The Washington Huskies played without their most experienced offensive lineman on Saturday against the Utah Utes.
Jake Eldrenkamp, the Huskies’ fifth-year senior left guard from Bellevue, did not make the trip due to an unspecified injury. UW coach Chris Petersen said afterward that he expects to get Eldrenkamp back — whether he can play next weekend at California, Petersen didn’t know — and that he doesn’t think his injury is “super serious.”
With Eldrenkamp out, true freshman Nick Harris made his first career start at left guard. Fifth-year senior Shane Brostek and fourth-year junior Andrew Kirkland continued to rotate at right guard.
“It’s hard when you lose a senior offensive lineman who has played a lot of football for us and is kind of one of the pillars in there,” Petersen said. “But I thought those guys got some great work against a quality, quality defensive line. I’m anxious to put the tape in. I don’t really know how they did.”
UW rushed for 199 yards on 36 attempts, a healthy average of 5.5 yards per rush. Sophomore tailback Myles Gaskin finished with 151 yards rushing on 19 carries with a touchdown, and fourth-year junior tailback Lavon Coleman added 60 yards on eight carries.
The Huskies’ pass protection could have been better. UW quarterback Jake Browning was sacked twice and hurried on several other occasions, including a pair of bone-crunching hits he absorbed just before releasing a pass attempt.
Speaking of injuries — the Huskies played again without senior defensive end Joe Mathis, the team’s leader in sacks with five. Mathis sat out last weekend’s game against Oregon State with an undisclosed injury, and did not make the trip to Utah.
Without him, the Huskies managed only one sack — Keishawn Bierria’s blitz on Utah’s final possession — and Utes quarterback Troy Williams seemed to have ample time to throw the ball.
Asked if Mathis’ absence affected UW’s pass rush, Petersen said: “I think it does. He’s an explosive pass rusher and we miss him. For sure.”
NOT MANY RETURNS
This game will be remembered for Dante Pettis’ game-winning, 58-yard punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. But Utah punter Mitch Wishnowsky gave Pettis little with which to work on each of his previous attempts.
Wishnowsky punted six times, averaging 53.7 yards per kick with a long of 60. Four of his punts were downed inside the 20-yard line. Pettis totaled two yards on his four punt returns prior to his touchdown.
“It was awesome for Dante to get that done at the end, because that punter’s a heck of a punter. He’s a weapon,” Petersen said of Wishnowsky, who leads the Pac-12 in punt average. “We could get nothing. He just kept driving us back, driving us back.”
With two touchdown catches against Utah, UW receiver John Ross now has 11 this season. That ties him for third with Reggie Williams (2002) on UW’s single-season touchdown list. Mario Bailey holds the school record with 18 touchdown receptions in 1991, and Jermaine Kearse had 12 in 2012. … Pettis is now UW’s career leader in punt-return touchdowns with five. He has two this season. … Browning now has 28 touchdown passes and three interceptions this season. … Azeem Victor led UW with a career-high 16 tackles. … Sophomore linebacker Tevis Bartlett suited up and played after missing last weekend’s game due to injury. … ESPN’s “College GameDay” show aired live from Utah’s campus on Saturday. Famed analyst Lee Corso picked the Huskies, donning the headgear of UW’s mascot in traditional fashion. The only member of the “GameDay” crew to pick Utah was former Michigan receiver Desmond Howard, whose Wolverines lost to Washington in the 1992 Rose Bowl.