Bob Gregory is not a killer.
Nor is he a particularly transparent interim head coach.
Which is why, when Gregory — UW’s defensive coordinator, turned temporary head coach — was asked Monday to divulge the plan for freshman quarterback Sam Huard in Friday’s Apple Cup, he said: “I could, but I’d have to kill you. So, no. I’m not going to divulge … no injuries, no quarterback updates. So you guys are probably done (asking questions), right?”
The media was not, in fact, done asking questions.
But, when it comes to the quarterbacks, questions remain.
Redshirt freshman Dylan Morris has started each of his team’s first 11 games, completing 60.6% of his passes while throwing for 2,458 yards with 17 total touchdowns and 12 interceptions. However, the Huskies included a second quarterback in each of the last two games — with Huard leading three drives in the 35-30 loss to Arizona State, then graduate transfer Patrick O’Brien earning two drives in last weekend’s 20-17 loss to Colorado.
The results have not been promising. Huard’s three ASU drives resulted in a pair of punts and a nine-play touchdown march that included zero pass attempts. In all, he completed 3 of 5 passes for 20 yards. A week later, O’Brien’s two drives yielded the Huskies’ only two three-and-outs. He completed 1 of 3 passes for 1 yard.
But, considering Huard — a former five-star recruit, and the most prolific passer in the history of the state — can play in one more while still preserving his redshirt, would it make sense for him to start against Washington State? And considering UW is officially disqualified from postseason play, what would be the harm in seeing what the young lefty can do with an extended audition?
Again, for now, there are more questions than answers.
The answers will arrive on Friday, whether Husky football fans like them or not.
Combating the Cougs
UW hasn’t played Washington State since 2019.
These aren’t the same Cougs.
In 2019, Mike Leach’s final season at the helm, WSU ran the football just 16.2 times per game — nearly 10 times fewer than the second-most-pass-happy team in the country.
In 2021, Washington State averages 30.6 rush attempts per game — still just 11th in the Pac-12 and 117th in the country.
But now, at least, the Cougs present a realistic threat in the running game.
“I think the one thing they’re doing different and effectively is running the ball,” Gregory said Monday. “And I expect them to run the ball against us since that’s been tough for us, especially in the second half of games. So, I expect those guys to run the ball. Their back, (Max) Borghi, No. 21, is doing a nice job. And (they have) another quarterback that can move the chains with his feet, too. So, we’re going to have to do a good job stopping the run up front.”
UW enters Friday’s game ranked just eighth in the Pac-12 in opponent yards per carry (4.73) and 11th in rushing defense (192.64 yards allowed per game). The Huskies improved in that area in last weekend’s loss at Colorado, surrendering just 71 rushing yards and 2.6 yards per rush.
But considering UW touts the country’s top statistical pass defense, expect the Cougs to lean on their running game on Friday.
And that starts with Borghi, who has produced 894 total yards with 5.4 yards per carry and 10 touchdowns.
“I think the scheme helps him. Certainly by spreading everything out and spreading the defense out, it creates lanes for him,” Gregory said of Borghi. “He does a nice job, in terms of he’s got a nice little speed cut and he does a great job of the stiff-arm. I think he’s underrated. The guy has done a really nice job this year. We’ve seen him for a few years now and I think this is his best year so far.”
WSU senior running back Deon McIntosh has added 575 total yards with 5.1 yards per carry and three touchdowns as well.
- Gregory said he didn’t see anything mechanically amiss with sixth-year center Luke Wattenberg’s two bad snaps that turned into lost fumbles in the loss at Colorado. “Luke is one of our stalwart veterans,” Gregory said. “He’s an awesome kid. He’s a really good center. He’s going to play in the NFL. And we had a couple of bad exchanges. It seems like that’s the way it’s gone a little bit this year for us on offense. Other than that, that’s what it was — bad snaps. The first one, bad handling by the quarterback a little bit too.”
- While a number of sixth-year seniors will play their final games for UW on Friday, punter Race Porter is enjoying perhaps the finest season of the bunch. The former walk-on from Seattle is averaging 48.04 yards per punt, which ranks fifth in the country. He has booted 20 punts of 50 yards or more and 19 inside the opponent’s 20, with just two touchbacks. “You don’t have a lot of punters or specialists that are leaders, and he is a leader,” Gregory said. “I think the kids really gravitate toward him. He has great energy at practice and he booms a punt and he gets fired up. Yeah, we’re going to miss that guy. He brings a lot to the table, especially as a punter.”
- As stated earlier, Gregory declined to provide any injury updates on Monday. A number of proven contributors — namely, tight end Cade Otton, wide receiver Terrell Bynum, running back Sean McGrew, outside linebacker Zion Tupuola-Fetui and defensive lineman Faatui Tuitele — missed the Colorado game with unspecified injuries. A UW spokesperson confirmed last weekend that Tupuola-Fetui’s injury is not related to his previously torn Achilles tendon.
- Gregory said the team will have a walk-through on Thursday morning, after which they will gather for Thanksgiving dinner.