Fields: Three Keys to Cal’s Matchup with Washington

Posted on September 24, 2021

  By LaMarr Fields, SuperWest Sports

California (1-2) travels to Washington (1-2) on Saturday in what has turned into a must-win game for both teams.

The Golden Bears are coming off a 42-30 bounce-back win over Sacramento State, while the Huskies look to build on their 52-3 beat-down of Arkansas State.

With the Huskies currently favored, here are three things the Bears must do in Seattle if they hope to pull off an upset.

Slow Down Washington’s Passing Attack

Washington leads the Pac-12 in passing yards per game with 305.7 yards, and Cal ranks second-to-last in passing defense, giving up 318 yards per game.

Moreover, Husky quarterback Dylan Morris leads the Conference in passing yards with 886, tossing four touchdown passes.

Dylan Morris passes against Arkansas State | Jennifer Buchanan/The Seattle Times

To slow down Washington’s passing attack, the Bears must do a better job of putting pressure on the quarterback than they have in the first three games. Cameron Goode has two sacks so far this season, and he will need to add to that total on Saturday.

If the Bears can’t disrupt Morris with their front four, they must draw up some blitz packages to create havoc in the backfield.

Also, Cal’s cornerbacks must play physically at the line scrimmage to reroute receivers, forcing Morris to hold the ball a little longer, and allow Bear linemen to get to him.

Run the Ball Effectively

When facing high-production passing attacks such as Washington’s, a team must run the ball effectively to control the clock and limit possessions.

Cal RB Damian Moore rushes the ball vs. Sac St. | Sunny Shen/The Daily Californian

Cal averages 177 rushing yards per game, good for fifth in the Pac-12. Washington, meanwhile, gives up 172 rushing yards per game, so there should be plenty of opportunities for Damien Moore to rack up yards on the ground on Saturday.

Moore has rushed for 237 yards and five touchdowns this year. However, Cal’s offensive line will need to fire off the ball and open holes for Moore to run through.

Win the Turnover Battle

Above all else, when seeking to pull off an upset on the road, a visiting team needs to win the turnover battle.

Montana’s Gavin Robertson intercepts Husky QB Dylan Morris in season-opener. | SI

Morris has thrown five interceptions this year, so if Cal can get some pressure on him, the Bear secondary should be afforded some interception opportunities.

Of course, the Bears should also try poking the ball away from ball carries to create fumbles in an effort to leverage Washington’s -1.33 turnover margin, which ranks 118th in the nation.

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LaMarr Fields