University of Washington

Huskies get plenty accomplished before Pac-12 rematch at Colorado

Washington’s Hunter Bryant (19) tries to fend off Fresno State’s Jeffrey Allison as he runs after a pass reception for 50 yards in the first half Saturday in Seattle.
Washington’s Hunter Bryant (19) tries to fend off Fresno State’s Jeffrey Allison as he runs after a pass reception for 50 yards in the first half Saturday in Seattle. The Associated Press

From the sound of his voice, Chris Petersen, normally a harsh evaluator, gave a favorable grade on his Washington Huskies through three non-conference games.

The good

▪  Jake Browning is in midseason form at quarterback. His coming off back-to-back games against Montana (22-for-26; .846) and Fresno State (19-for-22; .864) where he registered two of the top five performances in school history for completion percentage. He has totaled seven touchdowns (six passing, one rushing) and one interception in six quarters of play.

▪  The Huskies’ defense has been in takeaway mode. Their seven turnovers rank 14th in the country. The UW has forced at least one turnover in each game.

▪  Important to Petersen is developing depth. Through three games, the Huskies have played 77 players.

The bad

Petersen would have loved more than 92 rushing yards on 30 carries. To be fair, after building a 34-0 lead in the first half, the Huskies went to conservative play-calling in the second half with Fresno State crowding the line of scrimmage with nine players.

“We’ve learned some things, and made improvements in some areas,” Petersen said.

Now is when things start getting serious for the Huskies as they begin Pac-12 play this Saturday at Colorado.

And this isn’t any normal conference opener. It is the rematch of the Pac-12 championship game this past December in Santa Clara, California, which the Huskies won, 41-10.

“On our side, this is brand new. That (conference title game was) a long time ago,” Petersen said. “The rhythm of our team is completely different. We are still trying to figure some things out. We go on the road, which changes it for sure. This will be a big challenge. It is a heck of way to open the Pac-12 season.”

It is the second time in back-to-back seasons that the Pac-12 championship games participants opened conference play the following year. Stanford and USC played in the second week in the 2016 season.

There was some hope that this matchup of undefeated teams would be amplified by the possibility that ESPN College GameDay would be coming to Boulder, Colorado. The network announced Sunday that it would be traveling to New York City instead.

The Buffaloes have taken care of business so far, too. Granted, like the Huskies, they have played a soft non-conference schedule (Colorado State, Texas State, Northern Colorado), having never left home.

The obvious difference with this Colorado squad is the change at quarterback. Bellarmine Prep product Sefo Liufau graduated this past spring, and new starter Steven Montez is coming off a career game against Northern Colorado with 357 passing yards.

The Buffaloes also had to replace eight defensive starters from last season.

“Last year is last year. They’ve got much different personnel ... and we do, too,” UW tailback Myles Gaskin said. “I might watch a little bit of that film just to get (reacquainted with their) schemes. But there are different guys playing out there, so it will be a different game.”