Fumbles and interceptions prove to be the undoing in Washington’s 30-24 loss to the California Golden Bears Saturday at Husky Stadium 

Chris Petersen will no doubt go back to the tape again and again and again, breaking down the minutiae of Washington’s 30-24 loss to the California Golden Bears, but one viewing should really do. Yes, there were a lot of issues with the offensive line blocking up front and the tackling in general on defense left a lot to be desired - but I can break it all down in one word that explains it all. 

Turnovers. 

That’s it. You don’t have to dig any deeper than that. Washington’s five miscues happened all throughout the game, sprinkled in like purple and gold cyanide pills to kill any offensive momentum at a moment’s notice. Lethal.

The Huskies doubled their season number of turnovers from five to 10 in just this one game. That's a trend Petersen will look to reverse as soon as possible. 

“I think the first half we had the ball 26 plays, 27 plays - something like that,” Petersen said after the game. “At the end of the game it’s like 40 to 20 in time of possession. Turning the ball over, missing that many tackles and be that bad in time of possession - that’s a recipe for disaster.”

And the Golden Bears were more than happy to take the ball back, thank you very much. In a game decided by six points, Washington’s turnovers amounted to 13 California points. Don’t turn the ball over, win the game. It’s cliche for a reason. 

Petersen will most likely want to watch this particular film a few times simply because he’s never seen so many miscues by his team in game, ever - literally. He’s never coached a team that turned the ball over five times in one game. When you’re 102-19 all-time as a head coach, chances are good you haven’t seen a ton of turnovers - unless your guys created them. 

And even the defense, who played valiantly despite 481 total yards surrendered, wasn’t immune to breaking down during the 40 minutes they were asked to be on the field. “I saw a couple of times where we definitely needed to wrap-up,” Petersen said. "In fact I was shocked that a couple of our guys took shots without wrapping up, a couple of our experienced guys, and that was really disappointing.”

Freshman quarterback Jake Browning had three of Washington’s turnovers - two interceptions and one fumble. He didn’t need to break down the film to know exactly what killed the Huskies’ chances.

“Penalties and turnovers,” he said, matter-of-factly. “Those are two things that can kill a drive. We were in first-and-25 a lot and first-and-ridiculous. A lot of that’s on me throwing picks and stuff like that and fumbling and things we haven’t done that much this year. Penalties and turnovers, that’s pretty much it.”

The third drive of the first quarter, Washington had a chance to establish an offensive identity. They moved the ball through their running back, Dwayne Washington, who ran the ball five-straight times for 71 yards - the last 14 for a touchdown. 

“A lot of that we had the option to pull it, but we were running the ball well so I kept handing it off and the o-line did a good job blocking and we were able to go down and score,” Browning would later say of the drive.

So what became of Washington, he of the 10 carries for 109 yards and that touchdown? Math majors, as well as everyone else, will quickly figure out the junior running back carried the ball only five more times all game. The Huskies didn’t get a chance to call Washington’s number again until 6:14 left to go in the second quarter.

Why? Well, after Washington’s touchdown carry, Browning fumbled the next time UW had the ball. After the Huskies held California at the goal-line on the Golden Bears’ ensuing drive, Browning then went deep on the very next play- only to get picked off by Darius White on a pass intended for Marvin Hall

Then when Washington did get another carry, it was on the next drive. After a first down, Browning threw complete to freshman receiver Isaiah Renfro, who promptly coughed up the rock after a 17-yard gain. 

All this came during a second quarter where Washington had the ball for only 3:48 and ran a total of 13 plays. Unless you’re Oregon circa Chip Kelly and average 20 yards a play and don’t care that a drive lasts more than 15 seconds - that’s not going to work. 

The stunning lack of rhythm that led to the Huskies stop-starting on offense can be directly attributed to drive-killing turnovers. In fact, the same could be said of California, albeit to a much lesser extent. One of their turnovers was a 70-yard forced fumble/scoop-and-score by Washington’s Sidney Jones at a time when the Golden Bears could have easily killed off the game. They had the Huskies by the throat and were once against moving downfield the way a team should if they are trying to hammer the opposition into submission. 

Jones’ forced fumble came on the twelfth play of California’s drive. 

The sudden change put a charge into the Huskies and gave them impetus to try and steal the win. They were down six with 2:51 to go in the fourth quarter, starting a possession at their own 28. 

Browning, who had been playing chicken with California’s defensive front all day long, couldn’t roust some late-game dramatics. Instead, he threw his second interception of the day, picked off by Damariay Drew

Game over. 

The bones of this game will be picked through as Washington has a bye week coming up. There won’t be anything else to do, other than wonder about what could have been and what should have been. 

This game should have been a Washington win, everything being equal. But it wasn’t. Five turnovers always equals a loss, no matter who you play. Petersen said it himself: when you take all those miscues, mix them up with a stunning lack of possession, no offensive rhythm, and a quarterback being asked to scramble for his life far too often - it’s a recipe for disaster. 

It’s like baking the worst cake in the world. And for at least the next week or so, the Washington Huskies are going to have to eat it while they figure out how to fix the broken recipe. 

The bye comes at a good time for someone like Budda Baker, who will be desperate to get back in at safety. The Huskies missed Budda dearly, and that is going to happen when you lose the heart and soul of your secondary. 

More importantly - the Huskies will use the extra time to work on the details and the things that eluded them Saturday, as they head south to USC a week from Thursday. 

“We were kind of stumbling all over ourselves way too much,” Petersen said. “Really, really frustrating.

“It’s not going to get any easier. Everybody is really good in this league and you have a new challenge, and that’s the hard thing about having a young team, the scheme’s going to be different the next time we play and so you’d like to go and do it again and try and get it right, but you can’t do that. These guys will come back. Way too early in the season. Look at the teams we play and the kids know that and it’s like I told the guys last week, this is still about us. We have to go back and tackle better, we have to go back and pass-pro better, we have to not fumble to ball and it’s all the things that we can control.”


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