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What We Learned: Fresno State

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Dante Pettis can play football.

NCAA Football: Fresno State at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Huskies are again undefeated through the non-conference part of their schedule. They’ve looked pretty good overall, but there are still a couple questions about this team to be sure. But we’re not here to talk questions. Just answers.

So, in the final tune up game before conference play begins, what did we learn?

The coaches are looking for more offensive weapons

I wrote last week that the coaches were trying to integrate Salvon Ahmed and Hunter Bryant into the offense more as they seek additional play-makers to make the offense more explosive. Not to belabor the point, but John Ross gave this offense a ton of juice and that attention he got from defenses helped keep the chains moving. The offense is still relatively strong, but there’s no doubt the coaches are searching for an x-factor to blow defenses wide open.

Ahmed has gotten carries as a running back, passes as a wide receiver, and a few swing passes out of the backfield and while we haven’t quite gotten that one signature moment yet, his talent is obvious and the offense needs his home run ability to take the next step. He’s firmly entrenched as the team’s #3 running back. Hunter Bryant was also established early in the Fresno State game with 2 big catches in the first quarter. It’s clear from those plays that Bryant can run the seam, and is the best pure pass catcher at the TE position since ASJ. The sooner Bryant and Ahmed’s unique skill sets begin threatening defenses, the sooner this offense becomes an explosive force to be reckoned with.

Joel Whitford is a special teams weapon

Joel Whitford arrived with a lot of fanfare and the reputation for being a real weapon as a punter with the ability to flip the field. We saw it against Rutgers where he dropped two punts inside the 2 yard line. Against Fresno State, he had a couple nice ones, but also had a shank that only went for 32 yards. This was one the knock against him coming in - and most division 1 punters for that matter - his consistency. So far in 10 punts this year he’s had just the one shank and it’s been more good than bad. He does appear to be a genuine special teams weapon, but his ability to avoid awful kicks that kill field position is crucial. Other than the 32 yarder, he had two more go for 40 or more against Fresno State. Heading into conference play, we’re seeing a very dangerous special teams threat emerge. As he continues to adjust to Pac-12 football, expect more of Whitford’s field flipping punts.

Dante Pettis looks ready to be a true #1

We’ll see when the competition ramps up real soon, but Dante Pettis has done nothing to dissuade observers from the fact that he can be the team’s go-to #1 threat out wide. Despite weaker opponents, he was still forced into making more than a few impressive grabs. His exploits as a punt retur-...sorry, Pac-12 career record holding punt returner, are unmistakable and no doubt put more pressure on defenders who are worried about what he’ll do after the catch. Considering the Huskies suffer a noticeable dropoff after Pettis in the pass game, he’s performed admirably with all the extra attention he’s receiving. I was one of many that felt heading into the season that the WRs would have receptions spread evenly among them (my better/worse/neutral piece on the pass game looks worse every day...). So far, Pettis’s 15 catches are more than double the next WR - it’s mostly been him shouldering the load.

That’s it for today, Dawg fans. Suffice it to say, by this time next week we’ll have learned a lot more about these Huskies. Stay tuned.