University of Washington

Chris Petersen wants more big plays to help ‘painful’ passing game

Many adjectives have been used to describe the Washington Huskies’ passing game this season.

But Huskies coach Chris Petersen’s assessment after Saturday’s 44-30 loss to 18th-ranked UCLA was one of the most accurate.

The word Petersen used?


He isn’t wrong. Third-year sophomore quarterback Cyler Miles was 14 for 24 passing for 155 yards, again scrambling too often from the pocket – sometimes when he was supposed to, other times too early – as the Huskies again failed to develop any semblance of an intermediate or vertical passing game.

That’s been a problem all season. It’s why Washington’s offense has been so stagnant – the Huskies rank last in the Pac-12 in passing offense – and why the running game hasn’t been as consistent as the Huskies hoped.

Miles completed only six passes that gained 10 or more yards, and he was sacked three times. Aside from a 36-yard gain on a short pass to Deontae Cooper that was shortened due to a holding penalty, Miles’ longest completion was a 28-yard toss to freshman receiver Brayden Lenius.

“We just need to be able to throw the ball downfield a little bit more and make some plays,” Petersen said Monday. “It was nice, we got one to Brayden, a big chunk play. We had two other chances to Dante (Pettis) we couldn’t quite get done. We need to hit a few of those. We just need to be more efficient in there. Our run game is solid, but our run game could get better if we could pass the ball better.”

Petersen praised Miles’ throw to Lenius, which was placed perfectly on the receiver’s back shoulder. It wasn’t given to the Huskies by the defense; it was created by one player making an exceptional throw, and another player making the requisite exceptional catch.

In other words, it was the kind of play the Huskies haven’t executed enough this season.

That’s why Miles and the rest of UW’s offense needs to learn how to “throw balls under pressure, put them in there when guys are tightly covered and make more plays,” as Petersen said. “It was good to see Brayden Lenius kind of make a play. That was really good execution. Just more of those things. Cyler threw it on time, threw it to his outside shoulder, Brayden kind of holds the line, fades, catch it outside. When a ball is thrown perfectly and caught perfectly, to me, there’s no defense for it.”

Kikaha update

Hau’oli Kikaha, the UW’s career and single-season sack leader, left Saturday’s game with a shoulder stinger, but Petersen said he was “running around” at Monday’s practice and “should be” OK for the Huskies’ game at Arizona on Saturday.

“As long as he can keep progressing, I think we’ll be OK,” Petersen said.

Ross still at corner

The Huskies made one semi-significant change to their depth chart this week, moving sophomore John Ross III’s name to the top of the list at one cornerback position.

Ross moves ahead of freshman Naijiel Hale, who started the UCLA game and was badly beaten on a first-quarter touchdown pass. Another true freshman, Sidney Jones, is still the starter at the other cornerback position.

Top cornerback Marcus Peters was dismissed from the program last week, necessitating creativity at that position. Ross is also the Huskies’ leading receiver with 371 yards on 17 catches, and returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown last week.

“I think we’d like to see what he can do over there at that corner position,” Petersen said. “Again, it’s hard to split reps, especially when a guy is new and young to a position.”

OSU kickoff set … sort of

Washington’s Nov. 22 home game against Oregon State will air on the Pac-12 Network and will kickoff at either 6 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. The exact game time should be decided by Sunday.

Christian Caple: 253-597-8437