Get to know the opponent: an UW reporter's take on Saturday's game

Everything you need to know about the Washington Huskies from The Daily's sports editor/ football reporter Josh Kirshenbaum

Football beat reporters from The State Press and The Daily of the University of Washington have teamed up to provide insight on the game between ASU and No. 10 Washington on Saturday in Seattle. Read Josh Kirshenbaum's interview of Sebastian Emanuel here and his interview with Kirshenbaum below: 

The No. 10 Washington Huskies have become a consistent powerhouse in the Pac-12 and have molded college players into NFL-caliber talent, with 22 former Huskies currently on 53-man rosters. The Huskies have finished first in the Pac-12 North Division for two straight years.

What has UW done that has made them a consistent top-10 team since Coach Chris Petersen arrived? 

Up until Oct. 14 of last year (and since, to be honest), the answer would have been that the Huskies never play down to their competition. Sure, there have been losses, but they were all to ranked teams and all but one were away from home. Petersen puts blinders on his team better than any other coach I've seen, and the weekly process stays the same no matter who UW is playing and because of that, the product on the field has been pretty consistent, with one exception that I'm sure you're going to ask about in a bit.

Last years upset over UW ultimately knocked them out of the College Football Playoff. How different will UW be this time around against ASU?

Yeah, there it is. I would look for Washington to try to force the run early like it did last week against Utah. Last year in Tempe, the Huskies ran power to the left side with Lavon Coleman to open up their second drive. It went for 20 yards, but the Dawgs ended up not running power again until the fourth quarter. I don't think that will happen again; after Myles Gaskin's game in Utah, I'd expect plenty of touches from him. Also (and UW fans will knock on wood as I say this), Peyton Henry has been pretty consistent on field goals, especially from short range.

ASU has played two non-conference opponents that like to establish the run early. How can they stop Gaskin? 

The best way to beat Gaskin has been to beat the UW offensive line. If Gaskin gets a little bit of space, it's over. But Washington still has yet to find a consistent, healthy line and has had to move people around, especially on the left side. That leads to more mistakes as a unit. A pro-UW crowd keeping the noise down will definitely help, but ASU's style of defense can definitely lead to confusion at times up front and keep the UW line from covering up defenders.

Jake Browning has taken a few steps back from his Heisman sophomore campaign, what happened? 

John Ross and Dante Pettis graduated, removing two of the best pass-catchers in UW history from the equation. Jake Eldrenkamp and Coleman Shelton graduated, Trey Adams has missed the past nine games with an injury and Nick Harris has had his own health issues. Take away any quarterback's top two targets and 80 percent of his line and he'll have his troubles. Now, Washington's receivers have already taken a massive step forward from last season, and the Washington passing game has shown flashes of that 2016 squad, but Browning still does have a tendency to try to extend plays and force throws when his line breaks down when he should probably either throw the ball away or take a sack.

With how talented Washington’s secondary is, how can they stop the deep ball and force Manny Wilkins to throw short passes? 

My gut reaction would be that of all the problems UW may have, that won't be one of them. Washington's defense is designed to stop the Washington State University air raid, and the key to that is to take away the deep shot and tackle in space on the short routes. Jimmy Lake will put out at least five defensive backs on every single play, and one is almost always at least 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage making sure nothing goes over the top. The UW defense wins by letting the opponent dink and dunk its way down the field, bending but not breaking in hopes that as the field shrinks the passing windows will disappear. Sometimes, that's enough for the other team; in last year's game in Tempe, ASU got into the end zone on a drive that didn't have a completion over 10 yards. 

Do you have any predictions for the score of Saturday's game?  

I'm usually pretty bad at predictions, and no time have I been more wrong than for last year's UW-ASU game. That being said, there are a few things I think UW has going for it this year — namely the Huskies Stadium environment, which will help. Last season the UW defense put on a very good performance in making it so the offense needed to do just slightly more than the bare minimum, which didn't happen. This year, I think the home crowd will allow the UW offense to stop, collect itself and reset if the Dawgs get out to another slow start while the defense takes control. I'm not expecting a blowout by any stretch, but I'd guess it ends up a struggle to the tune of 23-10 in favor of UW.


Editors note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length. 


Reach the reporter at sbemanue@asu.edu or follow @SebastianEman5 on Twitter. 

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