The Washington Huskies started the 2017 season with a two-score victory over Big 10 opponent Rutgers, but the 10-7 lead they took into the halftime break was enough to keep more than a few Dawg fans from feeling comfortable considering that the Huskies were favored to win by just short of four touchdowns. Tomorrow, the Huskies will seek to further hone their game against FCS opponent Montana. Do the UW Dawg Pounders think the Griz will give the Dawgs a run for their money?
To be sure, the Huskies did not play their best football last week against Rutgers. The Huskies return a ton of talent off of a 12-2 program that went toe-to-toe with the Alabama Crimson Tide, and began the 2017 season getting pushed around the line of scrimmage by a sub-par Big 10 team that won exactly two games last year, against Howard and New Mexico.
Suffice to say, they weren’t prepared. And Chris Petersen prides himself on, if nothing else, preparation and attention to detail.
In the Montana Grizzlies, then, the Huskies have a great opportunity to come out swinging against an overmatched opponent. Last year, the Dawgs trounced their FCS opponent (Portland State) by a score of 41-3 on the strength of performances by Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin. I fully expect to see an encore tomorrow that includes big days from those two as well as Chico McClatcher, Salvon Ahmed and what is sure to be a hungry Azeem Victor, fresh off of his one-game suspension. An emergence of the defense’s pass rush, conspicuously absent against the Scarlet Knights, would be reassuring as well. Washington 38, Montana 6.
Where to begin? I predict the following:
1. Jake Browning AND K.J. Carta-Samuels each averaging over 9 yards per attempt
2. Salvon Ahmed's first college TD
3. Two more picks for Byron Murphy
4. The over-under on Joel Whitford punt attempts at 2
5. The number of celebratory wine spritzers I consume at 2
6. The number of quarters that Brad stays in the stadium before retreating to his Dawg Bus at 2
Montana 3, UW 56
Montana 49 - 0. Jokes.
I wouldn't be too shocked if Washington play like they did against Idaho and Portland State last year where it's a bit of a slow start for a series or two before exploding offensively. I also wouldn't be shocked if they come out right from the gate and pwn Montana from the get-go.
Given Montana's pass-happy offensive style, we'll probably get some good looks at the new guys in the secondary. I'll predict Murphy/Rapp get at least one interception and a newer guy gets a pick too. Montana'll likely get a field goal or two earlier in the game and then should be mostly shut down until scoring again when the game's out of reach.
I expect the offensive line to look more cohesive on Saturday than they did against Rutgers, hopefully giving Browning more room to set his feet and put some zip on the ball. Without the same freak speedster stretching the field to help out other receivers this year, Browning will probably have to throw like that more often given the impending (somewhat) tighter windows. I think this Montana game will probably be a time for multiple units to tune up in a low-risk setting.
Final: Huskies 42, Montana 13
I really, really want to see the Huskies come out and pound the football. Run the power, run the stretch. Run for 8+ yards a carry in the first half. Why do I think they will underwhelm?
The offensive line doesn't need to be great; I just want them to be great. There just isn't that same sense of urgency when it's Montana lining up against you. Last season Idaho got a sack/fumble on Jake Browning early and that really upset me. Trey Adams missed his man and Browning took a blindside shot.
The Dawgs should be able to get their young players lots of playing time in this one, and probably will. I'm intrigued to see the Air Raid and how the young secondary defends it. I'm also excited to see Azeem Victor back on the field. UW will probably keep it vanilla, which is frustrating but smart.
I figure the Griz will have some nice scripted plays to open things up, make us sweat a little, but stall in Husky territory. The cumulative hits will wear down Montana on both sides of the ball, and KJCS might play almost a full half.
UW 44, Montana 6
Washington will win this game. That's about all of the analysis that is really warranted so the rest of this will be addressing expectations. UW is not going to put up 77 points like Oregon did on Southern Utah last week. Not because they're not capable of it but because Chris Peterson doesn't need to prove anything to anyone. The Huskies will not run any trick plays, they won't show off exotic fronts on defense, and they'll play guys you won't see come conference season. So to anyone out there who won't be happy without a 60 point victory, sorry to disappoint. Montana runs a scheme which UW has shut down consistently over the last couple of seasons and I expect that to continue. The UW defense is perfectly content to let a team throw a ton of passes, keep everything underneath, and make the sure tackle short of the sticks. At some point I expect that one of the young members of the secondary will get beat or miss a tackle which allows Montana into the end zone. On offense, I think the Dawgs will look better than they did last week but still won’t be completely ramped up to ‘destroyer of worlds’ mode yet. And the Dawgs will score at least one special teams touchdown. UW 42, Montana 10.