No. 8 UW Huskies use 45-point first half to cruise past Cal 59-32

Sep 23, 2023, 11:04 PM | Updated: Sep 24, 2023, 12:19 am

UW Huskies Ja'Lynn Polk...

Ja'Lynn Polk of the UW Huskies catches a touchdown pass against California on Sept. 23, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

SEATTLE (AP) — Before Michael Penix Jr. ever took a snap, stepped away from a pass rusher or connected with one of his wide receivers, his teammates had already staked the No. 8 UW Huskies to a two touchdown lead.

That’s a scary proposition when facing arguably the most powerful offense in the country.

UW Huskies 59, Cal 32: Caple’s Takeaways | Box score

Rome Odunze scored on an 83-yard punt return and a 35-yard reception in the first half, Edefuan Ulofoshio returned an interception 45 yards for a score on the first possession of the game, and Washington scored 45 first-half points on its way to a 59-32 win over California on Saturday night.

“It’s good to help him out. That’s what we’ve been talking about this whole year just to create plays for our offense and give them the ball back as much as possible,” Ulofoshio said.

Washington led 14-0 before Penix ever saw the field. And when he did, Penix threw for three first-half touchdowns as the Huskies tied a school record for points in a half.

Washington (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) made everything look surprisingly easy, leading by as much as 40 against an opponent that’s been a problem in recent years.

“It was fun. It was exciting to be able to see the other two sides of the ball score early,” Penix said. “Definitely a fast start and that’s something we talk about a lot is starting fast in all phases.”

Penix played into the third quarter and finished 19 of 25 for 304 yards. He found Ja’Lynn Polk for touchdowns of 8 and 24 yards, the first of which Polk pinned the ball against his helmet as he went to the turf.

Odunze followed up his TD catch in the first half with a 13-yard scoring reception in the third quarter on a screen pass.

Polk finished with eight catches for 127 yards and Odunze had five receptions for 125 yards. Washington has had at least two pass catchers top 100 yards receiving in all four games this season.

“It just goes to the execution that we have coming out there and had and all the work that we put in as a whole offense,” Odunze said. “It’s not just the wide receiver group. It’s the whole offense. The whole offense has to be able to operate at a high level for us to be able to do those thing.”

The 101st meeting between the Golden Bears and Huskies was the conference opener for both and the final time the two original members of what’s now the Pac-12 would meet as members of the same conference.

Washington and California were founding members of the Pacific Coast Conference that started play in 1916. And more than 100 years later the Huskies and Golden Bears met for the final time before Washington heads to the Big Ten and Cal becomes a member of the ACC.

It was a forgettable trip for the visitors.

“I can’t say that any one unit played well enough. And that is coaches and players and ultimately me,” Cal coach Justin Wilcox said.

California quarterback Ben Finley was 17 of 32 for 207 yards and two touchdowns, but was intercepted three times in the first half. The problems started for Cal (2-2, 0-1) immediately as Ulofoshio intercepted a poor throw by Finley on the sixth play of the game. It was the first interception of Ulofoshio’s career.

Cal was forced to punt on its next possession and Odunze found open space for the first punt return touchdown of his career.

Cal running back Jadyn Ott returned after sitting out last week against Idaho but could never get started against Washington’s defense. Ott was held to 40 yards on 14 carries.

Finley was hurt during an interception return in the third quarter that was called back on a penalty and only then did Cal turn to Sam Jackson V at quarterback. Jackson had started two of the first three games.

“Basically both guys have two games under their belt and it’s unsettled. We’ve got to find more consistent play at that position and that’s the one that gets the most attention for obvious reasons,” Wilcox said.

Jeremiah Hunter and Taj Davis both had touchdown receptions for the Bears. Davis played last season at Washington.


Washington’s 45 points in the first half matched a school record set four times previously. It also tied California’s record for most points allowed in a half. Washington also scored 40 or more points in a fourth straight game in the same regular season for the first time since 1944.


California: The Bears need to get their QB situation settled. Finley was shaky before getting hurt and Jackson looked good but against Washington’s backups.

UW Huskies: Washington enjoyed yet another big offensive day despite wide receiver Jalen McMillan not playing after suffering a lower leg injury last week at Michigan State. McMillan sat the second half against the Spartans and was on the Huskies sideline but not in full uniform against Cal.


California: The Bears host Arizona State next Saturday.

UW Huskies: Washington is at Arizona next Saturday.

From Petersen to the portal: How UW Huskies built elite offensive roster

UW Huskies

UW Huskies Jacob Eason Seattle Seahawks...

The Associated Press

UW Huskies product Jacob Eason signs with Packers

The Green Bay Packers have signed former UW Huskies quarterback Jacob Eason to give them a third signal-caller to participate in training camp workouts.

23 hours ago

UW Huskies Oregon college football 2 minute warning...

Brent Stecker

Why UW Huskies coming in 10th in Big Ten poll is ‘about right’

The UW Huskies are ranked in the middle of the pack of their new conference, the 18-team Big Ten. Brock Huard explains the reason.

1 day ago

UW Huskies Carson Bruener Oregon Ducks 2023...

Christian Caple

Caple: UW Huskies’ 22 most important (non-QB) players for 2024

UW insider Christian Caple gives his annual preseason ranking of the Huskies' 22 most important players, excluding quarterback.

3 days ago

UW Huskies baseball coach Eddie Smith 2024...

Christian Caple

‘Win anyway’: A look at the UW Huskies’ new baseball coach

New UW Huskies baseball coach Eddie Smith ran his first college program in Longview, Wash., on toughness and accountability.

4 days ago

UW Huskies football...

Brent Stecker

Insider thinks UW Huskies can keep up in Big Ten debut season

"I think they can still come through with a decent year," longtime college football insider Phil Steele says of the UW Huskies.

6 days ago

Penn State whiteout Auburn 2021...

Cameron Van Til

UW Huskies will experience one of college football’s great traditions

The UW Huskies will play in Penn State's annual "Whiteout" game on Nov. 9 in their first-ever trip to 106,000-seat Beaver Stadium.

8 days ago

No. 8 UW Huskies use 45-point first half to cruise past Cal 59-32