Washington Huskies

UW backs, O-line, coaches all must improve running game

Boise State tacklers bring down Washington running back Dwayne Washington, wearing a white jersey, during the second half of the season opener Friday in Boise. The Huskies finished with 29 rushing yards on 22 attempts.
Boise State tacklers bring down Washington running back Dwayne Washington, wearing a white jersey, during the second half of the season opener Friday in Boise. The Huskies finished with 29 rushing yards on 22 attempts. The Associated Press

As Washington Huskies offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith explained Wednesday afternoon, Boise State didn’t exactly stack the line of scrimmage to stop UW’s rushing attack during Friday’s season opener.

The Broncos, Smith said, were content to remain in Cover 2 — a simple coverage in which two safeties drop deep — until the Huskies forced a change.

Twenty-two rushing attempts and just 29 yards later, no defensive adjustment was necessary.

“They were going to live in Cover 2 until we proved we could run the ball,” Smith said. “Well, they were playing Cover 2, and we couldn’t run the ball.”

The responsibility for such failure, Smith said, is shared.

“We definitely need to create more of a crease for the back, but at the same time, we’re not going to be able to block everybody,” Smith said. “The back needs to be able to make some guys miss, and we’ve got some guys that can do that.”

One of them is Dwayne Washington, the fourth-year junior who led the team in 2014 with 697 yards rushing and nine touchdowns — five of which came on runs of 51 yards or more.

He entered the season as the team’s No. 1 tailback but finished the Boise State game with just eight carries for 14 yards with a long of 5 (though he led the team in receiving with seven catches for 53 yards).

It wasn’t just him: UW’s other runners — Myles Gaskin, Lavon Coleman and receiver Chico McClatcher, the Federal Way grad who had two carries — combined to net just 9 yards on eight attempts.

“It was kind of a disappointment, but you’ve just got to move on,” Washington said after Wednesday’s practice. “As a running back group, after watching the film, we’ve just got to be patient, be more explosive and just play football. At the end of the day, all you can do is just play football and know your assignment as an individual.”

Washington said he’s striving to build off his strong finish to the 2014 season and become the Huskies’ lead back. Saturday’s 11 a.m. game against Sacramento State presents another opportunity to evolve.

“I always want to be that No. 1 guy, especially as a running back,” Washington said. “The way that this offense works, it’s a lot of rotation here and there. You’ve just got to build trust with your position coach. You want it to where they feel like they can’t take this guy out of the game. That’s what I’m working toward.”

To get there, he needs to “just keep getting in the playbook, keep running hard, learning my assignments and just move on.”

The running game needs to improve before the Huskies can adequately stretch the field with their passing game, though Smith did say he called four or five “shot” plays that didn’t end up being thrown “for whatever reason.”

“A little bit of that was the coverage we were seeing, but we need to be able to show that we’re going to do that,” he said, also acknowledging that they should make more of those calls.

“We have the players to do it,” receiver Dante Pettis said. “We have everything lined up. We’ve just got to get a little more detailed. … Protection will break down, or something like that, (or) we don’t see a coverage correctly.”

Still …

“Everything’s easier when you’re running the ball, there’s no question,” Smith said. “But at the same time, you can’t just bang your head into some walls, and if that’s not being effective, you’ve got to find some other answers. That’s part of the role I’m in, is finding some other answers, and that’s what we’re trying to do.

“… We’ve got to get them all together — from backs to the O-line to coaches to calls. We’ve got to get better.”

SATURDAY: Sacramento State (1-0) at UW (0-1), 11 a.m., Pac-12 Network, 1000-AM, 97.7-FM

  Comments