Scoring, in any fashion at any time, has been a laborious proposition for the Washington Huskies this season. They rank 11th in the Pac-12 Conference with an average of just 24.0 points a game, and they average only 18.8 against conference opponents.
Scoring in the first quarter, though, has been even more difficult than trying to persuade fans at Husky Stadium not to leave their seats before halftime to go drink beer in The Zone.
Through seven games, the Huskies (3-4, 1-3 in Pac-12) have scored only 10 points total in the first quarter. They kicked a field goal against Utah State, and they scored their only first-quarter touchdown of the season against California. That’s it.
In the first quarter of Saturday’s 31-14 loss at Stanford — with redshirt freshman K.J. Carta-Samuels making his first career start at quarterback — the Huskies ran just eight plays, gained 29 yards and achieved a single first down. And no, they did not score.
The slow starts are a consistent source of frustration for UW coach Chris Petersen, who said Monday that his team’s inability to convert third downs — they were 0 for 5 in the first half against Stanford, and rank 11th in the Pac-12 with a conversion rate of 34.5 percent — is preventing the Huskies from being able to call all of the plays they want to call, especially early in the game.
“You have some openers that you’re trying to see some different formations to see if they’re going to play us the rest of the game kind of like we’re thinking,” Petersen said. “So it’s important to get some of those looks and see what we can kind of come back to later.
“But I think the main thing is not converting on third downs, or we get a first down and then (only) run four plays or five plays. If we can stay on the field a little bit, I know everybody feels a lot different. And hopefully score a touchdown one of these early drives.”
Petersen said last week that he’s tried to remedy that problem by adjusting the Huskies’ practice regimen, such as moving offense-versus-defense team sessions to the beginning of practice instead of doing it later. So far, none of it has worked.
He doesn’t seem to believe the issue is with UW’s play calling or scheme, saying again that it’s simply a matter of execution.
“I think each game there’s certain things that you go back and you say, ‘Yeah, maybe call this one different.’ But it’s not a lot of that,” Petersen said. “We put the tape on and every play, if we get execution here, and execution there, we have it. A lot of times, it’s like, one guy. And that’s a little bit of the frustration.”
Asked about the status this week of starting quarterback Jake Browning, who sat out against Stanford due to a shoulder injury, Petersen said “we’ll see how he is tomorrow” before determining his practice availability.
“If he’s ready to roll, he’s ready to roll,” Petersen said. “Hopefully he is.”
Petersen said Browning did some throwing at practice last week, but he didn’t do much during pregame warmups.
“It’s just how much zip he can put on the ball,” Petersen said. “Every day he’s a little bit better. All those things.”
UTAH KICKOFF ANNOUNCED
After four consecutive kickoff times of 6 p.m. or later, the Huskies were finally granted a reprieve when it was announced Monday that UW’s Nov. 7 game against Utah at Husky Stadium will begin at 4:30 p.m.
The game will air on Ch. 13.
The earlier kickoff time will please Petersen, who said last week that nobody likes playing night games.
“Everybody wants to play in the day. Now, it is what it is with the TV schedule, so we just deal with it,” Petersen said, in part. “But I think everybody wants to play in the day. I think the fans want us to be in the day, the players want to be in the day, and coaches want to be in the day.”