SEATTLE — As his freshman season has progressed, Washington’s Hunter Bryant has been fed more information, more responsibilities and ultimately more opportunity.
The potential of the Huskies newest offensive weapon finally flashed on Saturday night.
“There’s always that adjustment period where you’re not sure. A player is really good in high school but something doesn’t click,” Washington quarterback Jake Browning said. “But it definitely clicks for him.”
Bryant had nine catches for 121 yards and a touchdown, Browning threw for two scores and ran for another, and No. 6 Washington cruised to a 38-7 victory over California on Saturday night.
Bryant was a standout on an otherwise routine late-night thumping by the Huskies (6-0, 3-0 Pac-12). It wasn’t a flashy performance full of major highlights, just a thorough domination of the Golden Bears.
As good as Bryant was in a breakout performance, Washington’s defense was even better. California (3-3, 0-3) was held to 46 total yards in the first half and the Bears finished with just 93 total yards thanks to losing 41 yards on the final play of the game when a field goal attempt was mishandled.
The 93 total yards are fifth fewest allowed by Washington in school history and fewest since holding Oregon State to 83 in 1991.
“It starts on that (defensive) line. If you can make somebody one dimensional it really changes the game,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said.
Browning was 27 of 40 for 215 yards passing and had a 21-yard touchdown run on a fourth-down option play in the first half. Myles Gaskin added touchdown runs of 8 and 7 yards, and even defensive players got in on the act for Washington. Sophomore defensive end Justiss Warren caught a 2-yard TD pass from Browning after lining up as a fullback.
But Bryant was the star of the night. He had 10 catches for 182 yards on the season coming into Saturday, but the potential he has shown in those spurts was entirely on display against the Bears. Bryant was targeted 11 times and five of his receptions went for first downs.
“Hopefully, this is a confidence builder and booster for him and hopefully we can keep building,” Petersen said.
No play was better than Bryant wrestling a touchdown away from California defensive back Josh Drayden in the first quarter to give the Huskies an early 7-0 lead. It was a risky throw by Browning, but Bryant had enough control of the ball when he hit the turf that officials awarded a touchdown.
“He kind of saved me on that one. That wasn’t really smart,” Browning said.
California’s one highlight came on Darius Allensworth’s 37-yard fumble return for a touchdown late in the third quarter after Dante Pettis lost control of the ball trying to make a move in the open field.
“We’ve got to just keep practicing hard so we don’t feel like this anymore,” Allensworth said.
California quarterback Ross Bowers was under duress all night by Washington’s pass rush. Bowers finished 11 of 18 for 80 yards and was sacked seven times, most of the pressure coming from just three or four rushers.
“We didn’t do anything on offense to give us a chance,” California coach Justin Wilcox said. “We’re going to have to re-evaluate some things.”
California: The Bears brutal schedule has caught up with them. After starting 3-0, the Bears have dropped three straight to Southern California, Oregon and Washington. The Bears were thoroughly dominated along the line of scrimmage by the Huskies and it doesn’t get easier next week with undefeated Washington State visiting. “I think we’re going to find out more about our team in the next 48 hours than any time since I’ve been here,” Wilcox said.
Washington: If there was one complaint it would be the Huskies downfield passing game. Aside from Bryant, Washington had only four pass plays of 10 or more yards and none longer than 13.
PAC-12 AFTER DARK
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said Saturday night that the member schools have to accept being stuck with late kickoffs as the trade-off for increased exposure and revenue.
Scott spoke at halftime and was peppered with questions about Petersen’s complaints from earlier this week of the Huskies being stuck with late kickoff times so far this season. Saturday’s game kicked off at 7:50 p.m.
“The night games rate better than the day games,” Scott said. “So what tends to happen is, the better you do the more attractive you are for TV and the more you’re going to get scheduled in the night.”
California: After two straight on the road, the Bears return home on a short week and host Washington State next Friday.
Washington: The Huskies play at Arizona State next Saturday night.