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History shows Huskies’ running game will come around

Washington running back Myles Gaskin, right, has been limited to 24 carries for 153 yards this season. (Elaine Thompson / AP)
Washington running back Myles Gaskin, right, has been limited to 24 carries for 153 yards this season. (Elaine Thompson / AP)
By Adam Jude Seattle Times

SEATTLE – The baseline numbers suggest there is a problem brewing with the Huskies’ rushing game.

Washington’s recent history suggests otherwise.

As they prepare for their Pac-12 opener on the road this week, the No. 7 Huskies (3-0) rank ninth in the conference in rushing yards, with 389 in three games. Their 4.27 yards per carry ranks eighth.

In Saturday’s rout of Fresno State, the Huskies had 92 yards rushing on 30 carries. For a team with designs on another run to a conference championship, that kind of performance won’t be good enough over the course of a full season.

As they prepared for their Pac-12 opener on the road, a similar question came up at this time a year ago: What’s wrong with the UW run game?

In 2016, the Huskies answered with 352 yards on 51 carries in an overtime win at Arizona.

UW coach Chris Petersen described the run game as “a work in progress” on Monday, but he didn’t seem overly concerned about it.

“The running game takes a minute,” he said. “I watch everybody’s run game. It is kind of hit or miss at times. I think it’s when you get into a rhythm and get enough touches and carries and build some confidence that if you can get some positive things going, guys start to believe in things.”

The Huskies haven’t had much chance to build momentum in the run game.

Because of Rutgers’ slow-it-down style, the Huskies ran just 54 plays in the opener. They have had back-to-back blowouts of Montana and Fresno State. They probably should have put up bigger rushing numbers in those games, but the reality is the Huskies were playing many of their third- and fourth-string players in the second halves of those games – and those defenses were loading up the box with eight or nine guys, knowing the Huskies were just trying to run down the clock.

“No team runs the ball well with nine in the box,” quarterback Jake Browning said.

In the first half of their first three games (with starters in), the Huskies are averaging 5.2 yards per carry – 198 yards on 38 carries. In the second half (with mostly backups in), they are averaging 3.6 yards per carry – 53 carries for 191 yards.

Through three games, star running back Myles Gaskin had just 24 carries for 153 yards and three touchdowns. That’s an average of 6.4 yards per carry. His career average coming into this season was 5.77 yards per carry. Hardly reason to panic there.

In 2016, Gaskin didn’t have his first 100-yard rushing game until Week 5 against Stanford. He went on to finish second in the Pac-12 with 1,373 yards rushing.

“Of course you want all the big stats in the rushing game, being the running back, but we’re winning games so it doesn’t really matter, you know what I mean?” Gaskin said Saturday. “Keep winning games, I don’t have a problem with it.”

In 2016, the Huskies ran the ball better once Pac-12 play started. They averaged 4.5 yards per carry in their three nonconference games against Rutgers, Idaho and Portland State. Against Pac-12 defense, they averaged 5.7.

They were even better against Colorado in the conference championship game. Gaskin (159 yards) and Lavon Coleman (101) both rushed for more than 100 yards, and the Huskies finished with for 265 yards rushing on 54 carries.

That was the most Colorado allowed to anyone last season.

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