Washington ready to finally kick off season vs. Oregon State
Pac-12 North counterparts coming off opening weekends that were disappointing for much different reasons meet Saturday night when Washington welcomes Oregon State to Husky Stadium in Seattle.
After having already pushed back the season opener two months, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed Washington’s debut another week. Contact-tracing protocols the city of Berkeley mandates forced Cal to call off last Saturday’s game with the Huskies.
“Disappointing, but this is the reality we’re living in in 2020,” Washington coach Jimmy Lake said in his Monday press conference. Lake also had his first game as head coach delayed as a result. “We had an emergency team meeting about 45 minutes after (learning of the cancelation). They were extremely disappointed, but I’m proud of them. They did not flinch.”
Lake lauded the team’s adjustment to its schedule shakeup, citing the Huskies’ “energy” in practices held in lieu of the game.
Washington explored moving its Nov. 21 game with Arizona, which had its game at Utah canceled, but Lake said the logistics were too difficult.
“This isn’t like pickup basketball where it’s just like, ‘Hey, let’s go play,'” he said.
Oregon State (0-1, 0-1 Pac-12), meanwhile, endured a sluggish start in its opener against Washington State. The Beavers nearly completed a rally from a three-touchdown deficit in the second half, clawing within three points before losing 38-28.
Running back Jermar Jefferson powered the comeback with three rushing touchdowns, punctuating a 120-yard game. Quarterback Tristan Gebbia settled in during the second half and finished with 329 passing yards and a touchdown.
The slow start and strong finish provide Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith and his staff some data around which to work heading into the Washington contest. The situation is one the Beavers coach said had benefits and drawbacks.
“It’s a little bit unique,” Smith said. “It’s some good and some bad. We’ve played a game and now we’ve got some things to clean up and work on. They’ve got a new offense over there we’ve got no tape of.”
John Donovan is making his debut as Washington’s offensive coordinator, a role Smith held from 2014-2017. Under Smith’s direction, the Huskies’ offense reached its peak with a 41.8-point per game average.
Last year, in his second season at his alma mater, Oregon State, Smith oversaw a jump from 26.1 to 31.2 points per game. Washington dipped to 26 points per game in 2018 after Smith’s departure.
The Huskies improved in 2019, but nonconference games in which they scored 45.5 points per game boosted the average. Washington’s yield in Pac-12 games remained around 26 points per game, including 19 in a win over Oregon State.
Establishing a more consistent pace is Donovan’s primary challenge in 2020. He will begin that process with a new starting quarterback, Washington’s third different opening-week starter in as many seasons.
Just who exactly that will be is a mystery. Lake had not declared a starter among the four competitors for the job: Jacob Sirmon, Dylan Morris, Ethan Garbers and Sacramento State transfer Kevin Thomson.
“You can’t prep for four different skill sets,” Smith said.
Regardless who takes the snaps, though, Smith noted the 229 rushing yards Oregon State surrendered to Washington State. The Huskies come in with a talented platoon of ball-carriers: Richard Newton, Sean McGrew and Kamari Pleasant.
“We’ve got to do better against the run game,” Smith said. “We’re going to play, we think, an entirely different offense, but we’ve got to shore up the run game. That’ll be first and foremost.”
–Field Level Media