Chris Petersen insists there is no secret to reveal, no added emphasis on beginning games with two or three touchdowns in the first quarter.
“I’m not sure what the magic formula is there,” he said again after Washington’s 41-17 victory over Oregon State on Saturday at Husky Stadium, “but that sort of helps things.”
It sort of does. The Huskies again lit up the scoreboard several times in the first quarter, jumping to a 21-0 lead on their first three offensive possessions, scoring their first two touchdowns before Oregon State even recorded a first down.
It’s been like that all season. Washington has outscored its first seven opponents by a 100-7 margin in the first quarter, and by a 200-24 margin in the first half. And Saturday’s 31-0 intermission lead marked the fourth time this season that the Huskies have shut out their opponent in the first half.
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They didn’t need much time to get back in rhythm after last week’s bye, using a flea-flicker pass from Jake Browning to John Ross to set up their first touchdown less than two minutes into the first quarter. They had a 14-0 lead after 4 minutes and 25 seconds of game time.
“We want to start fast every game, and the games that we’ve taken control of, those are the ones we started fast,” Browning said. “I think that’s big for us.”
It changes the way the games are called, too, though Petersen wonders if maybe these big first-half leads make it more difficult for his players to maintain their intensity in the second half, after the stadium has emptied and the outcome is no longer in doubt.
“It certainly gives it a different vibe,” Petersen said. “… You certainly like a lead, but sometimes it also can change the energy, and I thought the energy changed a little bit at halftime coming back out. … I’d like to see that intensity from how it is that first quarter throughout the whole game. We got a lot of guys in. That was good to see.”
Defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski seemed to agree, particularly after the Beavers began the second half with a nine-play, 54-yard drive that resulted in a 29-yard field goal by Garrett Owens. And the Beavers scored their first touchdown on their next possession, on a 75-yard touchdown run by Victor Bolden against UW’s first-team defense.
“I think that’s part of it,” Kwiatkowski said. “Guys just lose their edge when you get a big lead like that. But then you’re able to get younger guys in there and get them experience, and they’ve got to go out there and show what they can do and execute. It wasn’t as clean as we’d like it.”