Why does it have to be so hard?

After a first half in which Dylan Morris carried the offense and Washington looked on its way to a fairly easy Pac-12-opening victory, the Huskies stalled out but survived by forcing a Cal fumble at the goal-line in overtime.

UW managed a field goal and little else in the final 30 minutes as Cal outscored the Huskies 14-3 to send the game to overtime. The Huskies eventually hung on to win 31-24, but it was far from easy.

UW had 107 total yards of offense in the first quarter, but faded precipitously from there and finished with 108 yards total in the second half. The team suffered through four three-and-outs in its final six series in regulation. The other two ended in the field goal and a fumble.

Even UW’s game-winning touchdown came with much difficulty. The score wouldn’t have happened without Kamari Pleasant’s individual effort for a first down on a 15-yard pass from Morris. And it came meekly after Sean McGrew’s 2-yard scoring run was reviewed after much debate by the referees. 

Here are three instant impressions from the game:

Gordon has a game to brag about

Sophomore cornerback Kyler Gordon showed off his athleticism – and timing – with three big plays that got the Huskies rolling early and helped shut down Cal late.

The Mukilteo product set up UW’s first touchdown when he broke on Chase Garbers’ pass and stepped in front of Trevon Clark for his first career interception on Cal’s opening drive. That gave UW the ball at the Cal 36, and the Huskies went on to score for a 7-0 lead. He also made a touchdown-saving tackle at the 1 later in the quarter, though the Golden Bears would still tie the game 7-7.

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Gordon’s most impressive plays came in the second half, however. He ended two Cal drives with incredible individual efforts. The first came with 1:31 left in the third quarter, when he read Garbers’ eyes, slipped in front of receiver Jeremiah Hunter, made an athletic leap to intercept the ball at the sideline, then tapped his toes down to complete the play.

He wasn’t done. He ended Cal’s next series when he made a stout open-field tackle of Cal’s star running back Damien Moore, who was trying to convert on fourth-and-2. Garbers found him along the right sideline, but Gordon, running upfield, turned his hips midplay, squared up and stuffed Moore for a 1-yard gain.  

He finished with10 tackles.

Culp offers Morris sure hands

Sophomore tight end Devin Culp’s opportunity was a big one with starter Cade Otton out of the lineup due to COVID-19 protocols – especially after he dropped a touchdown pass last week against Arkansas State.

The Spokane native was a frequent target of quarterback Dylan Morris early in the game. He made a key play on a fourth-and-2 play in UW’s second series, converting it with an 8-yard reception. The Huskies took a 7-0 lead three plays later on Morris’ 17-yard pass to Taj Davis.

Later in the first quarter, Morris found Culp deep down field and threaded a pass between two defenders for a 27-yard completion, one of his best of the day.

Culp finished with a team-leading five catches on six targets for 81 yards in the first half. He also picked up a key first down midway through the third quarter with a 10-yard reception for a first down that helped set up a UW field goal that made it 24-10. He was injured on the play but returned later.

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Defensive line was a distraction

UW’s young defensive line came up with big stops and held one of the conference’s best runners to a pedestrian night.

A sequence midway through the second quarter helped the Huskies pull away late in the first half. The Golden Bears drove to the Washington 7 where redshirt freshman Faatui Tuitele sacked Cal’s Chase Garbers. On the next play, Tuli Letuligasenoa stuffed Moore for a 2-yard loss.

Cal was eventually forced to settle for a field goal attempt, which resulted in no points following a bobbled snap.

Moore entered the game as one of the nation’s scoring rushers. The Huskies held him to 67 yards on 18carries, including the game-deciding fumble.