SAN FRANCISCO – Even before it takes the field, Washington has been handed a big plus for today’s game against California.
The Golden Bears announced Thursday that wide receiver Keenan Allen will be out for the game with the Huskies because of an injured left knee.
Allen is crucial to Cal’s offense and one of the top receivers in the Pacific-12 Conference. Allen’s 61 catches are more than twice as many as the Bears’ second-leading receiver, Chris Harper, who has 29. Allen has six touchdown receptions this season, as many as all other Cal receivers combined. His 737 receiving yards account for 36 percent of quarterback Zach Maynard’s passing yards this year.
Allen figured to be another big-time matchup for Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant tonight at 6, when Cal (3-6 overall, 2-4 Pacific-12 Conference) plays host to Washington (4-4, 2-3) at Memorial Stadium. His absence will allow Trufant to slide to one of Cal’s lesser receivers, and could provide an opportunity for Washington to blitz more because it won’t have to worry about help for the cornerbacks against Allen.
Even before Allen’s injury, things had not been going well for Cal. The Bears have lost two consecutive games, including a 49-27 thumping last week at Utah to give the Utes their first conference win. That came after Cal was trounced, 21-3, by Stanford before the home crowd in the Big Game the week before.
In addition, two Washington assistants, defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Eric Kiesau, left Cal after last season to join the Huskies. They bring intimate knowledge about Cal players and schemes to Washington.
“They know more about us than we know about them,” Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. “They have a little bit of background with us, but there’s not a lot that we can change because we are who we are.”
Tedford will certainly be worried about Allen’s absence and any insider knowledge the Huskies have. He also has a focus when Washington is on offense.
“You have to look at the tight end for sure,” Tedford said. “He’s a pretty special guy.”
That would be Austin Seferian-Jenkins, whose 40 catches rank first among tight ends in the country.
He’s been consistent. Washington has not.
The Huskies have beaten two top-10 teams this season but also have been blown out three times. They have also lost six consecutive road games.
Last week, they were able to snap a three-game losing streak by beating seventh-ranked Oregon State, 20-17, at home. Washington is still brewing and remixing formulas to fix the road problems.
When asked why the road woes were persisting, Huskies wide receiver Kasen Williams did not have an answer.
“I don’t know, to be honest,” Williams said.
With three of its final games on the road, UW needs to figure out the answer soon. Today would be a good time to start.
WASHINGTON (4-4 OVERALL, 2-3 PACIFIC-12) AT CALIFORNIA (3-6, 2-4)
6 P.M., MEMORIAL STADIUM, BERKELEY, CALIF.
TV: ESPN2. RADIO: 950-AM, 850-AM, 102.9-FM.
THE SERIES: Washington and California are the only teams that have played in what is now the Pacific-12 Conference in every season since the league was founded in 1916. The Huskies hold a 50-38-4 record in the all-time series, which began in 1904. Last year in Seattle, the Huskies used a late goal-line stand to preserve a 31-23 victory in which Keith Price threw for three TDs in the Pac-12 opener. In 2010 in Berkeley, the Huskies beat the Bears, 16-13, on the final play of the game – a 1-yard run from Chris Polk – in the next-to-last week of the season. In 2009, the Huskies closed out their season with a 42-10 win over the Bears in Seattle.
WHAT TO WATCH: How Cal tries to compensate for the loss of Keenan Allen. Cal was seventh in the conference with its top receiver. Without him, the Bears’ offense will have to find someone to step up and at least make the passing game some form of threat.
WHAT’S AT STAKE: A clear chance for Washington to start a successful end-of-season run. The Huskies’ next four opponents are 4-17 in conference play.
THE PICK: Washington, 31-14.
Maynard has thrown 12 TDs and nine interceptions this season.
Harper is Cal’s second-leading receiver and will become its top guy with Allen out.
Anderson is Cal’s leading rusher and averages 6.3 yards per carry.
20Isi Sofele RB5-8200sr.
Last year’s porous Washington defense held him to fewer than 100 yards. They’ll need to do it again.
5Michael Lowe DB5-11210so.
Lowe has three interceptions, a sack and is fifth on the team in tackles.
Shelton’s illegal block last week against Oregon State could have cost Washington the game. He’ll need to rebound smartly.
Coaches and Parker said he played the best game of his career last week.
88 Austin Seferian-JenkinsTE6-6266so.
As more and more teams target him, he’ll need to find new ways to get open.
59Ben RivaS/LB6-6 302so.
Riva’s return from a fractured forearm has helped stabilize the right side of the offensive line.
16Marvin HallKR5-10181 fr.
Hall has been on the cusp of breaking a couple of returns for a touchdown. This could be his email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @Todd_Dybas firstname.lastname@example.org