By Anthony Dion
In the wake of Saturday’s loss, the anticipation of returning to the field this weekend cannot be quantified for Washington head coach Chris Petersen. Over nine seasons and 115 games, none may have been looked forward to more by Petersen than Saturday’s matchup with Oregon State (5-5, 2-5).
The first-year Washington head coach wants to leave the fatal clock mismanagement as far in his wake as possible. Returning to the sideline for yet another important Pac-12 contest, one that the Huskies need to ensure bowl eligibility, is surely seen as the most effective way of doing so.
“I think players and coaches want to go play,” said Petersen. “When you go through the whole week, I think you’re excited (for Saturday).”
As Washington (6-5, 2-5) looks to end a three-game losing streak in front of a frustrated home crowd at Husky Stadium Saturday night, it will want to build off its best offensive performance of the season in the 27-26 loss to Arizona, turnovers not included. The Huskies gained 509 total yards and had a season-high 12 players touch the ball on offense. Senior wide receiver Kasen Williams enjoyed his best game in 2014, catching five passes for 39 yards and multiple first downs. More importantly, the team found a primary running back that isn’t also a key part of their defense.
Sophomore Dwayne Washington ran 19 times for 158 yards and two touchdowns — ground production the Huskies desire on a weekly basis. Petersen and the rest of his staff will return to the legs of Washington against the Beavers, a team the Huskies ran all over (530 yards) in an eventual 69-27 victory.
“It’s been kind of awhile, but he has that explosiveness in him,” Petersen said. “I think the trick is to be able to leave him in there . . . You’ve got to have a little bit of luck, keep your fingers crossed, and then a lot of toughness to go with it.”
The defense also played as well as it has all season, echoing a road performance against Cal in October with a relentless physical assault of the Wildcats that limited their vaunted offense to 375 total yards, an average of just 4.7 yards per play. The task this week is to ground another air assault, this time led by Sean Mannion.
Under the leadership of the senior, the Beavers rank 28th in the nation in passing yards with an average of 277 per game. Mannion has completed 63 percent of his passes for 2,688 yards and 12 touchdowns to seven interceptions. So despite an average of 37 passes per game, the point production hasn’t quite been there. Coach Petersen is well aware of how the dangerous the Beavers attack can be.
“Lot of yards (Mannion’s) thrown for, I mean a lot of yards,” Petersen said. “They’ve run that offense for a long time. They know it inside and out.
“We’ve got to make him earn things.”
Once again the Huskies will be reliant on a freshman-led secondary as they attempt to make Mannion “earn things.” Since struggling in September, safety Budda Baker and cornerback Sidney Jones have grown.
“We took a step forward last week, we’ve got to make sure we just don’t give up anything easy,” Petersen said.
Huskies senior LB John Timu (hip) practiced all week and is expected to play Saturday . . . RG Mike Criste has been practicing all week at center with C Colin Tanigawa shifting to RG in an attempt to curtail problems in the center-quarterback exchange . . . LB Shaq Thompson was named a finalist for the Paul Hornug Award, presented to the nation’s most versatile player. Meanwhile, buck end Hau’oli Kikaha was named a finalist for the Lombardi Award, given to the nation’s best defensive lineman or linebacker.