Arkansas State (1-1) at Washington (0-2)
1:15 p.m. Saturday, Husky Stadium
TV: Pac-12 Network. Radio: SportsRadio 950 KJR.
Latest line: Huskies by 17.
UW key players
QB Dylan Morris: 519 passing yards, 56.6% completions, 1 pass TD, 3 INT, 1 rush TD
WR Terrell Bynum: 5 catches, 115 yards, 23 yards per reception, 1 TD
CB Trent McDuffie: 8 tackles, 2 pass breakups, 13 punt return yards
LB Edefuan Ulofoshio: 18 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 pass breakup
Arkansas State key players
QB James Blackman: 475 passing yards, 64.8% completions, 4 pass TD, 0 INT, 32 rushing yards
WR Corey Rucker: 14 catches, 214 receiving yards, 15.3 yards per reception, 4 TD
CB Taylon Doss: 12 tackles, 3 PBU, 1 TFL
DL Kivon Bennett: 7 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks
In its last four first halves, going back to the 2020 season, Washington has scored a total of 10 combined points. That statistic is almost unimaginable. Last weekend, while playing in front of more than 100,000 fans, UW wide receiver Terrell Bynum said the Huskies (somehow) came out flat. Their first offensive play of the game resulted in a delay of game penalty, which head coach Jimmy Lake called “unacceptable.” But the product on offense has not been acceptable for a very long time, particularly early. And meanwhile, Arkansas State surrendered touchdowns on Memphis’ first three drives last Saturday. With an 0-2 record, against a supposedly inferior opponent, Washington needs to start fast and not allow the Red Wolves to believe they can win.
Establishing … everything
Going back to last weekend’s 55-50 Memphis victory over Arkansas State, the Tigers piled up 680 total yards, 417 passing yards, five passing touchdowns without an interception, 263 rushing yards, 7.1 yards per carry and three rushing scores. If John Donovan’s offense can’t get it done on Saturday, when will it ever? It’s time for the UW offensive line to show flashes (at least) of the potential that was so consistently touted this offseason. It’s time for the Husky running game to show signs of life. It’s time for Donovan to show enough trust in quarterback Dylan Morris to allow him to throw vertically before the fourth quarter. In short, it’s time — long past time — for this offense to deliver results.
An aerial assault
Entering Saturday’s game, UW ranks first nationally in passing defense (74.5 opponent yards per game), third in opponent yards per attempt (3.9), sixth in opponent pass efficiency rating (82.94) and seventh in opponent completion percentage (50%). UW’s defensive back combination of cornerbacks Trent McDuffie and Kyler Gordon and nickelback Brendan Radley-Hiles has been as good as advertised. But then again, that secondary was rarely tested against a Michigan offense content with running at will against an overmatched Husky front seven. But on Saturday, an Arkansas State offense featuring a pair of capable quarterbacks in James Blackman and Layne Hatcher will undoubtedly air it out. That combo produced 582 passing yards and five touchdowns against Memphis and 901 passing yards and eight passing scores in its first two games. Will Washington’s secondary be up to the task? We’ll find out on Saturday.
It’s coincidental that Washington is favored to beat Arkansas State by 17 points, considering the Huskies have scored just 17 total points in their first two games. Covering that spread will require Donovan’s offense to be far more efficient than we’ve seen thus far in September. It’ll require the running game to do its part and Morris to move the ball vertically, while avoiding mistakes. It’ll require UW’s rushing defense to be far more formidable than it was against Michigan, and its secondary to slow an Arkansas State offense that prefers to move with a dizzying pace. All things considered, I won’t pick Washington to cover, but I think the Huskies have enough pride (and talent) to turn things around just enough to earn their first win. And if they don’t, schematic/staff changes could be coming very soon.
Final score: Huskies 31, Red Wolves 26