which is the fourth-longest active streak in FBS. Cal is coming off a 27-13 victory over UC Davis. The Golden Bears battled back after falling behind 10-0 in the first quarter.

Last season, Cal upset UW, 12-10, in a match-up that featured two of the top defenses in the Pac-12. The Huskies led the conference in scoring defense (17.4 points per game) and total defense (315.7 yards per game) last season. The Golden Bears were third in both categories, allowing 20.4 points and 317.2 yard per game.

Predictably, the game was defensive battle. UW’s only touchdown came in the first quarter on a 3-yard pass from Jake Browning to Ty Jones. Cal didn’t score an offensive touchdown but linebacker Evan Weaver did run back a 37-yard interception in the third quarter to score the game-deciding touchdown.

UW finished with 252 total yards while Cal had 240.

Even though the Huskies lost both starting cornerbacks and starting safeties from last season, they still look likely to have one of the top secondaries in the conference. Cal, who returns preseason second-team All-Pac-12 defensive backs Camryn Bynum and Ashtyn Davis, will be right there, too.

“They’ve had good young players,” UW head coach Chris Petersen said of Cal’s secondary. “These guys have played for a while. They’re talented guys, athletic. And now they’ve been coached by the same crew … and that makes a big difference.

“You couple that with their front seven, that’s a good combination. Everybody wants to talk about their secondary, which they are good. But their front seven, you’re not holding the ball against those guys at all. So it’s a nice combination.”

UW players to watch: The running backs. Last year, without Myles Gaskin, the Huskies finished with just 128 rushing yards. Kamari Pleasant led the way with 62 yards on 12 carries. Sean McGrew had 20 yards on seven carries while Salvon Ahmed finished with -2 yards on eight carries. UW rushed for 200 yards in the season-opener against Eastern Washington. Redshirt freshman Richard Newton finished with 91 yards and a touchdown 12 carries.

Cal player to watch: Weaver, who is from Spokane, scored the game-deciding touchdown for the Golden Bears last season. He was an preseason All-Pac-12 first-team selection after finishing the 2018 season with 88 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, two interceptions and eight passes defended.

Keep an eye on: The turnover battle. This was a key factor in Cal’s victory last season — the Golden Bears finished with two interceptions while UW didn’t force any turnovers — and could play a pivotol role again.

Lauren Kirschman is the UW Huskies beat writer for The News Tribune. She previously covered the Pittsburgh Steelers for PennLive.com. A Pennsylvania native and a University of Pittsburgh graduate, she also covered college athletics for the Beaver County Times from 2012-2016.
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