Brock Huard’s keys: No. 8 Huskies will get different look vs Portland St
No. 8 Washington (2-0) vs. Portland State (1-1)
• Where: Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium
• Kickoff: 5 p.m. Saturday
• TV: Pac-12
Washington at a glance: The Huskies stood pat at No. 8 in the Associated Press poll despite another blowout victory last week, but they did gain some respect in the coaches’ poll by jumping two spots to No. 9. One reason is because their offense continued to fly high, mainly with its passing game, as quarterback Jake Browning tied the school record with five touchdowns even though his day was done in the third quarter of UW’s win over Idaho. Another reason is that the defense has been as advertised, with a strong front seven and experienced secondary having no issues as of yet. The only question remains the running game, as both Idaho and Rutgers concentrated on – and for the most part succeeded at – keeping Myles Gaskin under wraps. It hasn’t made a difference on the scoreboard, though.
Portland State at a glance: An FCS team, you might remember the Vikings from such games as that one in which they upset Washington State in 2015. That’s reason enough to give UW fans pause, but only a little bit. This season, Portland State owns a 43-26 win over Central Washington, but it lost 66-35 to San Jose State last week. Defensively, the Vikings don’t have the firepower to shut down the Huskies’ passing attack, and Saturday might also pose an opportunity for Gaskin to get on track heading into Pac-12 play. Portland State’s offense will provide an interesting look for UW’s defense, however, with its run-heavy pistol offense led by quarterback Alex Kuresa, which coach Chris Petersen said is unlike anything the Huskies have seen since he arrived three years ago.
Brock Huard’s key No. 1 for UW: Defensive players need to stay disciplined against the pistol. “I hear college coaches say, ‘I want my guys to be comfortable being uncomfortable.’ This Portland State offense does make you a little bit uncomfortable because they are in the pistol, because they have a quarterback that does a really good job and has a feel of when to keep the ball. We’ve seen the chaos that this run game can create, especially when guys are undisciplined or trying to do somebody else’s job. The most important thing when you’re playing this style is everybody has a job to do, and if you do it, then you’re going to see a lot of zero-yard runs and even tackles for loss and negative plays. But the minute guys start to guess or try to do someone else’s job, then you get into trouble. What always destroys this kind of interior run game is when guys like Vita Vea, Greg Gaines and Elijah Qualls just own at the point of the attack and physically destroy any push, any confusion, any chaos that the system tries to throw their way.”
Huard’s key No. 2: The passing game needs to continue to get into the heads of future opponents. “I’d like to see the Washington wide receivers continue winning their one-on-ones, and not just winning but dominating them. That’s where all of the explosive plays have come. If you want to continue to elicit fear in Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez and Stanford coach David Shaw and the rest of the Pac-12 conference, continue to hit the home run. Not just singles – not a slant, not a hitch, not a quick-out. Those are fine, but the difference this year is the Huskies are hitting home runs, and Jake Browning’s accuracy and decision-making is way up. When he sees a one-on-one, he’s willing and able to take advantage, and then the guys on the other end are capable of making game-changing, home-run hitting plays. That will not only pay dividends in this matchup, it will pay dividends in the long run as opponents prepare for exactly what to take away. Any defensive coordinator will tell you, the first job is to make a team one-dimensional, and I think Washington is continuing to add to its resume of being balanced and multi-dimensional.”
Huard’s key No. 3: Keep the front seven healthy heading into next week’s Pac-12 opener. “A must is that every starter is available and healthy the following week for Arizona in the desert. That is an absolute must. In particular, those defensive linemen and linebackers, the front seven, are going to be such a point of emphasis for me. That they continue to trust one another, they continue to dominate as they have the first two weeks, and do so against a little different run game this week. To me, this is about that front seven handling the unique run game Portland State will throw their way, and most importantly having every every one of those difference makers and the depth available when you start conference play a week from Saturday.”