The Huskies won’t have running back Richard Newton when they play at Arizona on Saturday, which severely hampers a rushing attack that’s been the most consistent unit on a beleaguered offense.
That’s the bad news, but it could have been worse.
On Monday, coach Chris Peterson said the redshirt freshman would need to see a specialist after injuring his left foot during last Saturday’s 23-13 defeat at Stanford.
On Thursday, Petersen provided a somewhat rosy update on Newton.
“There’s no surgery or anything like that at this point,” Petersen said. “Just rehabbing.”
Newton is officially listed as “week-to-week,” but Petersen spoke as if he could return relatively soon and would not be lost for the season, which was the initial concern when he went down at Stanford.
The 6-foot, 210-pound running back has been invaluable as a short-yardage specialist and a red-zone scoring threat due in large part to his punishing and physical running style. Through six games, Newton leads the Huskies with six rushing touchdowns. He’s also second on the team in carries (64), yards (326) and yards per game (54.3).
Washington, which ranks fourth in the Pac-12 with 174 rushing yards per game behind Utah (223.4), Arizona (221) and Oregon State (203), will seemingly rely heavily on Salvon Ahmed and Sean McGrew. Ahmed is first on the team in attempts (67), yards per carry (6.4) and yards (427) while displaying game-breaking ability such as his 89-yard TD scamper two weeks ago against USC. Meanwhile, McGrew, who averages 5.9 yards per carry, has been nearly as productive, but his opportunities (38 carries) have been limited and he’s totaled 224 yards.
Six-foot, 213-pound Kamari Pleasant, who has just 9 yards on seven carries this season, could potentially see more action in short-yardage situations without Newton.
“It’s been working good, that luxury of having four pretty good guys in the mix,” Petersen said. “Now one is down for a little bit so we got three other guys, and we roll.”
UW IS PRETTY GOOD AFTER BAD LOSSES
Since Petersen took over in 2014, Washington has lost back-to-back games just four times — all during his first two seasons.
The last time the Huskies dropped consecutive games was November 2015, when they fell 34-23 against Utah before suffering a 27-17 setback at Arizona State. Earlier that season, UW lost back-to-back games against Oregon and Stanford.
Since then, UW has been remarkably resilient. In the past four years, the Huskies are 7-0 in games immediately following a loss.
That winning streak will be put to the test Saturday at Arizona (4-1, 2-0), which has recently been a difficult place for the Huskies. Before its 35-28 overtime win in 2016, Washington had lost four straight games at Arizona Stadium while being outscored 171-71.
Petersen said last week’s deflating defeat in the Bay Area was a “wake-up call” for many Huskies.
“They’re trying to make plays,” he said. “They really, really are, and sometimes I think it goes to a little bit of not finishing. It’s ‘I got to make this play.’ And we don’t quite finish. So maybe that’s the thing that can kind of wake you up.”
The Huskies know they need more from a receiving corps that’s been widely criticized for the team’s passing problems.
Many UW fans would like to see more from young pass-catchers Puka Nacua, Austin Osborne and Marqus Spiker, but perhaps help will come from an old veteran — Chico McClatcher.
The 5-8, 183-pound senior is fifth on the team in receptions (nine) and receiving yards (91), but he hasn’t had a catch in the past three games.
“I’d like to get Chico involved more,” Petersen said. “I really would. I think Chico has been working his tail off. Chico has a great attitude.”