The Washington Huskies Football team is entering the start of the season with a bunch of hype and enthusiasm after fall camp.
With a bunch of fresh new faces in the fold, a new era of Husky Football is about to embark on putting their own stamp on things.
He will be tasked with leading a resurgent offense and bringing it back into balance after the Huskies struggles a season ago.
On defense, the Huskies have lost nine starters from last season, but have plenty of talented players ready to fill the void.
The Eastern Washington Eagles are coming off a 12-3 season last year and are currently ranked as the #3 FCS team in the nation.
Even though the Huskies have an elite defense, their work will be cut out for them in slowing down an Eagles offense that averaged 43.1 points last season.
“I think everybody in this country has a lot of respect for Eastern Washington!” Petersen said.
The Huskies must play sound the entire game as their first conference game is the following week against Cal, which is earlier than normal.
Here are some keys to the game that the Huskies must do in order to put themselves in a good position to win this game…..
“Cut It Loose And Go Play”
With the start of a new season upon the Huskies and several fall camp practices of drilling execution, it’s easy to overthink the game while trying to be too perfect. With thinking too much, it causes hesitation which causes inconsistent and unconfident football. With young players in the mix, it will be easy for them to fall into this trap. The players just need to go out and play fast and free. Trusting their skills and grasp of the game plan will be essential in overcoming first game nerves for a lot of these players. The other day, Petersen said himself that the players need to play free and he knows they will make mistakes. The first game is usually a feel out game for all teams. The quicker the Huskies settle into the environment and just play, then the quicker they should control the game.
Establish The Run Game Early
One of the biggest question marks heading into the season is who will replace the production of departed star Myles Gaskin? The man being tasked with that is junior Salvon Ahmed, but it won’t be all on his shoulders as the coaches will surely rely on the entire “stable”. This will be junior quarterback Jacob Eason’s first game as a Husky and make no mistake, he will be experiencing the nerves that come along with that. By establishing a solid running game from the start, it will take pressure off of Eason and open up the passing lanes downfield as the game progresses. Behind a veteran offensive line that should push the Eagles defensive front all around the field, the running backs should have their way and get into the second level all game long.
Collapse the Pocket
Eastern Washington quarterback Eric Barriere is a talented passer and with time to survey the field can pick apart opposing defenses. The talk during fall camp has been about the Huskies improved ability to rush the quarterback with some talented guys coming off the edge. Barriere has averaged 7.7 yards per pass attempt throughout his career and the Huskies will need to flush him out of the pocket. This pressure will have to come off the edge where guys like Joe Tryon and Ariel Ngata will need to win their matchups. On the interior, Levi Onwuzurike and Benning Potoa’e will have to gain push and force the pocket backwards and set the tone the entire game. It will be essential to the Huskies success to have Barriere looking over his shoulder the entire game.
Win The Turnover Battle
Often times during season openers, one team can really benefit from winning the turnover battle. By getting timely turnovers, it can change the whole complexity and momentum of the game. With an opposing FCS team coming into a hostile environment like Husky Stadium, one play can ignite the entire crowd which can fuel the emotion of an entire sideline. It’s no secret the Huskies play to the home crowd and use them for support during the game. Getting a turnover and handing the ball back to the offense, with great field position, can also settle the Husky offense looking to find its rhythm. Defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake preaches that they measure their success by how many times they are able to give the ball back to the offense, and Saturday will be no different.
Take Shots Down The Field
The talk all fall camp has been how Petersen and offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan have made it an emphasis to get the ball down the field more. With naming Eason the starter, that ability is now real and Hamdan must capitalize on his talent. The Huskies have a bunch of talented receivers who can gain separation at the line of scrimmage and run past defenders with their speed. What they have this season is more skilled playmakers that can go up and make a play down the field. Petersen recently identified it as trust! He said they need to allow their receivers the opportunity to win one-on-one matchups down the field. Even though it’s the first game of the season, it’s time for coaches to trust their assessments and game plan and simply let Eason do what he does best!