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Sports >  UW football

What to watch for when UW hosts Portland State, plus Mike Vorel’s prediction

Sept. 9, 2022 Updated Fri., Sept. 9, 2022 at 7:47 p.m.

By Mike Vorel Seattle Times

Washington (1-0) plays host to Portland State (0-1) on Saturday at Husky Stadium at 1 p.m. The Huskies, 28.5-point favorites, are led on offense by QB Michael Penix Jr. (67% completions, 345 passing yards, four pass TD, 0 INT, 27 rushing yards) and WR Jalen McMillan (five catches, 87 yards, 2 TD). On defense, UW got solid performances in week one from LB Alphonzo Tuputala (8 tackles, 1 tackle for loss) and edge Bralen Trice (four tackles, 1 sack).

Avoiding the letdown: Let’s face it, it’ll be hard for the Huskies not to look ahead to the Sept. 17 match up against Michigan State. After all, UW has won its two meetings against Portland State – in 2012 and 2016 – by a combined score of 93-16, and the looming Spartans will provide an opportunity to make a national statement in the third game of the Kalen DeBoer Era (and with the eyes of the Big Ten watching as well). But after falling to Montana in its 2021 season opener, UW needs to avoid suffering a similar fate against another FCS opponent inside Husky Stadium. The Huskies can do that by stymying dual threat quarterback Dante Chachere, distributing the football to a wide array of play makers, avoiding costly turnovers and keeping quarterback Michael Penix Jr. upright. But most importantly, they can do it by respecting their opponent – which produced more total yards and first downs than Mountain West program San Jose State in a near upset last week.

Corralling Chachere: As stated above, Chachere can get it done with both his arm and legs – and the sophomore showed that against San Jose State. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound QB completed 65% of his passes, threw for 270 yards and ran for 83 more against an FBS opponent. Don’t forget, either, that UW struggled to corral mobile Kent State quarterback Collin Schlee last week, as he was sacked just once and rushed for a team-high 47 yards. This is a test that UW’s edge players – Bralen Trice, Jeremiah Martin, Zion Tupuola-Fetui and Sav’ell Smalls – should pass with flying colors. It’ll also be an opportunity for UW’s cornerbacks, specifically Mishael Powell and converted safety Julius Irvin, to gain confidence following an uneven performance against Kent State. In short: UW’s defense should dominate.

Spreading the love: UW involved three running backs and 10 pass catchers against Kent State, and that variety is by design. DeBoer said following last week’s win that featuring such a wide array of playmakers “keeps them mentally into it throughout the week, when they know they’ve got a role in our game plan from the beginning. It’s not, ‘Oh, I hope I get subbed in.’ There is a specific role. So there are personnel groupings, and every week it changes. I love seeing the ball get dispersed.” It’s up to quarterback Penix to do that, and the fifth-year lefty was not sacked in an impressive UW debut last week. It’ll be important for both Penix and an inexperienced UW offensive line to produce a sequel against a Portland State defense that compiled seven sacks against San Jose State. If Penix stays upright, wide receivers Rome Odunze, Jalen McMillan and Co. should enjoy another productive day.

Vorel’s prediction: Call it a cliché, but DeBoer compels his players and coaches to maintain a “1-0 mindset” – focusing on winning each individual day and week. As long as they do that, the Huskies will have little trouble sprinting past Portland State. Penix – should he stay protected – will feed his wide receivers and tight ends, and UW’s edge rushers will harass Chachere as well. Look for a UW defense that forced three turnovers against Kent State to continue that trend on Saturday. The Husky special teams should also bounce back after surrendering a pair of long kickoff returns, as well as a Giles Jackson fumble, against Kent State. This will be a complete performance – and a confidence-building appetizer before the nonconference showcase against Michigan State.

Final score: Huskies 48, Vikings 10

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