Like we always do at this time, let’s take a look at three positives and three negatives from the Huskies’ game yesterday -- this one a 41-3 victory over Portland State to close out a dominant nonconference slate against three pretty weak opponents.
First, a few links to some coverage of yesterday’s game.
--- Finally, the scrimmage portion of Washington’s schedule is over.
--- The Huskies stayed at No. 9 in the USA Today coaches poll, and dropped one spot from No. 8 to No. 9 in the most recent AP top 25 poll. (Michigan State jumped UW via a victory over Notre Dame.)
Here are some highlights from the Pac-12 Networks:
And some audio highlights from play-by-play man Bob Rondeau:
1. Washington’s defense couldn’t have looked much better ... again.
The Huskies held Portland State to minus-2 yards rushing in the first half and just 34 yards rushing for the game -- on 42 attempts, an average of just 0.8 yards per carry -- and for the third consecutive game, the first-team defense did not allow a touchdown.
The defensive front is a big reason for that. Greg Gaines was a menace on Saturday, totaling seven tackles and two for loss, and when he’s on the field with Elijah Qualls and Vita Vea, the opponent is going to have a tough time running the ball.
“All those interior guys, they’re big guys, but they’re very explosive, so they’re hard to block,” UW coach Chris Petersen said. “You can ask our offensive guys. Whoever’s going to get singled usually gets some knock-off, and really the plan was to try to take on double teams and let those linebackers make plays, but they were doing a good job of getting knock-off and ending up in the backfield. Greg did a good job again. He’s been playing at a high level for most of the season so far.”
UW now ranks sixth nationally in yards-per-carry allowed at 2.14, and fifth nationally in yards-per-play allowed at 3.62.
2. Another fast start.
Petersen often lamented UW’s inability last season to score points early and take advantage of scoring opportunities in the first quarter.
That wasn’t a problem against Portland State. UW scored on its fifth offensive play, and scored touchdowns on its first four possessions and buried the Vikings early.
The Huskies are outscoring opponents 45-0 in the first quarter through three games, and are outscoring opponents 97-3 in the first half.
3. The nonconference schedule is finally over.
If you’re reading this, you’re likely a UW fan, and if you’re a UW fan, you likely enjoyed, on some level, watching the Huskies beat the snot out of three inferior opponents.
But I’m guessing you’re all probably looking forward to seeing the Huskies face a team of comparable ability -- or at least a team in the Pac-12 -- and that starts Saturday at Arizona.
“I’m definitely looking for somebody to try to hit back,” said junior linebacker Keishawn Bierria. “That’s what we play for. We want them dog fights. We want them legendary moments. That’s what we’re looking for this season. We’re looking for someone to fight back.”
1. A few sloppy penalties.
This was probably Petersen’s chief complaint afterward -- that the Huskies committed too many penalties that simply didn’t need to be committed, such as a holding call that occurred in an area where it did not need to occur.
In total, UW committed five penalties for 65 yards. Those kind of mistakes might be expected in a game in which so many backups and young players are on the field, but the errors certainly caught Petersen’s attention.
“We had some penalties that were a little bit uncharacteristic,” Petersen said. “A couple sloppy ones on the offensive line, that, again we will need to look at the tape to see what that was all about. I know we got a holding call on a play we should never get a holding call; there is no need to hold at all. So that was frustrating. We get a hands-to-the-face on defense that moves the chains again. Those are the types of things that will get us when we play close games.
“I think in the first two games we were really pretty good with some of that stuff. You get a team that makes your possessions count, which they really did in the second half, I think that kind of hurts a little bit. I think our defense did a good job. Our offense, certainly that one drive was not good.”
2. It seemed like UW ran the ball well, but Petersen still wants more.
The numbers were good. The Huskies rushed for 213 yards on 35 carries -- a healthy average of 6.1 yards per rush -- and Myles Gaskin had his best game of the season with 93 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
Jake Browning rightly pointed out that UW has scored a lot of points this season, and have done so largely by taking what the defense will allow -- and in their first two games, at least, that meant throwing the ball to take advantage of defenses that were crowding the line of scrimmage to stop the run.
But asked about the running game afterward, Petersen seemed hesitant to give too much praise.
“I thought it got going at times, but again, I still don’t think it’s necessarily where it needs to be,” Petersen said. “We need to put that tape on and see what we’re thinking. But just general impression, I think we need to do a little more. I think our yardage was pretty good, but I still think we need to be a little bit more physical, coming off the ball better. We’ll see.”
Through three games, the Huskies are averaging 4.53 yards per carry, which ranks 64th nationally.
3. Another lousy crowd.
That was to be expected, considering it rained and school hasn’t started yet and it was just Portland State. Announced attendance was 57,151, but there weren’t nearly that many people there, and there couldn’t have been more than 15,000 by the time it finished. Washington’s next home game -- the Friday, Sept. 30 showdown against No. 7 Stanford -- should create a far different atmosphere.