SEATTLE – During Chris Petersen’s time at Washington, the Huskies’ rushing attack has never struggled as much as it did in Saturday’s 26-13 loss to USC.
The Trojans held the Huskies to 17 yards rushing on 27 attempts, including the lost yardage on their three sacks of Jake Browning.
UW sophomore Myles Gaskin did eclipse 1,000 yards for the second consecutive season, but his 51 yards and 3.4 yards per carry were both season lows. The Huskies had entered the game as the Pac-12’s most potent rushing offense.
Playing from behind, Gaskin had just four carries in the second half – all in the third quarter – and Browning attempted a season-high 36 passes, with 17 completions.
“That wasn’t the run game we like,” UW offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith said Wednesday. “We’ve got to be able to push and get some movement and create some holes for those guys. Because when we can stay in balance, we’re a whole lot better. When we get one dimensional, the pass rush makes it difficult, so we’ve got to be able to stay balanced.”
Smith said “physical matchups” were part of the issue; The Huskies hadn’t seen a defensive front as fast as USC’s, and UW’s offensive line struggled for the first time all season. Timing issues in the passing game were also factors.
“It was a group effort in the pass game, and we’ve got to get better,” Smith said. “We got one-dimensional, and that’s not what we want to be.”
Arizona State’s defense will present “unique” issues, Smith said, when the Sun Devils (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12) visit Husky Stadium on Saturday. Everyone knows that ASU likes to blitz, probably more than anyone. The difficulty is figuring how where all that extra pressure is coming from.
“They blow things up,” Petersen said.
The Sun Devils, in rallying from a 17-point deficit to beat UW 27-17 last year in Tempe, had four sacks of Browning, who attempted a career-high 52 passes in that game.
“There’s no secrets about what they’re going to do on defense: They’re going to bring pressure and they’re going to try hurt you with it,” UW senior offensive lineman Jake Eldrenkamp said. “To try to dial into what they’re doing is going to be our biggest challenge this week. I think we have a good, smart group of guys that’ll definitely help us.”
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