It’s a big weekend for Washington football as the Washington State Cougars take on the Stanford Cardinal in a huge PAC-12 game with conference championship implications. Fans will find out if Luke Falk has retained a shred of confidence after being pulled out of the game last week. On the Cardinal side, fans will see if the team will be able to sustain a sufficient offense with or without the hobbled running back Bryce Love. The winner of this game will retain significant standing against the other PAC-12 North leader, the Washington Huskies.
While the game on the Palouse has far bigger implications, the Huskies’ game against Oregon could provide insight as to the detriments of the Husky football team. Over the past month the Huskies haven’t been able to pass the football efficiently. In the past three games, quarterback Jake Browning has thrown 6.3 yards per pass attempt, with only 2 touchdown throws.
Last week against the UCLA Bruins, the Huskies weren’t threatened by the team’s attempt at stuffing the run. Because the Huskies are efficient in the running-game, Husky coach Chris Petersen never pressured Browning to start throwing. The Bruins’ game plan was pretty simple, by forcing Browning into making mistakes by taking the Huskies out of the running game. Regardless, the Huskies stuck to the ground game against the Bruins’ inept rushing defense.
This weekend comes the true test for the Huskies, as they’ll host the Oregon Ducks. Oregon’s defense looks to be a virtual opposite from UCLA. Oregon boasts a very good rushing defense but a fairly loose passing defense. Given Browning’s struggles over the past month, it’s tough to see the quarterback regaining fortuity in the passing game.
Unfortunately, the Huskies will be without tight end Hunter Bryant, wide receiver Chico McClatcher, and left tackle Trey Adams. Both Bryant and McClatcher have both been proven receivers on offense this year, so losing them will make it tough for Browning. He’s already had to rely heavily on wideout Dante Pettis, but a team like Oregon should effectively cover the receiver.
The loss of tackle Trey Adams has already had an immense impact on the passing offense. Browning was sacked five times in the loss against the Arizona State Sun Devils, who are fairly competent at getting to the quarterback. The Ducks are a bit more formidable in the sack department, racking up 30 sacks over the course of the year as PAC-12 leaders. Before the ASU game, the Huskies had allowed just six sacks on Browning through the first six games of the season, and as Trey went down against the Sun Devils, the Huskies allowed five sacks.
While UW didn’t give up sacks against UCLA, the Husky quarterback was never in a dangerous position as he never really threw the ball, and UCLA remains incompetent when trying to get to the quarterback.
Fans watching the game should expect the Oregon Ducks to follow the UCLA defensive gameplan, with full knowledge that they have a better chance at stopping the Husky running game. The Ducks defense will heavily pursue the run and it’ll be up to Browning to get the ball to his remaining offensive weapons. He’s three passing touchdowns away from becoming the leading touchdown passing leader in the history of the University of Washington, so he’s more than capable with reigniting this passing game.
Chris Petersen saw Browning’s struggles in the past month, but keeps his quarterback in the game as opposed to Mike Leach’s recipe which includes a heavy dose of sitting your star quarterback in the middle of an important football game. Jabs aside, the Husky quarterback should look to getting the play-action pass working early, which has always been his bread-and-butter for success. Expect the game to be a little close for comfort for the Huskies, as the Oregon Ducks can stop the run, and it’s where game plans begin when looking to stop UW. Husky fans should still feel confident as their record-setting quarterback looks to inch closer towards the school’s all-time touchdown passing record.