For the first time in three years as Washington’s head football coach, Chris Petersen spent his Monday press conference talking about how well the Huskies played in their season opener.
Last year, they began the season with a 16-13 loss at Boise State in which they rushed for only 29 yards on 22 carries.
The year before, the Huskies escaped with a 17-16 victory against a Hawaii team they were expected to defeat easily.
But here was Petersen on Monday, discussing the Huskies’ 48-13 demolition of Rutgers in their 2016 season opener, and sounding a little cheerier than he did following the first two openers of his UW tenure.
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On UW’s offensive line: “I thought they pass protected really well. I thought that pocket was extremely clean most of the time. There was a little bit of pressure, but you’re going to get that. I thought it was as good as it looked, overall, since I’ve seen it.”
On UW committing only three penalties: “We didn’t have one flag on offense or special teams, so we were really pleased with that. I don’t know if I’ve ever had that in a first game.”
On UW’s first touchdown, a 43-yard pass from quarterback Jake Browning to receiver Chico McClatcher: “The execution was really good. The pass protection was good. Jake throws a really accurate, good deep ball. So I think there was a lot of that going on.”
Indeed, there was plenty to like about the way the 14th-ranked Huskies played against the overmatched Scarlet Knights. And with another inferior opponent visiting Husky Stadium on Saturday — Idaho is an early 37-point underdog — UW will have a chance to refine the few areas in which it did not particularly excel last week.
The most glaring was the running game; sophomore tailback Myles Gaskin totaled only 57 yards on 15 carries, and the Huskies managed just three yards per rush as a team.
“We’ve got some work to do there,” Petersen said. “That’s the style of our offense. If people are going to load up and bring those safeties downhill and try and stop the run, then hopefully we can throw the ball a little bit over their heads. It’s a cat-and-mouse game. But I think we can run the ball better. I would hope so.”
Alabama officially announced the hiring of former Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian as a special assistant to the offense.
Sarkisian, who coached UW from 2009-13, was fired last September by USC after allegedly showing up intoxicated to a team meeting. A lawsuit brought by Sarkisian against USC for breach of contract and wrongful termination is reportedly in arbitration.
Alabama’s offensive coordinator is Lane Kiffin, one of Sarkisian’s close friends. The two coached together at USC in the mid-2000s and Sarkisian replaced Kiffin as USC’s coach in December 2013.
Petersen said the injury that kept sophomore defensive lineman Jaylen Johnson from playing on Saturday is not a long-term ailment. … The Huskies added three walk-ons to their roster this week: offensive lineman A.J. Kneip and long snapper Luke Lane from Bellevue High School, and punter Luke Porter from O’Dea. … Sixteen UW players made their collegiate debuts on Saturday: true freshmen Brandon Wellington, Aaron Fuller, Taylor Rapp and Nick Harris; quarterback Tony Rodriguez; linebackers Benning Potoa’e, Kyler Manu, Bryce Sterk, DJ Beavers and Jusstis Warren; receivers K.J. Young and Andre Baccellia; defensive linemen Jared Pulu, John Clark and Ricky McCoy; and offensive lineman Jared Hilbers.
HUSKIES OPPONENT THIS WEEK
IDAHO VANDALS (1-0 overall, 0-0 in Sun Belt)
2 P.M. SATURDAY, HUSKY STADIUM, PAC-12 NETWORKS, 1000-AM/97.7 FM
COACH: Paul Petrino (7-29 in fourth season at Idaho and overall)
AGAINST THE HUSKIES: Washington leads the series 35-2-2.
SCOUTING REPORT: Picked by league head coaches to finish eighth out of 11 teams in the Sun Belt this season after posting a 4-8 record last year, Idaho began its season with a three-point home victory over Big Sky foe Montana State. The Vandals led the game 20-7 in the second quarter before the Bobcats, coached by former UW assistant Jeff Choate, made it interesting. … Idaho totaled 225 yards rushing on 35 attempts, a healthy average of 6.4 yards per carry. Junior tailback Aaron Duckworth led the Vandals with 108 yards rushing on 14 carries, including a 43-yard touchdown run. The passing game didn’t fare quite as well. Junior quarterback Matt Linehan completed only 8 of 22 passes for 128 yards and an interception. Deon Watson led the team in receiving with two catches for 67 yards. … Defensively, third-year sophomore linebacker Tony Lashley led the Vandals with nine tackles and three tackles for loss, including one sack. Senior safety Russell Siavii had an interception, and Idaho held MSU to 300 yards of total offense and 4.1 yards per play. … This is Idaho’s penultimate season as a member of the Sun Belt. The Vandals will drop to the FCS in 2018 and compete in the Big Sky. … The Huskies are favored by 37 points. They were 26-point favorites last week against Rutgers.
DID YOU KNOW: Idaho defensive coordinator Mike Breske held the same position at Washington State from 2012-14 under coach Mike Leach.
2016 IDAHO VANDALS SCHEDULE
Sept. 1: W, 20-17, vs. Montana State
Sept. 10: at Washington
Sept. 17: at Washington State
Sept. 24: at UNLV
Oct. 1: vs. Troy
Oct. 8: at Louisiana-Monroe
Oct. 15: vs. New Mexico State
Oct. 22: at Appalachian State
Nov. 5: at Louisiana-Lafayette
Nov. 12: at Texas State
Nov. 26: vs. South Alabama
Dec. 3: vs. Georgia State