Dan Raley, who covers Washington football at Husky Maven, is not convinced the Huskies turned their season around with their 52-3 victory over Arkansas State on Saturday.
Washington and Cal did not play each other last year, but the Bears upset the Huskies the two previous seasons, including the 2019 game that did not end until nearly 2 a.m.
We discussed the 2021 Huskies with Raley, who answered five questions about Washington heading into Saturday's 6:30 p.m. game against Cal in Seattle. The Huskies were ranked No. 20 in the preseason AP poll, but they lost their season-opener 10-7 to Montana, an FCS team, and they are 1-2 heading into this week's Pac-12 opener for both teams.
Question No. 1: Did Saturday’s blowout of Arkansas State mean Washington has turned its season around, or were the Huskies overrated in preseason?
"I think they were overrated," Raley said in the video atop this story. "They had two easy ones out of the first three to start and lost one of them to Montana, and they did what they should have done to Arkansas State."
Question No. 2: How has quarterback Dylan Morris performed, and does freshman Sam Huard have a chance to take over at some time this season?
"[Morris] is actually the shortest quarterback Washington has had in 40 years, since Tim Cowan in 1981" Raley said. "He doesn't make many mistakes but he doesn't thrill the entire fan base because he is just the average guy. He's not the big, tall quarterback they've had in the past."
Freshman Huard is a big, tall quarterback with a big arm, but he may not be ready.
"Unless they lose a couple more, I don't think they're going to give him a real prominent role," Raley said. "I think they should. I think they should put him in in like the second quarter whether they're winning or losing.
"You watch him throw the football, he's a big-time player."
Question No. 3 How are Washington fans reacting to the Huskies’ disappointing start, and are the jobs of head coach Jimmy Lake and offensive coordinator John Donovan in jeopardy?
"The fans were outraged after the Montana loss," Raley said.
But what was more interesting is that attendance at Husky Stadium for the two home games has gone way down. Raley thinks it's partly because of the requirements for fans to enter the stadium amid the pandemic and partly because of the team's slow start.
Question No. 4: Cal has beaten the favored Huskies the past two times the teams met. What went wrong for Washington in those games?
."I think the Bears and Huskies were comparable teams," Raley said, "but I think the Bears just wanted it more."
Raley recalls the 2018 game in Berkeley, when Washington, which was ranked 15th in the country, lost 12-10 to Cal. That game was known for the inexplicable decision by Huskies head coach Chris Petersen, who benched four-year starter Jake Browning and replaced him with redshirt freshman Jake Haener with 1:56 left in the third quarter. Washington led 7-6 at the time and the Huskies took over at their own 11-yard line when Haener entered the game. Haener's second pass was intercepted by Evan Weaver, who returned it for the game-winning touchdown.
Haener eventually transferred to Fresno State and led the Bulldogs to an upset of UCLA last Saturday.
Washington and Cal did not play each other last year, when their meeting was canceled.
Question No. 5: Who have been Washington’s best players this year, and who have been its most disappointing players? Zion Tupuola-Fetui won’t be back this week, will he?
The most disappointing aspect of this Huskies team has been its offensive line, says Raley. It was supposed to be the team's strength and that has not been the case.
He is high on the Huskies' two cornerbacks.
"You might not find a better pair in the whole Pac-12 in Trent McDuffie and Kyler Gordon," Raley said. "They're both fast. McDuffie is supposed to be a high-round draft pick. So you don't want to throw on those guys. The safeties are questionable. They've already replaced both of them since the season started."
The Huskies have been without their best defensive player, Tupuola-Fetui, who suffered a torn Achilles tendon in the offseason. Raley expects him back in mid-October, but not this week against Cal. Tupuola-Fetui was a first-team all-conference selection last year when he led the Pac-12 with seven sacks in just four games.
Cover photo of Dylan Morris is by Rick Osentoski, USA TODAY Sports