Sep 26, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Jake Browning (3) throws a pass in the first quarter against the California Golden Bears at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
The youthful and still-developing Washington offense will hope bye week strides can pay off against the still-questionable USC football defense at the Coliseum on Thursday.
Youth doesn’t just apply to the true freshman the Huskies will trot out at quarterback against the Trojans. Chris Petersen is set to start seven underclassmen on offense this week.
As a result, the Washington head coach refers to his offense as a “work in progress,” which is probably the best way to describe the Huskies thus far.
True Freshman QB
Though the guy in powder blue across town has garnered much more attention nationally, Washington has their own true freshman quarterback in Jake Browning. Surprisingly, Browning has a better passer rating, completion percentage and yards per play average than Josh Rosen this season.
Sep 19, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Jake Browning (3) throws out a pass during the second quarter against the Utah State Aggies at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
That is not to say that Browning has been a better quarterback than Rosen, because the Husky QB has certainly had his struggles, especially against the two ranked squads Washington has played this season.
In victories over Sacramento State and Utah State, Browning’s quarterback rating was 204.3. In losses to Boise State and Cal, his rating was a lowly 89.7. Three of his four interceptions came in those two games.
Notably, seven of the ten sacks Washington has given up so far came in those losses as well.
The Bears in particular flustered the young pocket passer, who proved capable of picking a defense apart in the two contests when the pressure was off but woefully incapable of coping with the rush.
“We’ve got to protect him better and he’s got to learn to trust it a little bit and get the ball out on time and those types of things,” Petersen said after the Cal game. “It’s not any one thing. It’s all of us and it’s all of our inexperience kind of showing up at one time.”
USC’s less-than-stellar pass rush got the Trojans into trouble against Stanford, but at least the improved showing against ASU proved they are capable of rattling a quarterback.
Part of the problem for the Huskies is the great lack of experience they bring to the table on the offensive line. Senior center Siosifa Tugunga is flanked by redshirt sophomore Coleman Shelton and freshman Trey Adams on his left and redshirt freshmen Jesse Sosebee and Kaleb McGary on his right.
Tungunga himself has nine games of starting experience, while the unit as a whole has just 26 games of starting experience between the five. McGary, Sosebee and Adams were all introduced to the starting line up against Utah State and will be making their third start each versus the Trojans.
With that in mind, it should be no surprise that the line has not been particularly adept at protecting the quarterback.
“Being realistic, when you play that many young guys you’re going to have some tough growing pains with this,” Petersen said after Cal. “They care. They are trying to get it right. You can see the look on their face. You can see how hard they are working during the week, but it is going to take a little bit of time.”
Jan 2, 2015; Tempe, AZ, USA; Washington Huskies wide receiver Jaydon Mickens (4) scores a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the 2015 Cactus Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium. Oklahoma State defeated Washington 30-22. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
“Doing a lot of Reggie Bush stuff”
One Husky not lacking in experience is Jaydon Mickens, who will get his first shot to play in the Coliseum after being committed to the Trojans in high school.
Mickens, who grew up a USC fan in Los Angeles, told the News Tribune, that he is going to make the most of his opportunity: “I’m planning on doing a lot of Reggie Bush stuff.”
The last time the Trojans played the Huskies in 2012, Mickens had four catches for 11 yards. Since then he has amassed a career total of 158 receptions for 1,616 yards and ten touchdowns, which puts him five on UW’s all-time receiving charts.
Funnily enough, it is not Mickens nor senior tight end Joshua Perkins who leads Washington in receptions and yardage this season. It is running back Dwayne Washington.
The aptly-named junior has been heavily involved in the passing offense as an outlet for Browning, accounting for half of the Husky’s receiving touchdowns in 2015. He has done less in the ground game after leading Washington in rushing last season as freshman Myles Gaskin has received a majority of the carries so far.
Make no mistake though, Washington gained 109 yards on just ten carries against Cal. Given USC’s relative struggles against the run and a desire to replicate Stanford’s gameplan of keeping the Trojan offense off the field by running the clock, he should have a heavier workload on Thursday.
What the stats say
[table id=37 /]
*Denotes statistics from 2014
- Washington aren’t just the worst team in the Pac-12 when it comes to giving the ball away. They’re 95th nationally in that category with 10 give aways in 2015. Against Cal, the Huskies coughed up the ball five times.
- Third down efficiency has not been Washington’s strong suit so far. As bad as the turnovers have been, the Huskies are even worse at converting in key moments. They rank 112th in the nation.
Projected starting lineups: USC football vs. Washington
Washington Offense[table id=39 /]
USC Defense[table id=40 /]
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