The Arizona Wildcats (0-1) hit the road for the first time this season to play the Washington Huskies (1-0) on Saturday, Nov. 21. The game is scheduled for 5 p.m. PST/6 p.m. MST and will be televised on FOX.
Arizona hopes to rebound from its season opener loss to #20 USC after surrendering the go-ahead touchdown with 25 seconds left in the game, giving the Trojans a 33-30 win.
Similar to the Wildcats, Washington played its first game of the 2020 season last week after its season opener against the California Golden Bears was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Huskies are coming off a 27-21 win over Oregon State (0-2), handing the Beavers their second loss of the year.
Here are some things to watch for this weekend.
Running the damn ball
If there was one stat that defined Washington’s win over Oregon State last weekend — it’s the rushing yards. The Huskies ran the ball 51 times and totaled 267 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns amongst nine different ball carriers.
As if that dominant performance on the ground wasn’t enough to tell you what the Huskies want to focus on this season under its new offensive scheme, head coach Jimmy Lake showed up to his weekly press conference wearing a hat with the words “run the damn ball” written across the center.
“For an offense to be successful and win a lot of games, you have to run the football,” Lake told UW Athletics on Monday, Nov. 16. “If you look at any team that's won — whether it’s College National Championships or Super Bowls — their offense is really good at running the football. That’s what sets up everything.”
Lake later hinted that his style of offense isn’t all about the run and that they could throw the football more if the opportunity presented itself. However, he couldn’t help himself by clarifying that they are not focused on throwing the ball a heavy amount of times.
“We’re never going to be an Air Raid,” Lake said. “We’re not going to sit back there and throw the ball all over the place for no reason. That’s not how you win championships.”
So we know that the Huskies want to run the ball again on Saturday. But is Arizona’s defense prepared to face the ground and pound offense?
“[Run defense] has been an emphasis since we made the defensive change,” head coach Kevin Sumlin said. “It’s going to be a challenge this week because this is one of the top run offenses in our league. They’re under center probably 80 percent of the time. Two backs with one tight end that moves into a fullback position, some old-school football. Some I-formation, some offset I, 13 personnel, which is three tight end and they’re going to run it. They’ve got three running backs that present some issues. That’s kind of their M.O. right now.”
Arizona surrendered 173 rushing yards to the Trojans last Saturday with the bulk of those yards coming in the third quarter.
“We gave up some big plays in the second half with some of the run fits from the safeties with the change of personnel,” Sumlin said. “It’s going to be a big deal this weekend, and not just the run but the play action that comes off of it, to make sure there’s eye discipline in the back.”
Pack your ponchos because it might be a soaker
Surprise, surprise. It’s going to be a rainy night in Seattle on Saturday. Or is it?
The National Weather Service is projecting a chance of rain in Seattle every day for the next two weeks except for one day — this Saturday. Are the football gods casting a blessing over this game? Either way, the Wildcats are still preparing to play a rainy game by doing wet ball drills during the week to recreate a typical night in Seattle. But simulating a rainy game is only half the battle.
“I think it just comes down to a mindset,” senior kicker Lucas Havrisik said. “I know what it is. It’s Seattle, Washington. It might be cold, might be raining, might be wet, just the mindset that you just gotta make sure you got some good cleats, with some good grip; that’s important. And I’d say for us training-wise this week, we’ll splash some water on some balls and soak them because when the ball is pretty heavy, it’s a little different to kick. We’ll be prepared for that, though.”
Are Arizona’s special team woes a thing of the past?
It’s only been one week since we last talked about Arizona’s dreadful special teams. That one game against USC, however, looked extremely hopeful. Freshman punter Tyler Loop punted the ball three times on Saturday and averaged 45.3 yards per punt.
“If you had told me he was going to average 45.3, we’d take that every week,” Sumlin said. “That becomes important in a game like this.”
Loop wasn’t the only Wildcat to have a productive day with his leg as Havrisik broke his career record for most made field goals in a game with three against the Trojans last Saturday.
Havarsik missed his first attempt but settled in and booted in the next three, including a 51-yarder in the fourth quarter that gave the Wildcats a 23-20 lead.
“Obviously I didn’t want to miss a field goal, especially the first one,” Havrisik said. “I was disappointed, but I was just that much more excited to get another opportunity so I can prove what I can do for this team. My mentality is, I miss a kick, it's just the next kick I get, next opportunity to take advantage of it.”
The Wildcats’ losing streak continues to linger
A couple of rain clouds won’t be the only thing hanging over Arizona’s heads this Saturday. The Wildcats enter this game dragging along an eight-game losing streak dating back to last season.
Arizona hasn’t won a game since Oct. 5, 2019. The team that started the Wildcats’ losing streak last season? You guessed it, the Washington Huskies.
“I remember that we were up at half, we got a little complacent,” wide receiver Stanley Berryhill III said. “They ended up coming back and beating us. I mean, we leave that in the past. Yeah, we have a losing streak going on right now, but with a 1-0 mentality, we’re trying to win the day. So if we win every day, you don’t know what’s in store for the future.”
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