When the Washington Huskies lined up for their first offensive play Saturday against Utah State, they did so with three first-time starters along their offensive line.
Trey Adams, a true freshman, lined up at left tackle. Kaleb McGary, a redshirt freshman, lined up at right tackle. Jesse Sosebee, another redshirt freshman, lined up at right guard.
The team’s usual left tackle, Coleman Shelton, moved inside to play left guard in place of Jake Eldrenkamp, who coach Chris Petersen said was injured during practice this week. So the only familiar face in a familiar place was Siosifa Tufunga, UW’s fifth-year senior center.
Their play, considering the Aggies’ reputation as a blitzing, sack-happy bunch, seemed to hold up well enough. The Huskies again struggled to run the ball, finishing with just 74 yards rushing on 35 attempts. But UW quarterback Jake Browning was sacked only once, and usually had enough time to stand in the pocket and find open receivers. He finished with 368 yards passing and three touchdowns.
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“I thought those kids, from my vantage point, did a nice job,” Petersen said. “I’m anxious to go look at the film and see how it really was. I think for the most part, they protected Jake well enough for him to set his feet and throw the ball downfield.
“And the run game can get a little bit better. We got something going there a little bit late, but that’s sometimes what happens with that blitzing style of defense.”
As for the lineup tweaks, Huskies offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith said “some of it was guys not being completely healthy, and at the same time we’ve got to throw them in there and see what they can do. … It was time for those guys to get a turn at it, and they did well.”
Adams, a 6-foot-7, 302-pound freshman from Wenatchee, made his debut in mop-up duty last week against Sacramento State. McGary, a Fife native, had been rotating at right tackle with fellow redshirt freshman Matt James, and fourth-year junior Shane Brostek had started the first two games at right guard.
The worst news from Saturday’s otherwise encouraging victory for Washington: starting safety Budda Baker left the game with a left ankle injury during the Huskies’ first defensive series.
Baker, a sophomore from Bellevue who led the team in snaps played last season, spent the rest of the first half either being tended to by a trainer or trying to walk the injury off. He never returned.
Petersen said afterward he didn’t know the severity of Baker’s injury.
Browning’s 81-yard touchdown pass to Dwayne Washington in the second quarter was the second-longest pass to a tailback in school history (Corey Dillon from Brock Huard, 83 yards vs. San Jose State in 1996). Washington, a former high-school receiver, finished with five catches for 131 yards, the fourth-most in a game by a running back in UW history. “It actually does bring back memories” of high school, Washington said. “It was great to catch the ball and get a receiving touchdown.” … Utah State’s field goal with 10:31 remaining in the second quarter accounted for the first points by a UW opponent in its last 99 minutes, 31 seconds. The Huskies hadn’t allowed a score since Boise State’s field goal with two seconds left in the first half of their season opener. … Tristan Vizcaino’s fake-field goal touchdown is the first for a UW kicker since at least 1974. … Brandon Beaver’s 96-yard interception return in the fourth quarter was the longest in UW history, despite the fact that it did not result in a touchdown.