Sixth-ranked Washington faces three teams as they come off byes this season. This Saturday it’s the Oregon State Beavers, and that has Huskies coach Chris Petersen wary.
“They’re just sitting over there, tweaking their (system), really studying themselves, studying what they do well and what they need to clean up, so it makes you better,” Petersen said earlier this week . “And then along with that, they study you for a couple weeks. We’re just last night getting into those guys. I know this: They haven’t done what they’ve wanted to do the first four games.”
Indeed. Oregon State (1-3, 0-1 Pac-12) has taken the bye to figure out how to get better. But the Beavers are facing considerable odds against the defending Pac-12 champions.
The game at Reser Stadium will be their first this season without starting quarterback Jake Luton, who injured his back two weeks ago in a 52-23 loss at Washington State.
Luton, a transfer from Ventura Community College, was diagnosed with a thoracic spine fracture and his return to the team is uncertain. Senior Darell Garretson gets the nod against the Huskies in his place.
Garretson started the first six games last season and threw for 617 yards and three touchdowns, with four interceptions.
The Huskies (4-0, 1-0) were a nearly four-touchdown favorite over the Beavers. Garretson will be facing a team that is allowing opponents just 11.8 points a game to rank 10th in the nation in scoring defense.
The Huskies’ D is allowing an average of just 274 yards a game and they’ve forced seven turnovers.
“I don’t believe we’ve represented ourselves the way that we should as a football team as a whole, and that’s just not the wins and the losses. That’s the overall package,” Beavers coach Gary Andersen said at his weekly press conference. “That is extremely frustrating to me and we’ve talked about that.”
REPLACING CHICO: Washington’s offense took a hit this week when speedy wide receiver Chico McClatcher was lost for the season to a broken left ankle. McClatcher was hurt in the third quarter of the win over Colorado last week.
While Washington loses its No. 2 receiver, it also loses one of its most versatile players. McClatcher was used as a running back and on kickoff returns for the Huskies as well. He had 34 receptions and five touchdown catches last season.
The Huskies are likely to use a handful of players to fill McClatcher’s role, but look for freshman Salvon Ahmed to get some more opportunities as a runner and receiver with McClatcher sidelined.
NALL EMERGES: Ryan Nall emerged against Washington State with 118 yards and two touchdowns – including a 45-yard scoring run. He also caught three passes for 12 yards. But Oregon State will need others to contribute. Nall found success against the Cougars starting with sophomore running back Artavis Pierce, but overall Oregon State is ranked 92nd in the nation with an average of 135.3 rushing yards a game.
LOST AND FOUND: After seeing its run game plod through the first three weeks, the Huskies rediscovered that potent aspect of their offense thanks to Myles Gaskin.
The Huskies rushed for 254 yards as a team against Colorado, including a career-best 202 yards from Gaskin. He had rushed for 163 yards in the first three games combined.
Washington’s offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage and Gaskin’s patient running style allowed them time to create space. Now the Huskies face an Oregon State defense that’s allowing nearly 200 yards rushing per game.
DANTE’S QUEST: Dante Pettis is still looking for an NCAA record.
Pettis has eight career punt return touchdowns, tied for the most in NCAA history. He returned punts for touchdowns in each of the first three games this season, but Colorado denied him a record fourth straight game with a punt return TD. Pettis didn’t get a single punt return against the Buffaloes, who were determined not to let him break free.
THE LAST TIME: Last season it was the Huskies coming off a bye. Jake Browning threw for 291 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-17 victory. Washington has won five straight in the series and the team has averaged 43.8 points in those five games.
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