Two Husky quarterbacks played in Saturday’s 35-30 loss to Arizona State.
Redshirt freshman Dylan Morris started and completed 16 of 28 passes for 151 yards with a touchdown and an interception, while adding a rushing score. True freshman Sam Huard — who has appeared in three games this season and will likely only play in one more to preserve his redshirt — led three drives, completing three of five passes for 20 yards.
“I think we had to do that, give ourselves a little bit of a spark and give Sam a chance to play,” interim head coach Bob Gregory said Tuesday. “I think it helps him. It helps Dylan to have a little competition. So yeah, I thought it was good. I thought it was good. I thought it helped overall.”
When asked whether we’ll see a similar split Saturday against Colorado, Gregory said, “We’re still evaluating all that.”
Including, perhaps, if two quarterbacks are too many.
It’s possible graduate transfer Patrick O’Brien — who has appeared only in the Arkansas State game and did not attempt a pass — could contribute in Boulder, 45 miles from where he previously started at Colorado State.
In 14 games and 12 starts at CSU in 2019 and 2020, O’Brien — a 6-foot-5, 230-pound sixth-year senior — completed 60.8% of his passes and threw for 3,394 yards with 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions. But after making a graduate transfer to UW this offseason, he has spent his final collegiate season wearing a headset instead of a helmet.
Maybe a return to Colorado will help in that regard.
“I think he’s got a chance to help us, and maybe this week a little bit more,” Gregory said of O’Brien. “They all took reps today. Today’s a big practice for all those guys in figuring out exactly where we’re at.”
The Carson Bruener question
Since he made his first career start Oct. 30 in UW’s 20-13 win over Stanford, inside linebacker Carson Bruener has led the Huskies with 37 tackles, 1.5 sacks, one interception and one forced fumble in his past three games.
Which begs the question: Why didn’t the second-year freshman receive increased reps earlier in the season?
“If you guys remember Eddy Ulofoshio, did you guys think he was a pretty good player? Pretty good player,” Gregory said. “So (Bruener) was playing behind Eddy, and we had not had an opportunity to get up by more points in games where we might be able to play a younger guy — except for maybe the Arkansas State game, which he did play more. Then Eddy got hurt and that gave him more of an opportunity.”
Ulofoshio suffered a season-ending arm injury Oct. 16 against UCLA.
UW’s interim head coach, defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach also acknowledged that Bruener’s temporary move to outside linebacker this spring delayed his development, and: “He was just a young kid who hadn’t played college football at inside linebacker and was behind a couple good players. So unfortunately Eddy got hurt and that kind of thrust Carson into the forefront a little bit, and we all see what he can do.”
The same has not always been said of sophomore inside linebacker Jackson Sirmon, who has received criticism at times for awkward pursuit angles and limited athleticism. But the 6-3, 235-pound Sirmon leads the Huskies with 81 tackles and has contributed increasingly impactful plays — including a safety against Oregon, an interception against Stanford and a forced fumble against Cal.
Which is why Gregory says he never considered playing Bruener next to Ulofoshio, and ahead of Sirmon.
“I think Jackson is really underrated,” Gregory said. “If you look at some of the plays this kid has made. … Remember, he had a safety against Oregon. He was able to cause a fumble against Cal and make a play. You (look at) the stats and all that and he has eight tackles, 10 tackles (every game).
“I think because he’s not a flashy guy, you want a different kind of guy there. But all that guy has done is be really consistent over his years here. If you study the film and see what he does, he’s a pretty good football player.”
Sophomore wide receiver Giles Jackson has appeared to find his footing as a returner in the past two games — registering kick returns of 43 yards, 43 yards and 40 yards, as well as a 21-yard punt return against Oregon.
Asked whether that explosion was made possible by a schematic tweak, Gregory said: “Really the scheme stayed the same. We really tried to make it clear for Giles. He was close earlier. He was close but not quite there. He wasn’t fully trusting his reads and his blocks, and he really stayed with it these last two games, and we were able to get some good return yardage.”
There is, however, one area where Jackson can improve. The 5-9, 185-pounder made a fair catch of a punt at UW’s 6-yard line against Arizona State, rather than letting it drop and possibly bounce into the end zone for a touchback. He did the same thing at the 7-yard line against Oregon.
According to Gregory, UW’s returners are taught not to field anything inside the 10-yard line.
“We’ve got to make a point of emphasis on that,” he said. “But that’s coaching. That’s on us. It should be the 10-yard line, and that’s two games in a row where he’s on the 5. But that’s on us. That’s not on him.”
- UW has struggled to finish games this season, outscoring opponents 61-29 in the first quarter before being bombarded 88-73 in the fourth. Asked to explain his team’s ineffective finishes, Gregory said: “If we take the Oregon game for example, the offense was unable to get a lot of first downs and keep the defense off the field. The defense at some point is going to get a little worn down. That’s just the nature of it. So it’s a team combination. We’ve got to move the ball on offense. We’ve got to score a little more points in the second half. And then we’ve got to do a better job in the second half of stopping the run on defense. So it’s not one thing. It’s a team thing. It’s all those combined.”
- Gregory was complimentary of Junior Adams’ first game calling plays as UW’s interim offensive coordinator. “I think he did a really good job calling the plays,” he said. “We just looked at the things we’ve done well in the past this year, really trimmed down the call sheet and got the quarterbacks in the room and really discussed what they felt good about, what coach Adams and the offensive staff felt good about, and came up with a game plan from there.”
- Regarding UW senior Race Porter’s fake punt against Arizona State, in which he was crushed a yard short of the sticks and it appeared targeting could have been called, Gregory said UW’s staff asked for further clarification from Pac-12 headquarters and “haven’t received an answer yet. It’s interesting.”