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UCLA Football at Washington Offensive Preview: Can the Bruin Defense Stop Browning?

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While the Huskies were highly touted at the beginning of the season, Jake Browning’s offense was held to only 13 points last week by the Sun Devils. Was it an anomaly or a sign that they’re beatable?

NCAA Football: California at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Ok, yeah, that was a pretty bold statement. Do I think we’re going to win on Saturday? Probably not. But one of the things we are going to see that we haven’t in the last few weeks is a more balanced offense on our opponent’s side of the ball. While Oregon and Arizona kept it on the ground because they were playing back up quarterbacks (because Khalil Tate appeared to be such a terrible quarterback), Washington has their guy and so far, a pretty even showing of scoring on the ground and in the air. But, one of the things we noticed last week when the Huskies played ASU was that Jake Browning is stoppable. If our defense can step up, we might actually have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning this game. Let’s take a look at the finer aspects of the U Dub offense.

Quarterbacks

Jake Browning is in the driver’s seat after finishing 2016 sixth in the Heisman voting and having offseason shoulder surgery. He is in the middle of 2017 with a 68% completion percentage after throwing 203 passes for an average of just under eight yards per completion. Additionally, he is #5 for UW in rushing, but on 31 carries he only has 41 yards. But don’t count him out—those 41 measly yards have also brought Washington four touchdowns, so when it comes to goal line stands, the quarterback sneak is definitely on their playlist. If you’re into numbers, Rosen’s completion percentage has been steadily dropping over the last five weeks, going from 66% at Stanford to 58% last week (he had a season high 88% completion percentage versus Hawaii, because, well, Hawaii...). Overall, he is at 63.5% on the season, which is higher than both 2015 and 2016, and he averages over eight yards per pass completed (and he isn’t even on the list for rushing statistics). So at this point, I’d say we’re pretty even in this category. Rosen has thrown over 100 passes more than Browning, but I’ll attribute that to the fact that Washington actually has a run game. One other Husky quarterback, K.J, Carta-Samuels, has logged stats in three games, presumably in garbage time. Let’s hope we don’t see this guy on Saturday unless Browning goes down.

Running Backs

While we’re on the subject, let’s talk Washington’s run game. Myles Gaskin MUST BE STOPPED. He is their Bryce Love, their Phillip Lindsay...you get the picture. He has 104 carries for 626 yards, and averages six yards per carry. Math majors will tell you it only takes an average of about 1.5 downs for this guy to convert. He had a season high 202 yards against Colorado, but only 67 yards last week at ASU. He has eight touchdowns this year, and there are only two Huskies that even come close to this guy. Lavon Coleman has 200 yards this year, and Salvon Ahmed has 174 yards. They account for only three touchdowns combined, but don’t count them out either. They both average just under five yards per carry, so we can’t throw our entire defense on Gaskin and forget about these guys. I have worried from the first game about our ability to stop the run, and Saturday will be no different.

Wide Receivers

John Ross was a big loss for the team last year as he was off to the NFL, but Washington still has solid options in this unit. Six Huskies are in the triple digits for receiving at this point, with Dante Pettis on top with 472 yards. He pulled in a massive 73 yard bomb for a touchdown versus Fresno State, and has six touchdowns to his name this year. Last week, he was held to just 56 yards against ASU, so either ASU’s defense was on fire or UW’s offense was just off last week. Don’t expect it to happen again, especially since they’ll be at home.

Offensive Line

Senior Shelton Coleman anchors the line at center, and he is surrounded by experience. Redshirt junior Jesse “Boomer” Sosebee and junior Trey Adams are on his left, and sophomore Nick Harris and redshirt junior Kaleb McGary are on his right. Boomer picked up the starting job at left guard in September and hasn’t looked back after beating out senior Adam Kirkland. According to new offensive line coach Scott Huff and an interview with USA Today, “He did a better job of communicating, seeing the looks and communicating with Trey (Adams) and Coleman (Shelton). That was probably the biggest thing, his overall consistency.” Adams is likely off to the NFL next year, and the rest of the line, while not quite as talented, is known for their toughness and physical ability. They finished 2016 getting shoved around by Alabama, but that was a learning experience that only made this unit better.

Analysis

Aside from Myles Gaskin, nothing stands out in this preview as glaring evidence that we’re going to get pounded on Saturday. Our weaknesses are going to be on defense, and unfortunately, coaching. The Dawg Pound and Bruins Nation exchanged questions and answers leading into this game, and Dimitri asked them if they still want Jim Mora. Anyone want to write that sales pitch?

Go Bruins!