Next Saturday Arizona State (5-1, 3-1 Pac-12) will visit Washington (5-2, 1-2 Pac-12) for the first time since 2010 and it will also be the Sun Devils first time in the newly renovated Husky Stadium. It's fitting then, that the Huskies offense has been completely retooled as well. While the team from Seattle has a few returning pieces on both sides of the ball, this is a far cry from last year's squad that featured the likes of Keith Price under center and stud running back Bishop Sankey behind him.
Perhaps the most interesting new facet of this Washington team won't actually play Saturday. The Huskies have a new head coach in Chris Petersen after Steve Sarkisian took the USC job. It's Petersen's first season in the Pac-12 and his first game against Arizona State as a Pac-12 head coach after he beat the Sun Devils with his Boise State team in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas in 2011. Petersen went 92-13 as head coach of the Broncos with five top-11 finishes, that hasn't quite reflected itself this season.
UW this season
With sophomore quarterback Cyler Miles suspended for the first game of the season at Hawaii, another sophomore Jeff Lindquist was forced to step in and take his place and the Huskies struggled mightily. If it wasn't for the strength of their defense that allowed just six second half points, it could have been a different story for Washington which held on for a 17-16 win. Sophomore wide receiver John Ross was the star of the game for the Huskies, catching two of Lindquist's 10 passes for 96 (of 162 total yards passing) for Washington.
The Huskies did a 180 degree turn the following week in a high-scoring affair with Eastern Washington the following week, coming away with a 59-52 victory. The teams combined for 1,109 yards of total offense in Miles first game at quarterback. Although the Huskies jumped out to a 21-0 lead, it took a 5-yard run for a touchdown by Miles to give Washington a 52-45 lead, a lead they kept for the rest of the game. The Huskies had 356 yards rushing but also 10 penalties for 100 yards.
UW finally got their first convincing win, 44-19, at home the next week against Illinois. The Huskies had a balanced diet of the run and pass, with 245 yards on the ground and 216 through the air. Washington showcased a number of running backs, but Ross and junior wide receiver Jaydon Mickens combined for seven catches for 149 yards and a touchdown in the victory.
A tale of two halves developed the following week against Georgia Southern. The Panthers jumped out to a 14-0 lead at halftime but UW got their act together in the second half on their way to a 45-14 win. UW forced four turnovers and held the Panthers to just 68 yards on the ground. Miles had three touchdown passes and 154 yards in the rally.
The Huskies first loss came at the hands of what was then the No. 16 Stanford Cardinal. Miles was sacked four times and only had 98 yards passing on the day. UW failed to execute a fake punt which gave Stanford excellent field position midway through the fourth quarter. The Cardinal took advantage a few plays later on a Kevin Hogan touchdown run to give Stanford a 20-13 lead. Washington couldn't find any more points the rest of the afternoon. The Huskies were also limited to just 81 yards on the ground.
After a bye week, UW recovered with a fairly stout defensive performance against Cal which led them to a 31-7 victory over the Bears.The Huskies recovered three of five forced fumbles and sacked Cal quarterback Jared Goff four times, holding the Bears to 64 yards rushing. What made it more impressive is that the team from Berkeley had scored 50 points or more three times already coming into the season.
UW faced their second true test of the season last Saturday against then No. 9, now No. 6 Oregon in Eugene. The Ducks proceeded to embarrass the Huskies with a stout offensive performance to secure their 11th straight win over UW. Oregon running back Royce Freeman ran all over the Huskies with 29 carries for 169 yards and four touchdowns. The Ducks had 554 yards of total offense and held Miles to 184 yards passing on 38 attempts and were up 28-6 by halftime in route to a 45-20 win over the Huskies.
UW on offense
The Huskies have the potential to do more damage with their feet than relying on Miles' arm. They're averaging 191.5 yards per game on the ground compared with 181 through the air. Miles himself can move around a little bit, averaging 2.2 yards on 50 carries this season. A majority of the snaps, however, are split between sophomore Dwayne Washington and redshirt freshman Lavon Coleman. The latter is the smaller of the two backs at 6-foot-0, 215 pounds, but is averaging 68.3 yards per game and has a higher per carry average at 4.4. Washington (the player, man this is going to get confusing...) has more touchdowns (3).
Washington left the game against Oregon Saturday in the first quarter and didn't return to action, but Arizona State will need to prepare for both backs. Miles also left the game Saturday with a concussion and Peterson elected to use redshirt freshman Troy Williams at quarterback, we'll try and update you on these injuries as the week progresses.
The offensive line is very experienced and is led by 6-foot-7, 313-pound senior Ben Riva at right tackle. At right guard is James Atoe who stands 6-foot-7 and weighs 375 pounds. Senior center Colin Tanigawa has almost two years of starting experience, left guard Dexter Charles is a fourth year junior and left tackle Micah Hatchie is a two-year starter and senior as well. Washington averages 309 pounds across this front and Miles has only been sacked 11 times through seven games. Todd Graham will need to draw up some exotic blitz packages against this front five in order to get into the backfield. Charles left Saturday's game against Oregon in a walking boot so his status for next week is up in the air.
In the receiving corps, the only two players you need to focus on are junior Jaydon Mickens and sophomore John Ross. They've combined for 46 of Washington's 96 completions, 659 or 1,086 yards and six of 10 receiving touchdowns. Ross is the much bigger play threat, averaging 27.1 yards per reception.
UW on defense
Hau'oli Kikaha and Danny Shelton highlight an explosive defensive line which is responsible for 22 sacks and 30 tackles for loss this season. Shelton leads the team with 49 tackles while Kikaha leads the teamwith 10 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. They're allowing just 3.1 yards per rush on the ground.
The best of the linebackers is junior Shaq Thompson, who is second on the team with 46 tackles and has an interception with three forced fumbles and fumble recoveries. He's just a playmaker and good things seem to happen for UW whenever he is around the ball.Senior John Timu will line up alongside Thompson, he has 46 tackles and an interception to his credit as well.
In the secondary, it all starts with junior corner Marcus Peters, but freshman Budda Baker has been a nice addition to the Huskies' secondary as well and sophomore Kevin King is another name to watch. Peters has the most experience though and under the bright lights in an important home game for the Huskies, they'll have to lean on him to stop Bercovici, Kelly, Strong, and the rest of the highly potent Sun Devil offense.
UW on special teams
Freshman Dante Pettis has handled the punt return duties, returning 15 punts for an average of 10.9 yards. John Ross handles most of the kick returns where he has the potential to break loose. He has returned 11 kicks an average 23.5 yards this season. The Huskies don't kick a lot of field goals, but Cameron Van Winkle has been there when they need him, hitting 7 of 8 through the uprights. Korey Durkee has been an incredibly solid punter, averaging 42 yards per punt on 30 punts this season, pinning 12 of those inside the 20-yard line with nine fair catches and seven punts of over 50 yards.