In our latest edition of Across the Press Box, the Daily Wildcat sat down with sport reporter Anthony Edwards from The University of Washington Daily to give us a sneak peek ahead of the Arizona Wildcats’ (0-1) first road game of the season against the Washington Huskies (1-0) on Saturday, Nov. 21, at 6 p.m. MST.
Daily Wildcat: Tell me about this run game. Washington ran all over Oregon State last week. Was that success a product of the Beavers’ terrible defense or is this Washington run game a real threat?
Anthony Edwards: I think a lot of the success last week was a product of the offensive line. They probably ran to the left side of that line at least two-thirds of the time behind left tackle Jaxson Kirkland and left guard Ulumoo Ale. [Ale] is a first year starter, but he’s 335 pounds so the coaches were kind of praising his athletic ability for his size and how he’s such a big guy. They had a lot of success running that way and it kind of paid off big.
They also had a nice balance of attack between three running backs. Redshirt senior Sean McGrew, senior Kamari Pleasant and sophomore Richard Newton all had over nine carries. It was weird because McGrew is probably the best back of the bunch. On Saturday, he only had nine carries but he averaged over 10 yards per carry. On Monday at the weekly press conferences, head coach Jimmy Lake said that he regretted not getting [McGrew] more carries but I don’t think it really mattered that much because they just ran all over Oregon State. I think it’s attributed to the offensive line and just the skill of the running backs.
DW: What did you see from quarterback Dylan Morris in his first game? Obviously he didn’t have to throw the ball very much because of how good the run game was, but how do you think he did in his first start?
AE: It was kind of a debate going into the game as to who was going to suit up at quarterback. It was between four guys. … They all had an equal playing field because of coach John Donovan and his first year as the [offensive] coordinator. Jacob Sirmon was the backup last year but with the new system it didn’t really matter. Throughout camp, they said Morris limited mistakes, but we didn’t know who it was going to be until right before the game started.
Morris didn’t have to throw the ball down field, didn’t really force any balls. There was only one ball that was close to being picked but it was a tough crossing route. He limited mistakes and had a couple of nice QB sneaks, three of them that went for first downs and one of them that went for a touchdown. He took a big hit when he was scrambling for a first down near the end of the game, so he showed a little bit of toughness and didn’t make a ton of mistakes. It probably wasn’t exactly what you wanted to see in a guy’s first collegiate career start. It wasn’t amazing, it wasn’t a highlight reel, but definitely something to build off of.
DW: How well did Washington’s defense play overall last week and how confident are you about them going up against Arizona’s offense this Saturday?
AE: UW, for the last decade, has been known for having great defensive backs. They lost safety Myles Bryant to the NFL last year, but besides that, they didn’t really lose much else. It’s hard to say because Oregon State’s quarterback Tristan Gebbia is not that good. They did well defending the pass but they kind of got gashed a little bit on the ground. Jemar Jefferson is a pretty good running back for OSU and he ran all over UW. … [Washington] was also missing d-linemen Tuli Letuligasenoa. He was supposed to fill in for the departure of Levi Onwuzurike. They were also missing one of their other edge-rushers Laiatu Latu, so that’s two guys who Washington thought were going to start down there that didn’t play. Lake didn’t comment on that after the game or at the press conference. He just said, "you’ll have to see," but if they play, I think it’ll be a little bit better of a run defense. Arizona might attack that early on.
DW: How much do you think the rainy weather on Saturday will come into play?
AE: We kind of saw it a little bit last weekend. UW receivers dropped like three key third down passes. I don’t know how much of that was attributed to the wet weather but it could certainly play a factor for Arizona who never practices in the rain. For UW, I don’t think it really matters as much because they practice in the rain all the time.
DW: Arizona wasn’t respected as a competitive team going into this season. As an outside perspective, what is your evaluation of this Arizona team? Did last week’s performance against USC change that initial stereotype at all?
AE: More or less, watching USC the past two weeks, I think [USC] is pretty bad actually. They have talented players but the play-calling is horrible. Arizona had success against USC but in only one game watching them, they’re defense didn’t force any fumbles or turnovers. USC’s play-calling was bad in the red zone so if it was any better, it may have been a blowout of a game.
My perspective on Arizona isn’t as bad as other people’s is but I still don’t think they’re that great of a team. … They still gave up 30 points with all that success in the red zone so if you can’t force turnovers, it’s going to be a long season. But it’s the Pac-12 so anything can happen.
DW: Who is one Washington player to watch for on Saturday?
AE: I’ll give you one on both sides of the ball, how about that? First I’ll start with defense. I said this to the Cal guys before the game got cancelled but I’d look out for Trent McDuffie, he’s a corner for the Huskies. He really didn’t get challenged at all in the first game. He was an All Pac-12 Freshman last year but the big thing is that he took over punt return duties this year. In the first game, he only had two returns. One of them, he only went for 15 yards but he juked like three guys … Next time he had a chance, he broke one for 45 yards and almost scored a touchdown. That might be something that could change the game. You want to win in all three phases so if McDuffie has success in the punt return game then it’ll definitely swing the game in the Huskies’ favor … McDuffie is a lockdown corner so whoever is matched up against him is going to have a tough night.
On offense, Sean McGrew. He’s a short guy, 5-foot-7 but when he was in high school his sophomore year, he finished second in the state of California at the state championships with a 10.5 100-meter dash so he’s a really fast guy. As soon as he beats the defense, he’s gone … McGrew might heat up and have a good night.
DW: Final score prediction?
AE: I was surprised at the success of John Donovan’s offense last week. Some people didn’t like it but I thought it was pretty good and Arizona doesn’t have an amazing defense so I don’t think they’ll have the same success they had against USC in the red zone. I’m going to go 31 points for UW and I think the Huskies hold Arizona to 20.