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Lauren Kirschman: UW Huskies cruise past Arizona, move to 2-0 with 44-27 victory

News Tribune, Tacoma, Wash. logoNews Tribune, Tacoma, Wash. 11/22/2020 Lauren Kirschman, The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)

Remember the hat? The one Washington head coach Jimmy Lake wore to his press conference on Monday? That hat was a message — a message in bold, black, capitalized letters.

Run the damn ball.

It was a fitting for the game the Huskies just played, a season-opening victory over Oregon State that was fueled by their ground game. But when Lake sits down on Monday to discuss UW’s 44-27 victory over Arizona (1-1), he might consider wearing a different hat.

That’s not to say the Huskies (2-0) didn’t run the ball well on Saturday. They finished with 233 yards and two touchdowns as nine players had at least on carry. It was a dominant performance by any measure. But as UW was establishing its offense — as it was piecing together a 24-point halftime lead — the passing game got its chance to shine.

With 14:04 left in the second quarter, redshirt freshman quarterback Dylan Morris had already passed for more yards (149) than he did in the entire game against Oregon State (141). By halftime, he had completed 10-of-18 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown. Morris finished the game with 230 yards on 15-of-25 passing for 230 yards and two touchdowns — and that was with several drops from his receivers.

Tight end Cade Otton, who didn’t have a catch against the Beavers, had five receptions for 72 yards in the first half, an average of 14.4 yards per catch. He added three catches for 28 yards and a touchdown in the second. Seven players caught at least one pass.

Lake said this UW offense was built to adapt. He said the offense that pounded Oregon State on the ground might not necessarily look the same against Arizona. He wasn’t lying. He also said he had complete confidence that the Huskies could be successful through the air if they need to be. He wasn’t lying about that, either.

Early on, it looked like the Huskies’ offense would struggle.

UW managed just 8 yards on its first three plays and appeared to be headed for a three-and-out. But the Huskies faked the punt, and Jackson Sirmon picked up 4 yards to secure the first down. Two plays later, on third-and-10, Morris successfully found Puka Nacua even as he took a hit from the Wildcats’ defense. Nacua went 65 yards for UW’s first touchdown.

After completing just one pass of 15 yards or more against Oregon State, Morris had seven against Arizona — including five by halftime. And over and over again, Morris came up big on third down. In the first half alone, he found Terrell Bynum for a 20-yard gain on 3rd-and-9 and hit Ty Jones for 18 yards on 3rd-and-12.

He kept going in the second half. On third-and-5 from the Arizona 20-yard line, he hit Otton with a 20-yard touchdown pass that put UW up 37-0 with 5:02 left in the third quarter. On the next offensive possession, he converted on third-and-7 with a 15-yard pass to Ty Jones.

But for impressive as Morris looked in his second start, perhaps the defense should be the star of Lake’s theoretical hat this week. The Huskies struggled to stop the run against Oregon State. But much like the other side of the ball, they turned things around on Saturday night.

Oregon State rushed for 167 yards, and Jermar Jefferson had 133 yards on 23 carries. Arizona had no such luck. The Wildcats managed just 76 yards on 26 carries, an average of 2.8 yards per carry. Running back Gary Brightwell, who had 112 yards against USC last week, finished with just 55.

Arizona didn’t pick up a first down until late in the first quarter, and it went 2-for-13 on third down attempts.

Outside linebacker Zion Tupoula-Fetui had 2.0 sacks, bringing his season total to 4.0. Inside linebacker Edfuan Ulofoshio continued his assault on opposing offenses, finishing with five tackles, 1.0 sack and a forced fumble.

Along with Nacua’s game-opening touchdown, UW added a 20-yard field goal from Peyton Henry and 1-yard touchdown run from senior running back Sean McGrew to build a 17-0 lead in the first quarter. A 2-yard rush by redshirt sophomore running back Richard Newton gave the Huskies a 24-0 lead heading into halftime.

On its first possession of the second half, UW pushed its lead to 30-0 on a bruising, 21-run yard from senior running back Kamari Pleasant. The Huskies’ attempt at a two-point conversion failed. With 5:02 left in the this quarter, Morris put UW up 37-0 with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Otton.

Arizona didn’t score until Grant Gunnell found Stanley Berryhill III for a 30-yard touchdown with 12:54 left in the game. UW then added another touchdown on a 54-yard run from Newton before Arizona reached the end zone three more times — all with UW’s starters watching from the sideline.

This story will be updated.

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©2020 The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)

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