The junior running back had just 14 yards in the season-opening loss at Boise State.

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Dwayne Washington knows he has something to prove, and he hopes to get more chances to do so out of the Huskies’ backfield.

The junior running back had just 14 yards on eight carries in the Huskies’ 16-13 season-opening loss at No. 23 Boise State on Friday, and Washington as a team had a meager 29 yards rushing on 22 carries.

Washington wants more, and the Huskies will obviously need more from the ground game if they hope to improve an offense that managed just 179 total yards in the opener.

“That’s the plan, to be that main running back,” Washington said Wednesday. “But as far as this offense, we do a lot of rotation. But, yeah, I would like to be that guy.”
When healthy, Washington averaged 12 carries per game last season, and never more than 19 in a game. His breakthrough November — in which he had three consecutive 100-yard games to close out the regular season — had many forecasting him as UW’s best offensive weapon coming into this season. He did have a team-high seven catches for 53 yards against Boise, but Washington said he expects better production in the running game.

“The coaches, they’ve just got to trust what I do,” he said. “I have to give them that mindset that they can’t take me off the field. I’ve got to build trust with my quarterback and my coaches.”

That freshman quarterback Jake Browning, who is hardly considered a running threat, had UW’s longest run (12 yards) sums up how much UW’s rushing attack struggled against Boise. Yes, UW was playing with an entirely new combination on the offensive line. The line held up well enough in pass protection, benefiting often from a tight end (or two) helping to block, but the blocking in the run game struggled.

“We definitely need to create more of a crease for the back,” UW offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith said. “At the same time, we’re not going to be able to block everybody; the back’s got to be able to make some guys miss, and we’ve got guys who can do that.”

Boise State’s defensive game plan dared the Huskies to run the ball.

“We talked to those (Boise) coaches after the game — obviously, we’re still close to them — and they were going to live in Cover 2 until we proved we proved we could run the ball,” Smith said. “Well, they were playing Cover 2 and we couldn’t run the ball.”

That, in turn, limited some of the things the Huskies were able (and unable) to do in the passing game. Smith said he called “four or five” deeper pass plays that didn’t end up going downfield, part of that dictated by Boise’s coverage. Smith said he hopes to stretch the field more going forward.

“Everything’s easier when you run the ball, no question. But at the same (time) you can’t just bang your head into some walls, and if that’s not effective you find some other answers. That’s part of the role I’m in, is to find some other answers and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Dwayne Washington hopes to be a big part of the solution. A converted receiver, Washington has shown flashes of his potential in the past. At 6-feet-2, 226 pounds, he has exception size to go along with his impressive speed (his 4.42-second 40-yard time was the fastest on the team during winter testing). But coaches have noted that he needs to run with a lower pad level, be more dependable on short-yardage situation and hold on to the ball. (Against Boise, he also fumbled once in the first half against Boise, a ball the Huskies wound up recovering.)

“I had a rough game,” he said, “but you’ve just got to move forward. … We’ve just got to be more detailed on our assignments on offense and just get the ball going faster.”

Behind Washington, true freshman Myles Gaskin, the former O’Dea star, was first off the bench; he gained just five yards on five carries against Boise. Sophomore Lavon Coleman had one carry for minus-2 yards, and the Huskies had just one rushing first down.

The Huskies were without reserve backs Deontae Cooper and Jomon Dotson last week with undisclosed injuries. Both have a chance to return this week.

With Browning’s emergence at quarterback, Washington said there are encouraging signs heading into Saturday’s home opener against Sacramento State.

“We started off slow, but Jake surprised me in the second half,” Washington said. “He’s a young guy, but he’s not the type of person to just (drop) his head. He’s always going to keep his head up and stay positive throughout the whole process of the game. With me being by his side, I’m going to take care of him and he’ll take care of me.”