Welcome back, Richard Newton.
The redshirt freshman running back returned for Washington’s 19-7 victory over Oregon State on Friday night. It was his first game since suffering an injury during the Huskies’ loss to Stanford on Oct. 5, and he carried the ball 17 times for 54 yards.
Newton was back running the wildcat and, more importantly, back serving as one of UW’s top options on third and fourth down. His first attempt came on third-and-1 in the first quarter. Newton promptly rushed for 10 yards.
“He brings a different mentality to our offense and our run game,” said head coach Chris Petersen. “That was nice to get him back and try to get him going.”
The Huskies went to him again on fourth-and-1 in the third quarter and Newton picked up 2 yards. He wasn’t as successful on fourth-and-1 early in the fourth quarter.
Not only does Newton’s return give UW a reliable third down and red zone option for the final games of the season, but fellow running back Salvon Ahmed also said Newton’s presence boosts his performance. Ahmed rushed for 174 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries, an outing that included a 60-yard touchdown run. He said having Newton on the field pushes him to be a more physical runner.
“I see Rich running hard, and I’m like, ‘I need to run harder,’” Ahmed said. “He inspires me and makes me a better player every day. We go out there and we practice and try to push each other. … You feed off your teammates and you feed off their energy. Rich brings great energy every time he’s out there on the field. You can see the passion in his eyes every time he runs the ball. He wants that first down.”
Sean McGrew, the third member of UW’s main running back rotation, dressed but didn’t have a carry against the Beavers. He missed the game against Oregon with an injury and had just one carry for 6 yards in last week’s loss to Utah.
Joe Tryon’s surge
In UW’s last two games, outside linebacker Joe Tryon has totaled 13 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. The numbers are eye-popping, even more so when you consider the eight games that came before. Heading into the game against Utah, Tryon had 13 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and two sacks on the season.
So, what’s gotten in to Tryon?
“Not thinking as much,” he said after the win over Oregon State. “Just going out there thinking you can dominate and be ready to think less.”
Petersen sees Tryon’s confidence growing because of it.
“This game is such a game of confidence,” Petersen said. “The defense had it and Joe Tryon leading the way. They’re really picking up steam. … He’s a long guy that can really bend the edge. I do think we’re getting really good push up the middle and making it hard for the quarterback to step up. It kind of all fits together really nice.”
Defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake said Tryon’s effort is spreading throughout the defensive line. The Huskies finished with four sacks, seven tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries in the victory over the Beavers.
“It’s fun to hear the D-line chatter,” Lake said. “They’re going back-and-forth. They’re competing with each other, saying, ‘Hey, I’m going to get more sacks than you.’ You can kind of hear them. … It’s just awesome. Those guys are competing against each other and trying to raise the bar.”
Entering UW’s game against Utah, quarterback Jacob Eason had thrown three interceptions on the season. In the last two games, he’s thrown four, including two that were returned for touchdowns.
The victory over Oregon State was Eason’s worst performance of the season. He completed just 16-of-32 passes for 175 yards and no touchdowns. The running game carried the offense as Eason struggled to connect with receivers. Only four players caught a pass, led by tight end Hunter Bryant’s five receptions for 90 yards.
There were drops, under-thrown passes, misses on wide open targets. Tight end Jacob Kizer was twice open on plays where Eason went another direction. The first happened in the first quarter when Eason launched a deep pass to Andre Baccellia. The ball was under-thrown, and Baccellia bobbled and dropped it. Later, Eason under-threw Bryant when he had Kizer open over the middle.
Then there was the pick-six, which pulled Oregon State within 13-7. Eason was looking for Aaron Fuller, but the ball was easily picked by Jaydon Grant and returned 36 yards for the touchdown.
Asked what Eason should have done differently, Petersen was direct.
“Not throw it there, for sure,” Petersen said. “That’s not where it should go. … He’ll have some of those and he’ll learn from it. It is what it is.”
The Huskies will now have another off week before returning to face Colorado on the road. While the defense is coming off its best outing of the season, the offense will be looking to get back on its feet.
“On offense, we ran the ball well,” Petersen said. “We could’ve run it better if we had anything going in the pass game, but for whatever reason, it was out of sync. I thought in the first half we had a couple chances to make plays on balls, but guys were jumping early, mistiming them, just the whole thing was out of sync most of the game. Made it tough sledding for most of the game.”
Wide receiver Ty Jones dressed for the second straight game and saw his first action of the season. Jones, who injured his hand before the season and will redshirt, didn’t have a reception. ... Inside linebacker Brandon Wellington left the game and didn’t return. Petersen said he got “dinged” in the head.