University of Washington

Chris Petersen: Huskies’ game at Utah ‘by far’ toughest test of the season

Huskies coach Chris Petersen talks Monday after Oregon State

Washington coach Chris Petersen talks with the media Monday, Oct. 24, 2016, in Seattle.
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Washington coach Chris Petersen talks with the media Monday, Oct. 24, 2016, in Seattle.

It wasn’t Stanford.

Not the way the Washington Huskies stomped the Cardinal, 44-6, before a sellout crowd Sept. 30 at Husky Stadium, even though Stanford was ranked No. 7 at the time.

It wasn’t Oregon, either. The Huskies buried the reeling Ducks, 70-21, the next week before a sellout crowd at Autzen Stadium.

So there isn’t much disputing UW coach Chris Petersen’s claim Monday that Washington’s 12:30 p.m. Saturday game at No. 17 Utah — with ESPN’s “College GameDay” in Salt Lake City — represents the Huskies’ most arduous obstacle so far this season.

“I think their record proves out,” Petersen said of the Utes, who are 7-1 overall. “Going on the road, that’s a really great environment to play in, all those types of things across the board. This will by far be our toughest test.”

In fact, Utah will be the first team the Huskies (7-0, 4-0 in Pac-12) face this season that currently holds a Pac-12 record above .500, and the Utes are the only other Pac-12 team with seven victories. This will be Washington’s first trip to Salt Lake City since 2011, a 31-14 UW victory.

And while the Utes haven’t been statistically dominant like the Huskies — Utah ranks in the bottom half of the conference in both offensive and defensive yards per play, and scoring offense — they’ve managed to win four of five games decided by seven points or fewer, including last week’s 52-45 victory at UCLA. They’ve done it with an opportunistic defense that leads the country in turnover margin (plus-14).

Utah also has won 10 of its past 11 games at Rice-Eccles Stadium, where it has sold out 42 consecutive games and will have the national TV exposure from ESPN.

“I know their fans will be really excited,” Petersen said. “That’s usually what happens. It brings quite a bit of energy to the stadium. I think there’s going to be really good energy in that stadium whether ‘GameDay’ came or not. This probably just pours a little more energy into the stadium.”

BUDDA A FINALIST

UW’s Budda Baker is one of 16 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, given annually to the nation’s top defensive back.

Baker, a junior, is third on the team with 31 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss. He also has an interception, forced fumble and half-sack.

NO CAL KICKOFF TIME

The kickoff time for Washington’s Nov. 5 game at California will not be announced until Sunday, after ESPN exercised its use of the six-day scheduling window.

TEDFORD DEAL

Jeff Tedford, the former California coach whom the Huskies hired this season as a consultant, is being paid $50,000 over a four-month period for his services, according to records furnished by the UW. His contract, signed July 11, expires Dec. 31.

Tedford’s name has been mentioned recently in connection with the Fresno State head coaching job, vacant after the firing Sunday of coach Tim DeRuyter. Tedford said in August that his goal is to be a head coach again.

EXTRA POINT

Petersen said again that he hopes to get senior defensive end Joe Mathis back from injury, though he repeated there is no timeline for Mathis’ return. Mathis, UW’s sacks leader, missed last week’s game against Oregon State because of an undisclosed injury.

HUSKIES OPPONENT THIS WEEK

NO. 17 UTAH UTES (7-1 overall, 4-1 in Pac-12)

12:30 P.M. PT SATURDAY, RICE-ECCLES STADIUM, FOX SPORTS 1, 1000-AM, 97.7-FM

Coach: Kyle Whittingham (102-47 in 13th year at Utah and overall)

Against the Huskies: Washington leads the series 8-1.

Scouting report: Utah has achieved its 7-1 record with a series of close wins against Pac-12 opponents. The Utes’ lone loss was 28-23 at California, and Utah claimed victories decided by 7 fewer points against USC, Oregon State and UCLA, in addition to a 20-19 nonconference victory over rival Brigham Young. … The Utes aren’t particularly outstanding statistically on either side of the ball. They rank 67th nationally in offensive yards per play and 68th in yards per play allowed; they have the 90th-most efficient passing offense in the country, and rank 55th in yards per rush; they’re 67th nationally in yards per rush allowed; and they’re 34th nationally in pass defense efficiency. Their scoring defense, though, at 21.6 points per game, is 31st-best nationally, and fourth-best in the Pac-12. … One stat where Utah stands out: interceptions. The Utes lead the Pac-12 with 14 picks, which is also tied for the national lead. And they rank 20th nationally with 22 sacks. They also lead the Pac-12 in net punting average. … Utah’s quarterback is fourth-year junior Troy Williams, who spent his first two collegiate seasons at Washington but transferred following the 2014 season, Chris Petersen’s first as UW’s coach. … Williams is 128 for 229 for 1,725 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions this season. He also has rushed for 145 yards and five touchdowns. … Utah’s leading rusher is Joe Williams, who retired after the Utes’ second game before returning to the team amid injuries to other Utah running backs. Since his comeback, he has rushed for 511 yards on 63 carries in two games, including a 332-yard performance in last week’s 52-45 victory at UCLA.

COUGARS OPPONENT THIS WEEK

OREGON STATE BEAVERS (2-5 overall, 1-3 in Pac-12)

7:45 P.M. SATURDAY, RESER STADIUM, ESPN2, 710-AM

Coach: Gary Andersen (4-15 in second year at Oregon State; 49-46 in eighth year overall)

Against the Cougars: Washington State leads the series 50-47-3.

Scouting report: The Beavers are beat up. Last week at Washington, OSU started third-string quarterback Marcus McMaryion due to injuries to starter Darell Garretson and backup Conor Blount, and McMaryion likely will get the nod again this week. He completed 12 of 26 pass attempts for 148 yards and two interceptions against the Huskies. … OSU also played without leading rusher Ryan Nall and No. 2 running back Artavis Pierce. Tim Cook filled in as the primary back and took 18 carries for 108 yards. … Senior receiver Victor Bolden is OSU’s most dynamic offensive playmaker, which he showed on a 75-yard touchdown run last week at UW. He’s OSU’s second-leading rusher with 297 yards on 19 carries. He’s also the team’s second-leading receiver with 27 receptions for 255 yards. Former quarterback Seth Collins, who converted to receiver last offseason, leads the team with 286 receiving yards. … OSU has the least-efficient passing offense in the country, and only one FBS team has thrown fewer touchdown passes than the Beavers’ four (Wake Forest). … The Beavers’ pass defense is actually pretty good, ranking 15th nationally in yards per attempt allowed and 21st in pass defense efficiency. Senior cornerback Treston Decoud leads the team with two interceptions. … Overall, OSU’s defense allows 5.55 yards per play and 32.3 points per game, a figure not helped by the Beavers’ anemic offense.

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