The weather is not an excuse.
It’s true, the two-hour, 39-minute lightning delay early in the first quarter of Washington’s 20-19 loss to Cal on Saturday is believed to be the first of its kind at Husky Stadium. UW coach Chris Petersen said that, in his 32 years of experience, he “never had one delay, so that was different.”
Most fans permanently exited the premises, and those who stayed abandoned their metal seats to huddle under the overhangs. They amused themselves with occasional “Go! Huskies!” chants and counted the lightning strikes, and when the storm knocked out the power, a few hopped the railings and ran onto the field.
Meanwhile, the players waited it out — watching games on television, stretching and talking with their position coaches. Senior center Nick Harris called the situation “a little strange, but we’ve got to adjust when stuff like that happens.”
After all, the weather didn’t surrender 148 total yards, 122 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a defensively disastrous third quarter. (Washington’s defense did that.) The weather also didn’t miss a mountain of tackles on running backs Christopher Brown Jr. and Marcel Dancy, who combined for 152 rushing yards and a pair of scores.
“They made a couple little adjustments there (in the third quarter.) They obviously ran the ball better,” UW defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake said. “We’ve got to tackle better. But it’s similar stuff that we’ve been working on. They just did a nice job of executing, and we definitely have to tackle better.”
The weather didn’t manage just four field goals and one touchdown in eight trips into enemy territory. (Washington’s offense did that.) A year after the Huskies converted just 56.45 percent of their red-zone trips into touchdowns, ranking 105th nationally, they made similar mistakes Saturday night.
Two second half drives ended with field goals from Cal’s 4- and 7-yard lines — due in large part to a near-touchdown in which a Jacob Eason pass in the end zone led Andre Baccellia a step out of bounds, as well as a Corey Luciano false start on fourth-and-one from the 2.
“Certainly kicking too many field goals isn’t going to get it done for us,” Petersen said. “That was frustrating. Really frustrating. We get down there and get a false start. That changed things right there. We were going to go for it and had to settle for a field goal. We just had to execute better down there. It’s the same old situation.”
The weather didn’t drop at least six passes. (Washington’s wide receivers and running backs did that.) The most damning drop came late in the fourth quarter, when Eason looked to Aaron Fuller on a crossing route on third-and-11 from Cal’s 32-yard line. The ball caromed off Fuller’s hands and the offense was forced to turn to sophomore kicker Peyton Henry, who connected on a 49-yard field goal to give UW a momentary 19-17 lead.
Eason, meanwhile, finished 18 of 30 for 162 yards with an interception and a lost fumble.
“We’ve got to look at that a little closer,” Petersen said of the drops. “I know some of those … Jacob’s got a really strong arm, and those balls, they come fast. We’ve got to analyze that.
“I think we can catch the ball better. We had too many easy drops that I know those kids don’t usually make. When you’re playing in tight games it’s all those little things. It’s not any one drop. You add a bunch of them up and it can change things.”
The weather didn’t allow a 19-yard completion on Cal’s game-winning 74-yard drive, and then was immediately flagged for pass interference on the following play. (UW redshirt freshman corner Kyler Gordon did that.)
“We’re not going to make any excuses,” Lake said of the questionable PI call. “He called it. There’s no picking up a pass-interference flag. There’s no challenges like they have in the NFL. So he made the call and we have to live with it.”
The weather didn’t arguably mismanage the clock at the end of the game, allowing eight seconds to bleed out — from 20 seconds remaining to 12 — before calling a timeout before Cal kicker Greg Thomas’ go-ahead 17-yard field goal. (Petersen did that.) Because of that, Eason had just eight seconds (instead of 16 or more) to travel the length of the field — and eight seconds can be everything.
“I probably should have called it a little bit sooner,” Petersen admitted. “(The kicker) was a little bit slow to line up. I wanted to get him into his stance before I called it (to ice him).”
So, no, the weather is not an excuse — and Petersen isn’t interested in making excuses.
“Both sides had to do the same thing,” he said. “I don’t think that had anything to do with the outcome. It would have been nice to play the game and keep all the fans in the stadium and all that. That would have been really nice. But I think the people that stayed really did a great job and helped us a bunch.”
Added safety Myles Bryant, who finished with three tackles: “We practice every day with nobody in there, so we can’t make that excuse. We’ve just got to go out there, learn from our mistakes and move forward.”
The Huskies will attempt to do that next weekend, when they host Hawaii at 4:30 p.m. They’ll attempt to put a long night — literally a five-hour, 42-minute marathon — behind them.
And, to be clear, it wasn’t all bad. Sophomore outside linebacker Joe Tryon turned in seven tackles and a sack. Junior running back Salvon Ahmed rushed for 119 yards, 5.7 yards per carry and a touchdown. The 49-yard field goal was the longest of Henry’s UW career. But still, it must be said …
The weather didn’t snap Washington’s 15-game home winning streak on Saturday (and Sunday). (Cal did that.)