Richard Newton’s redshirt freshman season might not be over just yet.
That certainly seemed to be the case in the third quarter Saturday, when Washington’s 210-pound running back lay flat on his back at the Stanford 24-yard line. Newton was surrounded by a trio of UW trainers, and his helmet was discarded on the turf directly behind his head. Chris Petersen leaned over and squeezed Newton’s left hand; it was all the Huskies’ sixth-year head coach could do. Petersen said immediately after the game that “I didn’t even talk to the trainers. I know he was in pain.”
Less than 48 hours later, that pain might have been replaced with a shred of promise. Newton — who suffered what Petersen called a left-foot injury — might not be lost for the season after all.
“(We) still don’t know his status,” Petersen said during his weekly news conference Monday. “Obviously, he’s laying out on the field in pain and you think it’s going to be forever (that he’ll be out), and it might not be forever. He’s getting somebody to look at him, a specialist, and we’ll figure it out a little bit more.
“So we still don’t have total information on him, although it might be better than we thought with him laying on the field like he was.”
In six games this season, Newton burst onto the scene, contributing 326 rushing yards and 5.1 yards per carry with a team-best seven touchdowns. He attacked opposing defenses like a jackhammer drilling through concrete, establishing himself as UW’s most significant red-zone threat. He also assumed a starring role in the Huskies’ suddenly prolific wild-cat package.
In Saturday’s 23-13 loss at Stanford, Newton led the team with 64 rushing yards and 6.4 yards per carry. Junior Salvon Ahmed contributed six carries for 28 yards, and Sean McGrew added three carries for 12 yards.
Which brings us to our next point.
‘We probably should have ran more’
In the 28-14 victory over USC on Sept. 28, Ahmed rushed 17 times for 153 yards and an 89-yard touchdown.
A week later, he received a grand total of six carries.
Which, according to Petersen, wasn’t exactly intentional.
“Yeah, I think (it was situational),” Petersen said. “I mean, Rich Newton was doing some pretty good things. We put Sean McGrew in there, he was doing some pretty good things. That’s how it goes. Like I said before, I like how we rotate our backs. I don’t think we have one guy that needs to be in there the whole time. I think Keith Bhonapha does a great job with that.”
In all, UW rushed just 22 times for 88 yards (4 yards per carry), while junior quarterback Jacob Eason attempted 36 passes. In their previous five games, the Huskies had run the ball 55.5% of the time.
Saturday, for whatever reason, they ran just 37.9% of the time.
“We’re trying. We’re trying to do that,” Petersen said about running the ball. “But you also play to your strength. And I go back to we probably should have ran more. Our offensive line … if we’re going to second-guess and all that, which we always do as coaches and look back, we probably should have ran the ball more. That’s what we were doing pretty effectively.”
So, why didn’t they continue to do it? That answer had a lot to do with Stanford’s offense, which held the ball for 39:01 of a possible 60 minutes and forced UW to disregard the running game in favor of more explosive strikes.
“That’s their game. They get a lead and they hang on to it,” Petersen said. “We really were familiar with their game, and they just executed their plan better than we did. They got the lead and then they had the ball 40 minutes to our 20. So now you’re trying to make your drives really matter. So you’re picking, choosing when you’re going to try to throw the ball down the field and take a shot, as opposed to like a ‘4 yards and a cloud of dust’ kind of mentality.
“I think we were trying to get points, like everybody knows we want. They come slower through the run game, and explosive plays can change the game. So it’s always that cat-and-mouse game.”
- Through six games, Washington ranks seventh in the Pac-12 in completion percentage (65.8), seventh in total offense (431.2 yards a game), eighth in third-down conversions (41.1%), eighth in pass efficiency rating (150.39), eighth in yards per attempt (8.1), ninth in passing offense (248.8 yards a game) and 10th in red-zone touchdown percentage (52.0). So how would Petersen evaluate the performance of second-year offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan? “I think he’s doing a good job,” Petersen said. “(He’s) working hard. Do we need to score more than 13 points? Yes. That’s obvious, right? You’re not going win many Pac-12 games scoring (13). We need more than that.”
- After a busted coverage from freshman safety Cameron Williams led to a 40-plus yard touchdown pass for the second consecutive game, Petersen was asked if junior Brandon McKinney could slide into Williams’ safety spot. “We’ll rotate guys,” Petersen said.
- Eason often scrambled backward Saturday night in an attempt to elude Stanford pass-rushers, which is a practice Petersen would like to see him eliminate from his game. “Yeah, we don’t ever like when the quarterback is reversing his field and running around like that,” Petersen said. Eason was sacked twice and hit six times on the night.
- Six Husky freshmen — kicker Tim Horn, wide receiver Puka Nacua, cornerback Trent McDuffie, defensive back Asa Turner, safety Cameron Williams and outside linebacker Laiatu Latu — have appeared in five games this season and thus are no longer eligible for redshirts. Petersen said that “there’s maybe one or two other guys (that might not redshirt). We’re still about in the middle of the season. You’d probably like to save everybody (else) at this point but there’s still a lot of ball left to be played. There might be one or two other guys we’re still looking at.”