Chris Petersen's opening season in Washington has probably had Huskie fans about as frustrated as us Bruins at this point in the season. After struggling to beat Hawaii and allowing FBS Eastern Washington to score 52 points to open the season, the Huskies blew Illinois out 44-19 to open 3-0. The following game, they fell behind 14-0 to Georgia St., but rebounded with a huge second half to win 45-14. Then Stanford beat them 20-13 in a game where Washington managed only 179 yards of offense. They turned around and beat up Berkeley the following week, holding the Bears to 7 points. Then Oregon and Arizona St. came, both beating the Huskies easily. When the season seemed to be holding by a thread, they went to Boulder and pulled away from Colorado in the second half with a pick 6 and punt return touchdown. Up and down, down and up, the Huskies are sitting at 6-3 with four conference games left, and Petersen poised to match or top Seven Win Sark's best season at Washington.
Petersen may be new to the Pac-12, but he's well known by anyone who follows college football. He spent 12 years at Boise St. as offensive coordinator and then head coach from 2006-2013, running a unique pro-style offense that uses a lot of motion and capitalizes on defensive confusion to outnumber the defense at the point of attack and get desired matchups in the passing game. Petersen was extremely successful at Boise St., going 92-12, and of course winning the Fiesta Bowl in 2006 and 2009.
This year, Petersen has had to shuffle his offense around quite a bit, and the numbers are telling. Washington is only managing 364.9 ypg on offense. They've only topped 400 yards of total offense three times this season, and have yet to tally 300 yards passing in a game. In fact, they've only topped 200 yards passing three times this season. The Huskies have been much better on the ground, where they have topped 300 yards in a game and match the three 200+ yard efforts, despite losing their top two running backs to injury. In their place, Petersen has been creative, moving their top linebacker, Shaq Thompson, to running back.
Defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski also came to Washington from Boise St. Kwiatkowski played at Boise St. in the 1980's and is a member of the Boise St. Athletic Hall of Fame, but when the Broncos hired Bryan Harsin as head coach, Kwiatkowski decided to follow Petersen to Washington. Thankfully for the Huskies, Kwiatkowski is replacing Justin Wilcox, who he had also replaced at Boise St., and the scheme is not all that different. The numbers for Washington's defense have not been great overall, but they have had a couple of outstanding performances, and they're clearly capable of playing some very stout defense.
On special teams, Washington has received solid placekicking from Cameron Van Winkle (11/13 FG's, 32/33 XP's), and are getting a hair over 40 yards per punt from Korey Durkee. They've also pooch punted 6 times already this season, which has to be some sort of record. The Huskies do struggle in kicking the ball out of the end zone on kickoffs, and are only managing a touchback rate of 22%. They've done well in covering those kickoffs, but they will give up plenty of chances.
In the return game, sophomore John Ross is the primary kick returner, and is averaging a little over 22 yards per return. The Huskies take touchbacks on just over 42% of their returns, and hopefully that trend continues. They also get about 12 yards per punt return from freshman Dante Pettis, which includes a touchdown last week against Colorado.
That concludes Part 1 of the Washington preview. Fire away with any additional comments, and be sure to check back in tomorrow when we preview Washington's offense.