Plus, an injury update on redshirt freshman cornerback Byron Murphy.
UW GAME DAY
No. 16 Huskies (8-2, 5-2) vs. Utah (5-5, 2-5)
7:30 p.m. Saturday at Husky Stadium
TV: ESPN. Radio: KOMO-AM 1000/FM-97.7
LATEST LINE: Huskies favored by 17.5 points.
UW KEY PLAYERS
QB Jake Browning: 16 TD, 5 INT, 153.9 rating
RB Myles Gaskin: 166 carries, 1,038 yards, 13 TD
DL Vita Vea: 30 tackles, 4 TFL
CB Austin Joyner: 27 tackles, 6 TFL, 2 sacks
UTAH KEY PLAYERS
QB Tyler Huntley: 13 TD, 9 INT, 137.8 rating
RB Zack Moss: 772 yards, 7 TD
LB Sunia Tauteoli: 58 tackles, 10 TFL
S Chase Hansen: 45 tackles, 1 INT
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PASSING MARKS: Jake Browning, with 75 career touchdown passes, needs one more touchdown pass to move out of a tie with Keith Price for the UW career record. Browning has come under fire, though, with his uneven play of late. The Huskies are 2-2 in their last four games, and in those four games Browning has a 2-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. True, he has lost three of his top receiving targets to season-ending injuries — plus his all-Pac-12 left tackle, Trey Adams — but Browning acknowledged this week he needs to better about avoiding sacks, particularly on third down. Asked this week about any potential injury that might be limiting him — remember, the quarterback played the final month last season while dealing with a secret arm injury — Browning insisted he is “100 percent” healthy.
THROW IT UP, AGAIN: Stanford’s 6-foot-3 wide receiver, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, burned UW’s beat-up secondary with five catches for 130 yards last week. Now here comes Utah’s 6-foot-3 receiver, Darren Carrington, a transfer from Oregon who leads the Pac-12 with 92.2 receiving yards per game. Carrington has 58 catches for 830 yards and 6 touchdowns. In his last game at Husky Stadium, with Oregon in October 2015, Carrington had five catches for 125 yards and 2 TDs. “I think he’s hands down the best wide receiver in the Pac-12,” UW co-defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake said. “He attacks the football, he’s got tremendous size. He’s fast and very, very savvy.”
INJURY UPDATE: UW redshirt freshman cornerback Byron Murphy, out since late September with a broken foot, will likely return Saturday night and play limited snaps against Utah, multiple team sources told The Times. Murphy started the first three games of the season and had two interceptions in his collegiate debut against Rutgers. The Huskies have also been without starting cornerback Jordan Miller, who sustained a season-ending broken ankle last month.
SOMETHING SPECIAL: Utah typically fields one of the Pac-12’s best special-teams units, and that’s true again. Utah leads the nation in field goals made, with 22. Mitch Wishnowsky won the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s best punter last year (the third straight year a Utah punter won it), and the Utes rank second nationally in net punting (43.9 yards per punt). Utah has allowed just five punt returns — fewest in the Pac-12 — for 16 total yards in 10 games. UW’s Dante Pettis had the most important — and, to him, the most meaningful — punt return of his career at Utah last season, scoring on a 58-yard return with 3:25 left to lift the Huskies to a 31-24 victory. It was the first punt-return TD that Utah had allowed since 2009 (the Utes haven’t allowed another since). Pettis, of course, has gone on to set the NCAA record with nine punt-return TDs, including four this season.
NOTEWORTHY: UW’s Myles Gaskin, with 37 career rushing touchdown, needs one more TD to break a tie with Bishop Sankey for the UW career record. Gaskin, with 1,038 yards this season, is the third back in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in three seasons. … UW is No. 4 in the nation in total defense (257.4 ypg), No. 2 in scoring defense (13.0 ppg), No. 3 in pass defense (155.9 ypg) and No. 4 in rush defense (101.5). … UW leads the series against Utah 9-1. Utah’s lone win came the last time they played in Husky Stadium in 2015. … Utah is 0-3 against the Pac-12 North this season, losing to Stanford, Oregon and Washington State.
PREDICTION: Huskies 34, Utah 16.