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Sports >  UW football

What to watch for when Washington wraps a tumultuous week by hosting ASU

UPDATED: Fri., Nov. 12, 2021

Inside linebackers coach Bob Gregory, left, is Huskies’ acting head coach against Arizona State on Saturday.  (Associated Press)
Inside linebackers coach Bob Gregory, left, is Huskies’ acting head coach against Arizona State on Saturday. (Associated Press)
By Mike Vorel Seattle Times

Arizona State (6-3) at Washington (4-5)

4 p.m. Saturday, Husky Stadium.

TV: FS1. Radio: SportsRadio 950 KJR.

Latest line: Sun Devils by 6.

UW key players

QB Dylan Morris: 60.4% completions, 1,920 passing yards, 11 pass TD, nine INT, two rush TD

RB Sean McGrew: 431 rushing yards, 4.0 yards per carry, eight rush TD, 41 receiving yards

ILB Carson Bruener: 39 tackles, two forced fumbles, 1.5 sacks, 1.5 tackles for loss, one INT

DB Dominique Hampton: 19 tackles, one pass breakup, one FF

Arizona State key players

QB Jayden Daniels: 67.3% completions, 1,880 passing yards, seven pass TD, seven INT, 482 rushing yards, 5.7 YPC, four rush TD

RB Rachaad White: 685 rushing yards, 6.0 YPC, 12 rush TD, 29 catches, 286 receiving yards, one receiving TD

LB Darien Butler: 60 tackles, 7.5 TFL, three INT, two sacks, two PBU

LB Kyle Soelle: 55 tackles, 5.5 TFL, one sack, one INT, one PBU

Bizarro World Washington

All the Washington Huskies have to do this week is endure the suspension of their head coach and the firing of their offensive coordinator, block out the inevitable noise accompanying those decisions, then beat Arizona State (6-3) on Saturday afternoon. But that’s it. Seriously, that’s everything. Under acting head coach Bob Gregory, interim offensive coordinator Junior Adams and elevated quarterbacks coach Payton McCollum, UW is understandably a six-point underdog, despite playing at home. The Huskies need to win two of their final three games to avoid missing postseason play for the first time since 2009. Can they eliminate distractions and execute on Saturday? Can Adams elevate an offense that managed to gain just 166 total yards in last weekend’s loss to Oregon? Can UW – to quote Gregory – “get over the hurdle”? We’ll find out soon enough.

Stuffing the run

If it seems like this is a key to every UW game, that’s because it usually is. In their 4-5 start, the Huskies rank 10th in the Pac-12 in opponent yards per carry (4.84) and 11th in rushing defense (195.78 yards allowed per game). UW has surrendered more than 200 rushing yards five times this season, and more than 300 yards twice. Most recently, Oregon exposed the Huskies for 329 rushing yards, 5.9 yards per carry and a pair of rushing touchdowns last weekend. On the other side, Arizona State is coming off of a 31-16 victory over USC that featured 282 rushing yards, 6.7 yards per carry and four rushing touchdowns – including 202 yards, 7.2 yards per rush and three scores by redshirt senior Rachaad White. Unsurprisingly, the Huskies are 1-4 this season when they surrender more than 200 yards on the ground. Run defense is usually the difference.

Finishing the fight

Ready for a shocking disparity? UW is the only team in the country that has scored on 100% of its red zone trips. And yet, the Huskies score touchdowns in the red zone just 65.38% of the time – ranking eighth in the Pac-12 and 50th in the nation. UW has struggled to finish drives, particularly recently. In last weekend’s 26-16 loss to Oregon, UW had offensive drives end on the Oregon 46-yard line, the 50, the Oregon 42, the Oregon 24, the Oregon 46 (again) and the Oregon 49. The Huskies scored zero points on those drives. Under Adams’ direction, can UW translate sustained drives into touchdowns? And might it take a change at quarterback to make that happen? Regardless, the Huskies will almost certainly need more than 16 points to stave off the Sun Devils on Saturday night.

Vorel’s prediction

UW would have been an underdog on Saturday, even if it hadn’t fired its offensive coordinator and suspended its head coach during the week of the game. The hurdle that needs clearing just got a whole lot higher. There’s little to suggest UW will be able to stop Arizona State’s running attack – featuring both White and dual-threat quarterback Jayden Daniels – on Saturday. And though Adams’ presence as the play-caller could marginally help, UW’s inability to run the football and inconsistent quarterback play is likely more than a one-week fix. Washington will need to force a couple of turnovers to pull a home upset. If that doesn’t happen, expect UW to fall inside Husky Stadium for a second consecutive week.

Final score: Sun Devils 31, Huskies 20

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