University of Washington

UW finding balance, rhythm as it forms offensive identity

UW head coach Chris Petersen analyzes win over BYU

Washington head coach Chris Petersen talks about the Huskies 35-7 victory over BYU and looks toward Saturday's game against UCLA.
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Washington head coach Chris Petersen talks about the Huskies 35-7 victory over BYU and looks toward Saturday's game against UCLA.

Washington’s first series against BYU lasted five plays, 24 yards and two minutes, 38 seconds. The Huskies didn’t get much of anywhere, and the drive ended with a punt.

That was the first and only time the Huskies punted against the Cougars. The Huskies scored touchdowns on five of their next seven possessions, missing field goals on the other two.

UW’s best offensive performance of the season ended with a 35-7 victory over BYU.

The Huskies entered the game averaging 27.3 points per game, 21.3 excluding their 45-3 victory over FCS opponent North Dakota. Their 21 points at the break against the Cougars were more than they scored by halftime in any other game this season.

It helped that three of UW’s first five drives ended in touchdowns, including its second series of the game. That marked the fourth consecutive game the Huskies scored a touchdown on their first or second drive.

Offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan said early success stems from finding a rhythm on the opening series.

“With our openers, we script them,” Hamdan said. “A lot of things are in play there: Who touches the ball, trying to find some different looks to see what the defense will give us.

“It’s always an art to those first and second drives, getting those guys going and getting some early confidence.”

Sometimes, those scripts go awry, like the Huskies’ double pass attempt on the first play of their first drive against Arizona State.

That resulted in an interception and a Sun Devils touchdown, but head coach Chris Petersen said after the game that UW wouldn’t stop attempting trick plays. The Huskies scored a touchdown on their next drive to tie the score.

Petersen said Monday he didn’t believe the improving offense was a result of a blossoming relationship between Hamdan and quarterback Jake Browning. Their connection has been strong from the beginning, Petersen said, the offense is just starting to figure out its identity.

When asked what that identity looked like, Petersen had a simple answer. It’s what he aims for every year.

“Multiple. Balanced,” he said. “That’s what I would hope.”

UW’s ground game struggled to get going early in the season, which Petersen previously said was expected. Since it’s more difficult for teams to practice running the ball in game situations, he said it takes longer for that part of the offense to get up to speed.

Wide receiver Aaron Fuller said it helps that the offensive line has started to come together. The group has dealt with several injuries — including left tackle Trey Adams’ reportedly season-ending surgery — throughout the early part of the season.

Getting the offense going, Fuller said, comes down to getting the details right.

“I think starting off we had a bunch of penalties,” he said, “especially in the red zone and things like that.”

In the past two games —a 27-20 victory over Arizona State and a 35-7 win over BYU — the Huskies seem to have found the balanced offense Petersen expected. They finished with 171 rushing yards and 202 passing yards against the Sun Devils. Against BYU, they had 187 yards on the ground and 277 passing yards.

After averaging 64 rushing yards in the first two games of the season, running back Myles Gaskin has averaged 103 yards over the past three games.

“It always starts with the run game and our ability to do things off of that,” Hamdan said. “Anytime we can get in there early and do the stuff we did on the ground and create explosives off of it, it gets this offense going.”

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