Breakout performances highlight a big Huskies win in Colorado
In a year when Colorado is still looking for its first Pac-12 victory after six conference games, it’s hard to call any win over the Buffaloes a big one. And yet that’s exactly what Washington’s 38-23 victory at Folsom Field felt like on Saturday.
The Huskies had to overcome a lot to put away the Buffaloes. They had to find a way to tighten up a defense that was without safety Trevor Walker and linebacker Shaq Thompson, who’s become so valuable to the offense that he was exclusively a tailback for the second straight game. They had to get a passing game on track in quarterback Cyler Miles’ return from a concussion. Even the punting game was in need of an improvement after rain and wind created havoc last week in a loss to Arizona State.
It didn’t look like it was going to come together early on for the Huskies. Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufao found openings in the secondary to throw a pair of first-half touchdowns and put the Buffaloes ahead by 10 points, while Washington’s offense went three-and-out on its first drive and fumbled the ball away at Colorado’s 10 on its second.
Despite those early stumbles, the rest of the game belonged to Washington, though. Miles completed 13 of 19 attempts for 209 yards, and the Huskies finished the game on 28-3 run that began with a late second-quarter field goal.
The real news, though, is a couple of breakout performances that boosted the offense.
The least surprising of those was Thompson, who has shown flashes of brilliance out of the backfield this season. There were more than flashes in Boulder, as he needed only 15 carries to pile up 175 rushing yards and a touchdown, including three runs of 24 yards or more. Not only that, he even turned a reception into 41 yards.
The big surprise, though, was freshman wide receiver Dante Pettis, who had 76 yards and a touchdown on two catches, and returned a punt 87 yards to the house that ended an 11-year punt-return-touchdown drought for the Husky program.
For a team that has been inconsistent through the air all year, the emergence of Pettis is both overdue and welcome. The lack of production from John Ross and Kasen Williams continued against Colorado, but Pettis made up for it by showing his home-run ability.
So with the win the Huskies moved to 6-3 overall and 2-3 in Pac-12 play, but even more importantly they picked up some momentum heading into a brutal two-game stretch against No. 25 UCLA at home and No. 14 Arizona in Tucson. Keeping the momentum will be no easy task, but with the bruising Thompson and dangerous Pettis finally giving the Huskies’ offense some identifiable weapons, those ranked teams will have a lot more to worry about.