By Brent Stecker
The Huskies needed a punching bag after three straight losses. They found one in the California Golden Bears, who didn't put up much of a fight in Washington's 41-17 win Saturday at Husky Stadium.
Here's a closer look at the Huskies' skid-snapping victory.
Three things we learned:
Sophomore Jaydon Mickens broke out with six catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns against Cal. (AP)
It's been a long time since Cal (1-7 overall, 0-5 Pac-12) wasn't on the business end of a blowout, and Washington (5-3, 2-3) made sure it stayed that way. The Huskies' defense took out its frustrations by racking up five sacks and two forced fumbles, and the offense got back on track after last week's loss to Arizona State by totaling 642 yards, committing no turnovers and finding the end zone five times.
Bishop Sankey and Keith Price bounced back.
Running back Bishop Sankey had little to no success against Arizona State, and Price, still nursing a thumb injury, also had his worst game of the season against the Sun Devils. But against Cal, both showed that they have put those performances behind them. Sankey rushed for a career-high 241 yards and two scores on 27 carries, and Price was plenty efficient, completing 20 of 32 passes for 376 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Penalties were less of a problem.
Yes, the Huskies still committed more penalties than their opponent (six for 63 yards, compared to three for 35 yards by Cal), but they didn't continually shoot themselves in the foot with flags. It could be much better, as Washington still ranks as the most-penalized team in the country with 72 on the season, but at least Saturday was a step in the right direction (albeit a small one).
Three things we're still trying to figure out:
What effect will Kasen Williams' injury have on the Huskies?
The junior receiver from Sammamish came down awkwardly trying to haul in a catch in the second quarter, and he broke his foot in the process. Washington coach Steve Sarkisian didn't have great news about it after the game.
"We know there's a break and a dislocation in his foot, so he's going to be out quite some time," Sarkisian said.
It's likely Williams will miss the rest of the season. Whether that means the Huskies will rely even more on the running game or not will be something to watch when they return to the field Nov. 9 against Colorado.
Is Jaydon Mickens the go-to wideout?
Price connected with the sophomore receiver six times for 180 yards, including long touchdown passes of 68 and 47 yards. Mickens, already the team leader in receptions (45), moved into the lead in receiving yards (542) and tied tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins for most touchdown receptions (four) this season. With Williams out, Mickens will have plenty of opportunities to show what he's capable of, and with Kevin Smith in his senior year, he could solidify a spot as the top receiver returning in 2014.
What are Washington's expectations now?
The losing streak is over, and at 5-3, the Huskies are well on their way to being bowl-eligible. But even with Saturday's dominant performance, a Pac-12 championship has been out of question for weeks. With four games to go after next week's bye, is it reasonable to expect the Huskies to finish the regular season on a five-game winning streak? They'd need wins in a pair of road contests where they'll likely be the underdogs (against Oregon State and No. 17 UCLA) to pull that off, so maybe not. But could they at least be expected to break back into the Top 25? Maybe so.
Editor's note: This version has been updated.