If you have nothing better to do at 2 p.m. Saturday, you might consider watching the No. 8 Washington Huskies host the Idaho Vandals. If you decide to do such a thing, here are five things to know about the game.
1. The Huskies probably will run the ball a lot.
They likely will do this for two reasons. The first is that for all of the good that UW’s offense did last week against Rutgers, it did not run the ball well. Myles Gaskin finished with 57 yards on 15 carries, and the Huskies averaged three yards per rush as a team. Of course, the Scarlet Knights tailored their game plan to stop the run, and the Huskies took advantage of that look by throwing the ball deep.
The second reason is that Idaho simply isn’t very good, so this is an opportune time to install a run-heavy game plan and give everyone a bunch of repetitions in that area. And if the Huskies jump out to a big lead —as they’re expected to — they can pretty much just run the ball the entire second half if they want.
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“Every week, you’re going to have something to improve on,” UW offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith said. “But we definitely want to run the ball better than we did last week.”
2. Idaho has a good punter.
A really good punter, in fact. Austin Rehkow, a senior from Spokane, was a Lou Groza Award semifinalist last season and ranked seventh in the country with an average of 45.9 yards per punt. (You might recognize his name from the time he made a 67-yard field goal while playing for Central Valley High School.)
It’s worth noting, though, that while Rehkow consistently punted the ball farther last season than nearly everyone else, the Vandals weren’t great at preventing returns. They ranked 70th nationally, with an average of 8.58 yards per return allowed, and will be kicking on Saturday to UW junior Dante Pettis, who returned a punt 68 yards for a touchdown last week and has four punt-return scores in his career (tied for the most in UW history).
Pettis said he hopes Rehkow continues to punt the ball deep.
“Honestly, as a punt returner, we kind of like it when they kick it further, because it just gives us a little more space,” Pettis said. “Hopefully the conditions are good on Saturday, and he’ll be able to get a few off pretty far and I’ll have some space.”
Rehkow handles kickoffs, field goals and extra points for Idaho. He made 23 of 27 field-goal attempts last season, with a long of 48, and 41 of his 74 kickoffs last season were touchbacks.
3. Local ties
Idaho’s roster includes 14 players who list hometowns in the greater Tacoma-Seattle area, including one from Lakewood (freshman receiver Christopher Hunter, a Lakes High School alum) and two from Seattle (senior cornerback Jayshawn Jordan and junior defensive end Will Schmidt, both of whom prepped at O’Dea).
Another familiar name is Kevin Shelton, the younger brother of former UW star and current Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Danny Shelton. Kevin Shelton is a junior defensive lineman for the Vandals and, like Danny, played his high school ball at Auburn High.
4. How focused will Idaho be on John Ross?
While offering praise of Ross’ three-touchdown day against Rutgers, UW coach Chris Petersen noted that the Huskies can’t rely solely on their speedy junior receiver. Opponents, Petersen said, will scheme with Ross in mind, and try to eliminate some of the things he does.
“It can’t just be the John Ross show,” Petersen warned.
If Idaho does concentrate more on Ross — or simply avoids defending him with one isolated defensive back, the way Rutgers did — the Huskies’ other offensive playmakers, such as Pettis, Gaskin and Chico McClatcher, could have more freedom to make plays.
“We do have some other firepower,” Petersen said, “and that should help balance things out, I think.”
5. Budda Baker could play some more offense.
Actually, Smith all but said that Baker will see the field on that side of the ball again this season. Baker, UW’s star junior free safety, took the first offensive snap of his career against Rutgers, a one-yard loss on a fly sweep handoff.
But Smith says he thinks Baker eventually could have a more expansive offensive role.
“We’re still working through the kinks of where that is,” Smith said. “Definitely want him to be more than a fly sweep guy only.”
WASHINGTON (1-0) VS. IDAHO (1-0)
2 p.m. Saturday, Husky Stadium, Seattle
TV: Pac-12 Network. Radio: 1000-AM, 97.7-FM.
The series: Washington leads, 33-2-2.
The pick: Washington 58, Idaho 10.
1 — John Ross, WR (5-9, 190, jr.): What will he do for an encore after scoring three TDs in the opener?
7 — Keishawn Bierria, LB (6-1, 221, jr.): Led team with 12 tackles last week.
9 — Myles Gaskin, RB (5-10, 195, so.): Should get plenty of carries in first half.
32 — Budda Baker, DB (5-10, 192, jr.): Could play some on offense as well.
10 — Matt Linehan, QB (6-3, 220, jr.): Went 8 for 22 on passes last week against Montana State.
11 — Russell Siavii, S (6-2, 220, sr.): Returned INT 33 yards vs. Montana State.
23 — Aaron Duckworth, RB (5-8, 203, jr.): 108 yards, 2 TDs last week.
33 — Tony Lashley, LB (6-1, 236, so.): 9 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack in opener.
Christian Caple: email@example.com