It looked like all hope was lost. It looked like the Huskies were about to fall to a team that entered Friday with college football’s longest losing streak at 18 consecutive games. It looked like they would fall to 2-5 on the season and reach the lowest point of an already devastating season.
It was far from pretty. Actually, for a Friday night in late October, you might’ve mistaken the Huskies’ showing in Tucson as a horror flick. But despite giving Husky fans a scare, Washington managed to do just enough to take down the winless Wildcats.
Here are three observations from the game and a look at what’s next.
Delivering in the clutch
After trailing 16-7, Arizona was marching toward another score in the fourth quarter. Arizona seemed content to protect the ball at all costs and wind down clock, but big players make big plays and that was the case as DL Tuli Letuigasenoa jumped in front of a play-action pass by Arizona’s Will Fuller for a crucial interception to turn the tide.
Dylan Morris fed off the momentum, taking UW down the field in each of the next two series after scoring just once all night previously, delivering a touchdown strike to Rome Odunze to put the Huskies ahead 21-16.
The late-game heroics provided a veneer for what otherwise was an atrocious outing for the Husky offense. For most of the game, you’d think the Huskies were playing Alabama. Instead, they faced a Wildcat team that had allowed a Pac-12-worst 32 points per game. And yet, at halftime, the Huskies were outgained 65-150, while QB Dylan Morris had completed 6 of 10 passes for a measly 35 yards.
The previously lifeless Husky offense found a pulse in the second half, though. Morris began spreading the field with deep passes and after starting the night with six straight drives ending in punts, the Huskies found the end zone three times. It was just enough to eek past a winless Arizona team, but the heat will no doubt be turned up on Jimmy Lake and first-year offensive coordinator John Donovan.
Stopping the run
There was plenty of blame to go around Friday, and the offense wasn’t the only unit to struggle. With Arizona down two QBs, the Huskies knew they needed to stop Stanley Berryhill III, Stevie Rocker Jr. and the Wildcats’ rushing game, but — as has become a theme in 2021 — the running game burned Washington again.
With Arizona QB Will Plummer content to dink-and-dunk all night, the Huskies should’ve been able to key on the run and load the box. But even still, the Wildcats scratched and clawed their way to 218 rushing yards, getting 6-yard bursts by their running backs seemingly at will. As Times reporter Mike Vorel pointed out, Arizona’s longest run entering Friday night was 23 yards, before rattling off runs of 52 and 34 yards in the first half against Washington.
UW may have snuck away with a win, but the Pac-12 is loaded with talented running games — far better than the Wildcats have to offer. If UW can’t find a way to wrap up and stop the run, the Huskies are going to have trouble beating any of the remaining teams on their schedule.
Speaking of beating competitive teams … Pac-12 Hotline columnist Jon Wilner points out the three opponents the Huskies have beat this season (Arkansas State, Cal and Arizona) have yet to win a single game. So while, yes, the Huskies have three wins, they aren’t exactly wins to write home about.
Friday’s win did, however, put UW squarely back into the mess that is the Pac-12 North race at the moment. And also gives the Huskies a fighting chance to reach 6 wins and a bowls. Wilner also points out that if Oregon and Oregon State both lose Saturday, there will be a four-way tie atop the North with the Oregon and Washington schools.
UW next faces Stanford on the road before home games against Oregon and Arizona State. Then, the Huskies wrap up with Colorado and WSU.