SEATTLE — Three minutes, 24 seconds.
That’s all the time it took for Jacob Eason and the University of Washington football team to banish their disappointing loss to the California Golden Bears to the footnotes of the salty sea dog’s log of storms of yore.
The Huskies answered all the biggest concerns from their loss to Cal within the first four minutes of their game against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors on Saturday, going on to prevail 52-20 at Husky Stadium.
If last week’s lightning-delayed 20-19 defeat against the Golden Bears set off the alarm siren about the 23rd-ranked Huskies, then the opening minutes of Saturday’s contest were the equivalent of taking a fire hatchet to the horn, as Washington led 14-0 before most fans had even settled into the bleachers.
“Last week we struggled with some things,” admitted Eason, Washington’s quarterback and a Lake Stevens High School product who threw for 262 yards and three long touchdowns. “This week we got a jump on it early. That just shows how well we bounce back and respond to adversity. The guys did a great job of dropping last week and really preparing for Hawaii, and it showed today.”
The Cal game uncovered all kinds of potential issues for the Huskies. Washington’s passing game, which caught fire in the season opener against Eastern Washington as Eason set a school record by throwing for 349 yards in his debut, came screeching to a halt against the Golden Bears. Connections were missed, balls were dropped, and the offense was stymied.
But Eason was flawless on Washington’s first two possessions, going 4-for-4 for 67 yards, including a well-executed play-action pass that went for a 47-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Bryant, as the Huskies raced out to a 14-0 lead against a foe that opened the season with back-to-back victories against Pac-12 opponents.
Washington’s offense also squandered scoring chances against Cal. The Huskies drove into Bears territory eight times last week, but came away with just one touchdown to show for it. Against Hawaii not only did Washington score twice within four minutes, the Huskies were in the end zone on five of their first six drives as they built a 38-0 first-half lead.
“It’s just really nice to be able to build a lead,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said. “I don’t think that happens most every game, and I think that was important for this game because Hawaii can score. They can control the ball and they can score quickly, I think you saw that the first two games before they got to us. I was really pleased we were scoring when we were getting the ball so that we could have a little breathing room.”
Finally, on defense Washington didn’t turn the opposition once over the course of its first two games. But on Hawaii’s second offensive play of the game, safety Myles Bryant jumped a Cole McDonald pass toward the sideline for an interception, setting up the Huskies’ second touchdown. It was the first of three interceptions by Washington, two by Myles Bryant and one by true freshman Cameron Williams.
“I feel like at his point, once a team starts getting turnovers, then it becomes a downhill thing where it keeps happening and happening,” said Myles Bryant, who ripped the ball out of a Hawaii receiver’s hands for his second pick. “Hopefully from this point it keeps going and going.”
A grand total of 10 plays from scrimmage were played in the first 3:24, and the game already felt like it was over.
There was a slight hiccup in the third quarter, when Washington reverted to the team that showed up against Cal. The Huskies allowed two 14-play touchdown drives, and in between Washington had an ugly three-and-out that included those dreaded dropped passes. It was as if the Huskies were waylaid by another thunderstorm in their locker room at halftime, and at 38-20 it felt like it might be a game again.
But leave it to Eason to engineer a drive that set the nervy crowd at ease. He moved the Huskies 75 yards on 11 plays, including a key 30-yard completion to Hunter Bryant on third down, to get Washington back in the end zone. When Williams came up with a tip-drill interception on Hawaii’s ensuing possession, all was right in the Husky world again.
Washington has another non-conference game next weekend when the Huskies travel to BYU, meaning UW has another week to steady the ship before the games start counting for real again when Pac-12 play resumes at home against USC.
But Eason and the Huskies sure didn’t look like they needed another week of recovery Saturday. It appears that Washington has weathered the storm.
Washington defensive back Kyler Gordon, an Archbishop Murphy High School graduate, made his third consecutive start at right cornerback for the Huskies and turned in a strong performance. The redshirt freshman finished with a team-high nine tackles and a pass defensed. On the pass break-up he showed great range, both in covering ground to get into position, and in stretching out a long arm to get a hand on the ball just before it reached Hawaii receiver Jared Smart.
Follow Nick Patterson on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.