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Sports >  UW football

Things to watch: No. 15 Washington hits the road for first time in battle of unbeatens against UCLA

Sept. 29, 2022 Updated Thu., Sept. 29, 2022 at 5:11 p.m.

By Mike Vorel Seattle Times

No. 15 Washington (4-0) at UCLA (4-0)

Latest line: Huskies by 3.5

UW key players

QB Michael Penix Jr.: 64.3% completions, 1,388 passing yards, 12 pass TD, 1 INT

WR Rome Odunze: 18 catches, 293 receiving yards, 16.3 yards per reception, 2 TD

LB Alphonzo Tuputala: 23 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks

Edge Bralen Trice: 14 tackles, 7 TFL, 4.5 sacks

UCLA key players

QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson: 74.8% completions, 896 pass yards, 8 pass TD, 1 INT, 170 rush yards, 8.2 YPC, 2 rush TD

RB Zach Charbonnet: 293 rushing yards, 6.8 YPC, 4 TD, 87 receiving yards

LB Laiatu Latu: 10 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 pass breakup

LB JonJon Vaughns: 20 tackles, 2 PBU, 1 INT, 0.5 TFL

Hitting the road

UW has looked consistently dominant in four home wins, outscoring opponents 176-76 (including 149-40 in the first three quarters). But how will the Huskies fare on the road? UW was 2-3 away from Husky Stadium in 2021, and prior to a 31-24 win in the Rose Bowl in 2018, the Huskies had lost their previous eight games at UCLA. But this is a new era – and besides, UW coach Kalen DeBoer has history in the Rose Bowl. Last fall he led Fresno State to a dramatic, final-second 40-37 road victory over the No. 13 Bruins. UCLA has struggled to draw fans this fall, so it shouldn’t be a particularly intimidating scene on Friday night. But the Huskies need to prove they can continue to execute in any environment. That starts with a legitimate road test against an undefeated opponent.

Containing Thompson-Robinson

The Huskies have yet to encounter a quarterback with as complete a skill set as Dorian Thompson-Robinson. The UCLA senior is completing 74.8% of his passes this season and has thrown for 896 yards with eight touchdowns and just one interception, while adding 170 rushing yards and two more scores. The UW pass rush, though strong last weekend against Stanford, has struggled to contain more slippery dual threat quarterbacks. That’s what the Huskies – who lead the Pac-12 with 15 sacks – will see Friday. It’s also critical the Husky pass rush gets home, considering starting corners Jordan Perryman and Mishael Powell and safety Asa Turner may be out again with injury. Last fall, “DTR” was efficient in a win inside Husky Stadium – completing 21 of 26 passes (80.8%) and throwing for 183 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 87 yards and another score. UW must ensure the same story doesn’t play out again on Friday.

Finishing drives

Though UW’s offense has been inarguably solid in its first four games, the Huskies have encountered trouble in the red zone – ranking 10th in the Pac-12 in red-zone touchdown percentage (64%). UW was limited to three red-zone field goals against Stanford, after twice being stuffed on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line against Michigan State. Eventually, the Huskies are bound to play a close game, and red zone efficiency will be paramount. It will be up to quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and his wide receivers to execute and a rushing attack that ranks seventh in the Pac-12 in both rush yards per game (162) and yards per carry (4.56) to efficiently push the pile. UCLA’s opponent red-zone touchdown percentage (60%) ranks seventh in the Pac-12. Though UW has cruised thus far, field goals probably won’t cut it against UCLA.

Vorel’s prediction

UCLA may not be as good as its record indicates, especially considering it needed a last-second field goal to escape with a 32-31 win over South Alabama. The Bruins’ other wins have come against Bowling Green, Alabama State and Colorado (perhaps the worst Power Five team this season). That doesn’t mean the Bruins aren’t dangerous, though, as Thompson-Robinson and running back Zach Charbonnet should be difficult for the Huskies to consistently contain. But there’s little to suggest UCLA will slow Penix and Washington’s prolific passing attack. As they have, expect Penix to find a rhythm and the UW defense to force a turnover or two. DeBoer will win inside the Rose Bowl for a second consecutive season (though this one won’t be quite so close).

Final score: Huskies 38, Bruins 27

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