Like we always do at this time, let’s take a look back at three positives and three negatives from Washington’s 41-17 victory over Oregon State on Saturday at Husky Stadium.
First, a few links, plus some video and audio highlights, and UW’s updated poll position.
--- After Ohio State’s loss at Penn State last night, the Huskies moved up to No. 4 in both the USA Today coaches poll and the Associated Press top 25. They now trail Alabama, Michigan and Clemson in both polls. Next week’s opponent, Utah, moved up to No. 16 in the coaches poll and No. 17 in the AP poll. Colorado checks in at No. 23 in both polls. Washington State, which improved to 5-2 after beating Arizona State last night, just missed the cut. The Cougars received the 26th-most votes in both polls.
--- Speaking of Utah, ESPN’s “College GameDay” will originate from Salt Lake City next weekend for UW’s 12:30 p.m. PT against the Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
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--- Washington used another fast start to cruise to another blowout.
--- Here is our notebook with an update on some UW injuries.
--- And here are the final stats, play by play and participation.
Video highlights from the Pac-12 Networks:
And audio highlights from radio play-by-play man Bob Rondeau:
1. Another game decided by halftime.
In six of their seven games this season, the Huskies have led by at least 23 points at halftime. Yesterday, that margin was 31.
A 21-0 first-quarter lead turned into a 31-0 halftime lead, and Washington again spent the second half mostly milking the clock and letting its backups bank some more playing time. That’s sort of turning into one of this season’s themes, as the Huskies have now outscored opponents 100-7 in the first quarter and 200-24 in the first half.
Yes, this is what the Huskies were expected to do against Oregon State, a 37-point underdog. Anything less probably would have been a little disappointing. But if there was any concern about UW responding with proper focus after its bye week, it was erased in the game’s first five minutes.
“These guys have once again come out of the gate quickly,” UW coach Chris Petersen said of the Huskies’ offense. “Defense answered right away. Again, I’m not sure what the magic formula is there but that sort of helps things. Really good, clean first half. I am excited and proud of these guys.
“I know as we head down the stretch here, it’s not going to always be like this with these teams we have coming. It’s something we talk about and work on. That’ll be a new challenge for us.”
2. Dante Pettis and John Ross are on a roll.
Ross now ranks fifth in the Pac-12 in receiving yards per game. Pettis ranks seventh. Ross leads the league in touchdown receptions with nine. Pettis is tied for second with eight.
Both played starring roles against Oregon State, with Ross catching four passes for 115 yards, and Pettis catching four passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns.
The Huskies needed their receivers to step up this season. Pettis and Ross have done that, emerging as one of the Pac-12’s best receiving duos. It was a good day for freshman receiver Aaron Fuller, too. He caught four passes for 49 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown, his second score of the season.
Asked about Pettis benefiting from Ross’ concerning speed, Petersen said: “I think he’s taken his game to a next step in his game in terms of really understanding technique and details of routes. I think that’s all showing up. It always helps to have a couple guys out there that can make plays. I think we feel like that. I know John and Dante are getting a lot of balls, but some of those other guys can do some things as well. We’re not afraid to throw those guys out there.”
3. Myles Gaskin is putting together another impressive statistical season.
When Gaskin didn’t crack the 100-yard rushing mark in any of UW’s first four games, some wondered if there was something wrong with the sophomore tailback, or thought Lavon Coleman might deserve more of Gaskin’s carries.
That seems like a long time ago now.
Gaskin rushed for 128 yards on 18 carries against Oregon State, his third consecutive 100-yard-or-better performance, and now leads the Pac-12 with an average of 103.9 yards per game -- and a more-than-healthy average of 6.27 yards per carry.
Through seven games, Gaskin has 727 yards and seven touchdowns. He rushed for 1,302 yards and 14 touchdowns in 13 games last year, so he’s actually on pace to exceed both of those marks this year. And he’s a big reason why the Huskies rank seventh nationally in yards per rush.
1. Joe Mathis is hurt.
The biggest negative on Saturday afternoon had nothing to do with the game. Instead, it was the news of an unspecified injury to senior defensive end Joe Mathis, who did not suit up and watched the game from the sideline.
It’s unknown how long Mathis might be out. Petersen said he expects him to return this season, but wouldn’t put a timeline on that, saying only that he hopes to get him back “soon.”
Mathis leads the team with five sacks and has 7.5 tackles for loss. He is a big reason why UW’s pass rush has been so productive this season, and his absence leaves the Huskies a little more vulernable on the edge as they enter next week’s game at Utah.
2. Jake Browning didn’t complete 73 percent of his passes.
I’m joking, because that’s obviously a lofty standard. And Browning played fine on Saturday, throwing three touchdown passes and running for another without turning the ball over. He also finished with an ultra-efficient average of 10.4 yards per pass attempt, and made a couple of really nice throws that led to big plays or touchdowns. But he did have his lowest single-game completion percentage of the season, completing 14 of 28 passes (50 percent) for 291 yards.
His season completion percentage slipped to 68.6, which now ranks -- gasp! -- eighth in the country after Browning entered Saturday leading the nation with a 72.2 percent clip. His 26 touchdown passes are tied for third-most in the country, and his season average of 9.9 yards per attempt also ranks third. Browning fell from first to second in passing efficiency, now behind Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside.
So, this wasn’t his absolute best game, and that might have been expected against an Oregon State pass defense that now ranks 21st nationally in passing efficiency defense. The Beavers’ defensive backs seemed to be more physical and better in coverage than any unit the Huskies had seen this season.
“I don’t know if there were a bunch of really bad ones,” Petersen said, assessing Browning’s performance. “I thought one into the end zone that might have been picked off. He got pressured and couldn’t throw. It was a long, deep throw. He couldn’t throw it on time, so that caught us a bit.”
Said Browning: “I had a couple that I want back, but I mean, you’re never going to play a perfect game so go to practice this week and work on those to get ready for Utah.”
3. The Huskies let up a bit after halftime.
Petersen said he could sense the “vibe” of the game changed at halftime, with the Huskies leading 31-0 and well on their way to another blowout victory. Maybe that’s why UW allowed Oregon State’s best drive of the game on the first possession of the second-half, a 9-play, 54-yard journey that ended with a field goal. The next time the Beavers had the ball, Victor Bolden took a fly sweep handoff 75 yards for a touchdown.
Defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski also posited that UW’s defensive players may have lost their edge a bit with such a big lead.
As for the offense, Browning had an interesting thought on the matter, saying much of it has to do with playcalling and trying to out-execute the defense when they know a bunch of running plays are coming: “You’re playing the fine margin of do you run the ball and get conservative, or do you run your normal offense and see how that goes? So you go back and forth kind of. But I think when you get these fast starts, you’ve got to keep playing the whole game. When you’re up by that much, you’ve really got to stay focused. We’re going to run the ball. They know we’re going to run the ball. They’re putting eight people in the box. Some of that stuff it’s like … that’s why Dante was so open on that one on third down, because there was literally 10 people in the box. So are you going to launch it on them or are you going to run the ball? We obviously need to get better at some of that stuff, and they’re a very well-coached team and schematically they’re pretty good.”