Utah State loves to bring it, and the Huskies defense will have its hands full with crafty QB Chuckie Keeton.
When they last played Utah State, the Huskies had 13 sacks en route to a 53-12 victory in 1998.
That sack total is a school record that almost certainly won’t be broken Saturday (if ever) when the Aggies return to Husky Stadium for Washington’s final nonconference game. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. for a Pac-12 Networks broadcast.
Husky Game Center: UW hosts Utah State
A year ago, with a senior defensive line led by All-Americans Hau’oli Kikaha and Danny Shelton, it was easy to take for granted the Huskies’ success at sacking the quarterback because, well, they often made it look so easy. Kikaha led the nation with 19 sacks and UW set a school record with 3.7 sacks per game.
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Predictably, in their first two games this season, the Huskies (1-1) haven’t been able to maintain that rate, with just three sacks total, and only one in their shutout of Sacramento State last week.
But UW defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski doesn’t feel pressure to put more pressure on the quarterback. He was pleased the Huskies hit Sac State quarterback Daniel Kniffin eight times last week.
“Last week we did a good job of getting around the quarterback and harassing him,” Kwiatkowski said. “Everybody wants sacks — sacks are awesome — but when you hit a guy eight times, those add up. As long as we’re making those guys feel uncomfortable and getting them off their spot, we can work with that.”
The Huskies don’t blitz often, but already Kwiatkowski has shown a willingness to use linebackers and defensive backs more in pressure packages, and he acknowledged he might have to manufacture more pressure once Pac-12 play begins. That could be especially true with California’s Jared Goff, one of the nation’s most productive quarterbacks, coming to Seattle for next week’s Pac-12 opener.
Saturday, the Huskies will have their hands full with Utah State’s fifth-year senior, Chuckie Keeton, a dual-threat quarterback who has been sacked three times in the Aggies’ first two games.
“He’s a beast,” UW senior defensive lineman Taniela Tupou said. “He knows what he’s doing. He can move that pocket. He can throw the ball. He’s a threat on the ground and in the air. Utah State, overall, they’re a really good team.”
The Aggies have a recent history of tight games against Power Five conference opponents. In 2011, they lost at Auburn, 42-38. In 2012, they beat rival Utah 27-20 in overtime. In 2013, they lost at Utah, 30-26, and at USC, 17-14. In 2014, they lost big at Tennessee, 38-7, but did beat Wake Forest, 36-24. Last week, they lost at No. 24 Utah, 24-14.
UW coach Chris Petersen said Utah State has a similar style as another Mountain West Conference powerhouse — Boise State. The Huskies, of course, lost their season opener at Boise, 16-13, and Saturday’s game could shape up to be a similar defensive struggle.
“Those guys know what they’re doing,” Petersen said of the Aggies. “They play really fast and really hard.”
• Before kickoff, UW athletic director Scott Woodward and Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden will unveil a new logo for Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium, marking the official renaming of the field. Two weeks ago, UW announced the 10-year, $41 million naming-rights deal with Alaska Airlines, the largest deal of its kind in college athletics. The UW Board of Regents approved the deal last week.
• As of Thursday, UW had distributed 56,157 tickets for the game. Against Sacramento State last week, UW had an announced crowd of 55,010, the lowest turnout for a game at Husky Stadium since 2006.