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What to watch for when Washington attempts to rebound against Michigan

Washington's Richard Newton (6) carries the ball as Montana's Corbin Walker (8) moves in to defend in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, in Seattle.  (Associated Press)
By Mike Vorel Seattle Times

UW key players

QB Dylan Morris: 226 passing yards, 58.7% completions, one rush TD, three interceptions

RB Richard Newton: 62 rushing yards, 3.6 yards per carry, four catches, 23 receiving yards

CB Trent McDuffie: two tackles, two pass breakups

LB Jackson Sirmon: nine tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss

Michigan key players

QB Cade McNamara: 136 passing yards, 81.8% completions, two pass TD

RB Blake Corum: 111 rushing yards, 7.9 YPC, one rush TD, two catches, 22 yards, one receiving TD, 79 kick return yards

DE Aidan Hutchinson: four tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, one blocked kick

LB Josh Ross: six tackles, two QB hits, 0.5 TFL

Establishing the run

Remember that running attack that was supposed to be the lifeblood of the Husky offense this season? Well, it didn’t show up in last weekend’s loss to Montana, mustering just 65 rushing yards and 2.4 yards per carry. While Richard Newton carried the ball 17 times, there was little variety in a supposedly stacked running back room. Redshirt freshman Cameron Davis received just four carries, Kamari Pleasant didn’t get one and sixth-year senior Sean McGrew didn’t play for reasons that were not explained. With UW’s top four wide receivers unavailable against Montana, and perhaps against Michigan, the Husky running attack needs to be able to consistently move the chains. We’ll see if they can do that against a defense that struggled in that department last season, surrendering 178.9 rushing yards per game and 4.16 opponent yards per carry.

Vorel’s prediction

When we published our game-by-game predictions roughly a week ago, I picked the Huskies to earn an impressive 27-21 win in a marquee nonconference match up on the road at Michigan. But that was before four starting wide receivers went down, the running game sputtered, the offensive playbook evaporated and a ranked Washington team produced the worst loss in program history at home against Montana. Now, it’s hard to imagine how the Huskies could rebound in “The Big House” against a legitimate Big Ten opponent. UW will struggle to move the ball against Michigan, with a one-dimensional offense failing to establish the line of scrimmage. Meanwhile, Corum and fellow Michigan running back Hassan Haskins will wear down UW’s defensive front seven. For UW fans, this is going to get worse before it gets better.

Final score: Wolverines 28, Huskies 14