No. 23 Huskies (1-1) vs. Hawaii (2-0)
4:30 p.m. Saturday, Husky Stadium
TV: Pac-12 Network. Radio: KOMO-AM 1000/FM-97.7
Latest line: Huskies by 21½ points.
UW key players
QB Jacob Eason: 68.2% completions, 511 passing yards, 4 TD, 1 INT
RB Salvon Ahmed: 163 rushing yards, 4.5 yards per carry, 2 TD, 27 receiving yards
OLB Joe Tryon: 8 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack
S Myles Bryant: 11 tackles, 1 tackle for loss
Hawaii key players
QB Cole McDonald: 63.4% completions, 799 passing yards, 8 TD, 5 INT
WR Cedric Byrd II: 21 catches, 285 yards, 13.6 yards per catch, 4 TD
WR JoJo Ward: 14 catches, 259 yards, 18.5 YPC, 5 TD
DB Kalen Hicks: 19 tackles, 2 pass breakups
Slowing the run and shoot
The numbers are staggering. In two games this season, both victories over Pac-12 opponents, Hawaii has passed for 857 yards and nine touchdowns. A different receiver piled up four touchdown catches in each game. The Rainbow Warriors currently rank third nationally in pass attempts, with 50 per game. So, yes, even if it’s raining, Hawaii is going to throw it. But can the Huskies stop it? Jimmy Lake’s defense has allowed an average of just 161 passing yards in its first two games, but it also surrendered 50 passing yards in California’s game-winning 74-yard drive last weekend. The team’s young secondary starters — true freshman safety Cameron Williams and redshirt freshman corner Kyler Gordon — will again be challenged, and the results thus far have been muddled. The Huskies will have to tackle well — and, just maybe, force a couple turnovers. But more on that below.
By now, you already know the numbers. Washington’s offense struggled to convert red-zone trips into touchdowns last weekend. The Huskies settled for one touchdown and four field goals, despite reaching enemy territory in eight of 11 drives, in a game they probably should have won against Cal. Penalties and mental mistakes were familiar culprits, stalling Husky drives. The good news is that Washington should move the ball up and down the field against Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors are allowing a whopping 220.5 rushing yards per game and 5.9 yards per carry. UW has the experienced offensive line and running backs to do damage, which should set up the play-action pass. But the Huskies also need to score touchdowns to keep up with a high-powered Hawaii offense, and that’s clearly easier said (and written) than done.
Taking control of turnovers
Hawaii has surrendered eight turnovers — five interceptions and three lost fumbles — through two games, which ranks dead last nationally. Washington’s defense has yet to force a turnover of any kind. Something has to give Saturday. It’s worth noting, too, that four of UW’s five secondary starters — Gordon, Williams and juniors Keith Taylor and Elijah Molden — are still waiting on their first career interception. Senior safety Myles Bryant has one. But, as Molden said this week, “That’s something where you can’t really force it.” When the opportunities come — and it certainly seems like they will — the Huskies need to take advantage. On the other side, the UW offense — and quarterback Jacob Eason in particular — needs to control the football. The highly touted junior threw an interception and fumbled twice (losing one) in the loss to Cal.
As long as there isn’t another lightning delay, the Huskies should bounce back. The Washington offense will move the ball at will against Hawaii. The running game will be dominant, Eason will be accurate and the Husky wide receivers will bounce back with a chip on their shoulder that’s visible from space. Hawaii will inevitably pile up some passing yards as well, but two interceptions — that’s my official guess — will be converted into UW points. The Huskies haven’t lost back-to-back games since 2015, and they’ve never lost back-to-back home games under Chris Petersen. It won’t happen Saturday.
Prediction: Huskies 42, Rainbow Warriors 24