After two road weeks of pre-game downpours, it looks like the Huskies might not have to rely on their “wet ball” training Saturday night against the Golden Bears at the mad purple house.
A long-forgotten fact: Guess which Pac-12 opponent UW quarterback Jake Browning debuted against in 2015?
Yep, a 30-24 home loss against these Cal Bears.
Lots has changed since that game: Cal is coached now by former UW defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, who is just the third former UW coordinator to face his old team in his first season as a head coach.
And, well, Browning is one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the nation now as a junior.
Here are three intriguing matchups heading into the UW-Cal game:
1. Huskies (co) DC Jimmy Lake vs. Cal OC Beau Baldwin
Back in 2003, a young defensive backs coach for the Eagles (Lake) was on the hiring committee for the team’s new offensive coordinator — a position for which Baldwin applied.
Baldwin was hired, and the two spent that one season together before he left for Washington the next season.
Now, along with fellow UW co-defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski, the three of them are the only Eastern coaching products who are coordinators in the Pac 12.
This will be a fascinating cat-and-mouse game between Lake and Baldwin, who features a one-back attack designed to take aggressive shots downfield. No offense has really tested the Huskies like that all season.
With the likes of cornerbacks Austin Joyner, Jordan Miller and Myles Bryant, as well as free safety Taylor Rapp roaming the back area — and Cal quarterback Ross Bowers’ penchant for interceptions (eight) as a first-year starter — expect the UW to have at least three interceptions in this game.
2. Huskies RBs Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman vs. Cal ILBs Devante Downs and Evan Weaver
Gaskin, the O’Dea product, has returned to being one of the elite ball carriers in the conference after a slow start to 2017.
Last week, he rushed for 113 yards on 15 carries, and scored a touchdown in the Huskies’ 42-7 win at Oregon State. The previous week, he ran for a career-high 202 yards and two scores in a win at Colorado.
The last time Gaskin had three or more consecutive 100-yard rushing games was last season when he had four in a row (Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, Utah). That streak was snapped by Cal in Berkeley.
Downs in the Pac-12’s leading tackler, and ranks 13th in the country in solo tackles (31). He is a downhill bulldozer with burst and agility to chase down running backs in the hole.
Weaver, on the other hand, is a converted defensive lineman — and former News Tribune all-state player of the year in 2015 from Gonzaga Prep. He is a physical freak.
3. Huskies WR Dante Pettis vs. every Cal assistant coach on staff
If Stanford’s Bryce Love had not already cracked the 1,000-yard rushing barrier in just five games, this would be the guy I’d vote for as midseason Pac-12 offensive player of the year.
Pettis keeps every opposing assistant coach on alert, and will have the Bears’ full attention come Saturday night.
Much of that has to do with what happened a season ago.
The senior from San Clemente, California, notched his first career game of three receiving touchdowns in the UW’s 66-27 victory.
Pettis also threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to tight end Darrell Daniels in the first quarter, also a career first.
It will be up to the likes of all-time Cal punt leader Dylan Klumph, starting cornerbacks Camryn Bynum and Elijah Hicks and the entire defense to be on point in dealing with Pettis, who can break open a game on any reception, punt return ... and pass.