Arizona (0-1) at Washington (1-0)
5 p.m. Saturday, Husky Stadium
TV: FOX. Radio: SportsRadio 950 KJR.
Latest line: Huskies by 11.5 points.
UW key players
QB Dylan Morris: 141 passing yards, 58.3% completions, 21 rushing yards, 1 rush TD
RB Sean McGrew: 91 rushing yards, 10.1 yards per carry, 1 TD
LB Edefuan Ulofoshio: 10 tackles, 4 pass breakups, 1 fumble recovery
OLB Zion Tupuola-Fetui: 4 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
Arizona key players
QB Grant Gunnell: 286 passing yards, 66.7% completions, 3 pass TD, 1 interception, 40 rushing yards
RB Gary Brightwell: 112 rushing yards, 5.3 YPC, 20 receiving yards
DB Lorenzo Burns: 7 tackles
LB Jalen Harris: 6 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 pass breakup
‘A balanced offense’?
“Tonight we did what we had to do to win a football game,” UW head coach Jimmy Lake said after his team’s win over Oregon State last week. “That’s the beautiful thing about being a balanced offense, and we’ve got a long way to go.” Sure, but how balanced was it? The Huskies carried the ball 51 times, as opposed to just 24 passes. In his first career start, redshirt freshman quarterback Dylan Morris was mostly asked to avoid mistakes. Eventually, the Huskies will have to prove they can be more literally balanced — stretching the field vertically with their wide receivers and tight ends. But it might not be this week. After all, Arizona surrendered 173 rushing yards, 5.4 yards per carry and three rushing touchdowns to USC last weekend. And in a 51-27 victory over Arizona last October, UW also rushed for 207 yards and three more scores.
Stuffing the run
UW’s secondary was unsurprisingly dominant against Oregon State last weekend. Its run defense was not. Without defensive linemen Levi Onwuzurike (who declared for the NFL Draft) and Tuli Letuligasenoa (who missed the game with an apparent injury), the Huskies surrendered 167 rushing yards, 4.9 yards per carry and two rushing touchdowns. Beavers back Jermar Jefferson bombarded UW for 133 rushing yards, 5.8 yards per carry. This is an undeniable concern for a defense that is suddenly frightfully thin at both defensive line and outside linebacker. And on Saturday, those same Huskies must contend with another big back in 218-pound Arizona senior Gary Brightwell — who piled up 132 total yards and 5.3 yards per rush against USC last weekend. And unlike Oregon State quarterback Tristan Gebbia, Arizona signal caller Grant Gunnell is mobile enough to hurt the Huskies as well.
Red zone woes
Here we go again. In 2018, UW converted just 56.45% of its red zone trips into touchdowns — ranking 105th nationally and ninth in the Pac-12. The following season saw modest but unimpressive improvement to 61.1% (63rd nationally, 9th Pac-12). As for last weekend? With a new head coach (Jimmy Lake), offensive coordinator (John Donovan) and starting quarterback (Dylan Morris), the Huskies had similar struggles. Specifically, their five red zone trips resulted in two touchdowns, two field goals and a missed 28-yard chip shot attempt. Husky wide receivers Ty Jones and Rome Odunze both failed to corral possible touchdowns, and the vaunted UW rushing attack was stuffed from the 5-yard line on three consecutive attempts late in the fourth quarter. Against an opponent in Arizona with more proven firepower, the Huskies have to consistently find the end zone.
UW trailed 17-13 at halftime of last season’s game at Arizona, before erupting for 38 second-half points in a 51-27 win. So, who will we see on Saturday: the first-half, or second-half Huskies? Considering the questionable run defenses on both sidelines, expect points-a-plenty. At some point, Morris will have to make a few impressive plays in the passing game to win. It will help to get wide receiver Puka Nacua and tight end Cade Otton more involved in the offense. On the other side, Gunnell is also a legitimate talent who will threaten the Huskies in ways Gebbia couldn’t. A UW defense that managed just three tackles for loss and two sacks last weekend must prove it can make the Wildcats’ young quarterback uncomfortable. But the Huskies are undoubtedly the more talented team. And, same as last season, that will show down the stretch.
Final score: Huskies 35, Wildcats 27