Two years later, Kyler Gordon has atoned for the lightning game.
The Washington cornerback had two interceptions and a couple of primetime hits as the Huskies held on for a 31-24 overtime victory over Cal in their Pac-12 opener on Saturday night.
When the sophomore cornerback from Mukilteo last faced the Golden Bears, he drew a devastating pass interference call and gave up a long reception on the decisive drive in a 20-19 loss in 2019 that was memorably delayed 2 hours and 39 minutes by lightning.
“I felt like I kind of lost that game — or had a piece of it,” Gordon said. “Today, I was like we’ve got to change that.”
And he did. This time he turned in a career performance that included nine tackles in his first start since that dark, dreary game. It was the kind of night that makes you see the promise he has.
“The first one, I was like ‘Damn, I finally did it, now let’s do it again,’” Gordon said of his picks. “I just want to do it again and again and again and again.”
Playing for the injured Trent McDuffie, Gordon 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.
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.
“Those are some of our everyday drills,” Gordon said. “It kind of comes natural.”
He wasn’t done. He ended Cal’s next series when he made a stout open-field tackle of 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 mid-play, squared up and stuffed Moore for a 1-yard gain.
“I can definitely see how he would have a chip on his shoulder,” coach Jimmy Lake said. “And now he comes back and faces the same quarterback, the quarterback’s two years older, and he picks him off twice.”
The hits were inspiring to his teammates and the Huskies would win the game on another hard hit from a defensive back.
“He’s an incredible player and we’re lucky to have him on our defense,” linebacker Ryan Bowman said. “We were blessed to have guys that step up at big moments and that’s just what we need to be successful.”
From the worst night of his collegiate career to the best, the game was a measuring stick that shows how far the 6-foot, 200-pound corner, Lake said. While it’s not clear how long the injured McDuffie will be out, Gordon showed he’s a capable replacement.
“This is the Kyler Gordon that we all knew was going to happen,” Lake said. “He’s extremely athletic, has ball skills and his technique is as good as it’s been since he’s been here.”