Petersen reiterates that the Huskies need to get more touches for freshman Salvon Ahmed.
Washington was the best team in the Pac-12 in 2016. It was also the conference’s most “explosive” team.
Need a quick reason for the Huskies’ offensive regression this season? Start with those big plays.
The Huskies were No. 1 in the conference last year in explosive plays, with 234 total plays of 10 yards or more (or 16.7 per game). Within that, they were also No. 1 with 30 passing plays of 30 yards or more (or 2.14 of those per game).
This year, UW ranks No. 7 in the Pac-12 in explosive plays, with 147 plays of 10 yards or more — down to 14.7 of those per game.
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Star receiver John Ross certainly made things look easy at times last season, and he no doubt made things easier for Jake Browning and the rest of the offense. He is the fastest player to ever put on a UW uniform, and replacing his production this year was always a significant hurdle for the Huskies.
“I mean, I think John Ross, he’s a first-round draft pick,” UW coach Chris Petersen said Monday. “I don’t care what position you go first round, that guy is a game-changing player.”
Hurting the Huskies, too, are the loses of three of their top five receivers to season-ending injuries — Chico McClatcher, Quinten Pounds and freshman tight end Hunter Bryant. Browning has fewer targets to throw to, and even fewer receivers with meaningful experience.
Sophomore Aaron Fuller (eight catches, 129 yards) has come on the past two games, and sophomore Andre Baccellia appears as healthy as he’s been all season. Petersen also singled out Ty Jones, a 6-foot-4 true freshman who has three catches for 25 yards this year.
“Ty Jones works his tail off in practice. You just love that. You know good days are ahead for him,” he said.
“I think we have firepower,” he added. “I think on offense we would just like to be more consistent than we’ve been. At times we show really good offensive football. At times it’s like, ‘We can play better than this.’”
Because Stanford held on to the ball for 36 minutes, the Huskies had just 10 possessions, matching their season low, in Friday night’s 30-22 road loss.
Myles Gaskin rushed for 120 yards on 18 carries en route to his third consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season. But Stanford did well to limit senior receiver Dante Pettis (five catches, 41 yards) — and limit UW’s big plays in general. The Huskies also were just 2-for-8 on third downs. (Stanford, meanwhile, was 10-for-18 on third downs.)
“They hold on to the ball for a long time and it’s no secret, that’s kind of what they do, so I think you got to make your possession counts all the time, but especially against them,” Browning said after the game. “And we had the first three-and-out (to start the second half) and then just misfired on a couple things. I know there’s some things I could have done better too.”
Petersen acknowledged, too, that the Huskies need to do a better job of getting the ball to true freshman Salvon Ahmed, who had just two offensive touches Friday (one rush for 4 yards and one catch for 11 yards).
“We’ve got to find creative ways to still get him involved,” Petersen said. “He’s done a nice job each week, and we would like to try to figure out somehow how to get him more involved.”