The No. 12 Huskies used the ground game on Saturday to tally 44 points en route to a blowout win over UCLA at Husky Stadium.
The morning fog lifted and the sun shined down on Husky Stadium. To the east, the boats gathered on the edge of Lake Washington. To the west, the yellow, orange and red leaves provided a vibrant backdrop.
The setting was everything one could hope for from fall afternoon in late October. Almost perfect even.
Inside, the No. 12-ranked Huskies didn’t play a perfect game for a rare afternoon kickoff Saturday. But they did do just about everything they wanted in a 44-23 victory over UCLA, rushing for 333 yards and owning the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
In the process, the Huskies (7-1, 4-1 Pac-12) provided an important response to their confounding offensive issues in a defeat at Arizona State two weeks ago and kept alive their hopes of a second consecutive conference title.
“I’m proud of how those guys played,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said. “It was good to get back on the field and get it done.”
Following their 13-7 setback at Arizona State, the Huskies were idle for a week, meaning they had extra time to stew over a performance that at the time looked like it might derail the team’s larger aspirations this season.
The Huskies’ plan against UCLA (4-4, 2-3) was to keep things simple on offense. And they did just that, running the ball on 58 of their 70 offensive snaps and gaining those 333 yards against a UCLA defense ranked dead last in the FBS against the run.
The Huskies did it in their first game without their All-Pac-12 left tackle, Trey Adams, who went down with a season-ending knee injury against Arizona State. Myles Gaskin rushed for 169 yards and a touchdown, Lavon Coleman had 94 yards and three touchdowns, and freshman Salvon Ahmed added a spark on offense and special teams.
“It was just getting back to basics,” Coleman said. “It was getting back to how we play football: physical, hard-nosed, Washington football.”
The Huskies did it too with defense, as has become norm. Even with their depleted secondary, the Huskies got to UCLA star quarterback Josh Rosen for four sacks in the first half and held him to 93 yards passing (on 12 of 21 attempts) before he left in the third quarter with an unspecified injury.
Saturday was homecoming, and some 330 former UW players came back to campus for the dedication Friday of the Don James statue outside the stadium. The Dawgfather, no doubt, would have enjoyed just about everything on this afternoon.
“That game right there was in honor of Don James,” Petersen said.
There was much to celebrate.
Washington senior kicker Tristan Vizcaino, after a miserable first half of the season, regained his starting role and converted all three of his field-goal attempts, from 31, 26 and 24 yards. He also had a tackle on kickoff coverage.
More than anything, the successful rushing attack helped the Huskies re-establish their physical brand on offense. Jake Browning completed 8 of 11 passes for 98 yards, all career lows. But the Huskies didn’t need any more from him than that.
“Throwing the ball 11 times is unusual, certainly for us,” Petersen said. “The plan was to run the ball and see how that would go.”
Browning surged ahead for a 1-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter to give the Huskies a 10-3 lead. Rosen answered with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Wilson — the first touchdown pass the UW defense allowed in five conference games — to cut the Huskies’ lead to 10-9.
The Huskies then scored 27 consecutive points to blow the game open. Coleman’s 33-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter made it 27-9, and Gaskin’s 6-yard touchdown run late in the third made it 37-9.
Washington outgained UCLA 442 to 232 in total yards — and regained confidence in the offense while building momentum for the rivalry game next weekend against Oregon.
“When the unit runs the ball like that, it’s a special feeling. I can’t even tell you,” UW right guard Nick Harris said. “I’m so happy we just did that.”
Adam Jude gives his takeaways after UW’s win over UCLA