It will be easy to forget amid the disappointment of Washington’s 27-26 loss to No. 17 Arizona on Saturday, but the Huskies appear to have rediscovered their running game.
And they didn’t even need Shaq Thompson to do it.
Sophomore tailback Dwayne Washington, limited the past few weeks by a chest injury — and then by Thompson’s emergence — rushed for a career-best 148 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries against the Wildcats.
The highlight was a 66-yard touchdown run up the left sideline that gave the Huskies a 17-7 lead in the second quarter.
Huskies coach Chris Petersen said last week that Thompson would return to his preferred position of starting linebacker, a move Thompson requested after serving as UW’s primary ballcarrier in its last three games.
“Dwayne’s an explosive player, so if you get him a little space, he can run away from some guys,” Petersen said. “And so the O-line did a good job for the most part, created some seams, and he’s pretty good at hitting those.”
As a team, the Huskies totaled 245 yards rushing on 60 attempts — an average of 4.1 yards per carry that includes two sacks and 24 yards lost on fumbles.
But Washington, who did not speak to reporters afterward, was the centerpiece.
“He did a good job. And not only having some patience in the hole at times, but then finishing runs,” offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith said. “He’s running through tackles. He’s a workhorse, and he did a great job today. It really helped us, offensively, to be able to run the ball.”
Of course, it wasn’t all good. Deontae Cooper, a fifth-year senior having a productive season in his limited touches, fumbled with 1 minute. 23 seconds remaining to set up Arizona’s game-winning field goal.
That’s why Petersen didn’t regret giving the ball to Cooper in that situation.
“Coop’s been sure-handed,” he said. “He’s done a great job of protecting the ball all year, and sometimes those things happen.”
Lavon Coleman added 31 yards on 12 carries, Cooper finished with 38 yards on 12 carries, and, including sacks and lost fumble yardage, quarterback Cyler Miles rushed for a net of 34 yards on 15 attempts.
Miles, who did not speak to reporters afterward, also completed 21 of 30 passes for 223 yards. The Huskies gained 504 yards total.
“Definitely, at times, he was a little more decisive,” Smith said of Miles. “I thought he ran hard when he ran. And we called a couple quarterback runs straight for him that I thought he ran hard on. He did some really good things. The turnover at the end of the half – we got a horrible snap again, but he’s got to diminish the negative there, which hurt.”
Miles and center Colin Tanigawa again struggled to connect on a handful of shotgun snaps. But Smith said those hiccups weren’t any more frustrating than any of UW’s myriad other errors on Saturday.
“Any time you lose, everything’s disappointing,” Smith said. “There’s things that need cleaned up. Penalties. You can see the problem wasn’t moving it – it’s finishing the drives, and then holding onto the thing.”