In an effort to know this weekend’s opponent, the Washington Huskies, a little better (since we haven’t played them for a few years), the Bruins Nation team posed the following questions to John Sayler from the UW Dawg Pound, our SB Nation sister site that covers Washington.
BN: What went wrong last game against ASU?
UWDP: How much time do you have?
First, let’s give credit to the Sun Devils. They played really good defense and absolutely no one saw that coming. On offense, they weren’t great, but didn’t make any colossal mistakes. They flat out deserved to win that game.
UW made plenty of mistakes, especially on the offensive line. Jake Browning was confused by a complete change in the ASU defensive philosophy. Todd Graham’s defenses have always been blitz happy, but they almost never blitzed despite showing it on most plays. I don’t know how long Arizona State can keep it up, but they played well last week against Utah as well. ASU was able to get pressure on Browning with only a 3 or 4 man rush, and the UW offense was really never able to get in rhythm.
BN: Should UW still be a contender for the playoffs? Why or why not?
UWDP: Meh, I never thought their chances were great. Getting there two years in a row? The odds say that’s unlikely for a Pac-12 school. Also, this Husky team just doesn’t look as good as the 2016 version.
Yes, they can still make it. If they were to win out and be 12-1 and Pac-12 Champs, the resume would be good enough, depending on what else happens. Many think USC doomed the entire conference with their performance in South Bend last weekend, but if USC ends up only .500 in the conference, then it’s really not that big of a deal. Sadly, USC never helps anyone out and will probably start playing well now and it will be like the Alabama blowout at the beginning of last season where the pundits can do their favorite thing: point and laugh at the Pac-12.
BN: The Washington offense hasn’t looked nearly as good this season. Did Jake Browning take a step back, was John Ross that important to the offense, or is there something else going on?
UWDP: Yes. Yes. And yes.
Jake Browning put up some unreal numbers last season, especially in the touchdown passes category (43), so it may be a little unfair to say that he has regressed. When you have a season like that, you sort of become a victim of your own success. But even though his numbers have been very good this season, there has been a lot of discussion among Husky fans that he just doesn’t look as sharp.
John Ross and Browning had a really good connection going last season. Ross was damn near uncoverable and Browning would make timing throws to him based on trust. Ross also drew so much attention with his 17 TD receptions that it really opened up the passing game for the rest of the UW offense. This year, Browning hasn’t been uncorking throws with the same anticipation and confidence, and it has led to sacks and throw-aways.
BN: Despite the turnover, Washington still has the 2nd best defense in the country according to S&P. Who has stepped up and made the biggest impact on that side of the ball?
UWDP: It starts up front with the nasty, massive duo of Vita Vea and Greg Gaines. They are absolute monsters in the middle of the defensive line and give offenses all kinds of trouble with their ability to not only draw double-teams, but beat double teams. The linebacking corps is strong, even with pre-season All-Pac 12 inside linebacker Keishawn Bierria sort of being MIA and finding himself on the sideline in favor of the emerging Ben Burr-Kirvin.
The secondary lost 3 starters to the NFL draft, but has played really well this season. That was tested when freshman phenom Byron Murphy went down right before conference play began with a foot injury, but there was no drop off. Now the depth will be further tested as the other starting corner (Jordan Miller) was lost for the season last week. It’s getting thin out there at the cornerback position, just in time for college football’s most dangerous passer to come to town.
BN: What should Bruin fans know about the Husky rushing attack?
UWDP: They should know that the UW rushing attack is due to have a good game. After running all over Colorado in the Pac-12 opener and rolling up over 200 yards on the ground against Oregon State, the running game has been pretty quiet. The Huskies M.O. the past two seasons has been to struggle with the run a little in the first half, establish the passing game, then grind down opponents with the 1-2 punch of Lavon Coleman and Myles Gaskin in the second half. The veteran offensive line has not played up to expectations, and now left tackle Trey Adams must be replaced after tearing his ACL in the desert last Saturday.
BN: Besides Jake Browning, which Husky player should Bruin fans learn the name of before this week's game? What do you expect from him this week?
UWDP: This could be the breakout game for freshman running back Salvon Ahmed. He has been getting more looks since multi-purpose slot WR Chico McClatcher suffered a season-ending ankle injury, and with the bye week to prepare, we may see Ahmed get involved in a number of ways. He scored on a 50-yard reverse against ASU, but it was called back by an unnecessary (but blatant) holding penalty on a wide receiver. He is an explosive player which UW has been lacking so far this year. He got looks at WR and RB in camp, and I expect Ahmed to see the most action of his young Husky career on Saturday.
BN: Do you guys still want Jim Mora? I think we can get you a great deal on him.
UWDP: I’ll give you my half-eaten tuna sandwich and what is left in Sam Darnold’s hair conditioner bottle. Final offer.