With two games already in the books for the Huskies, the biggest question facing them is, Who are they?
During their first game of the season, they went down to the wire with the Auburn Tigers and showed that they belong.
Last weekend, the Huskies played an inferior opponent at home in North Dakota and they were not as sharp and focused as the week before.
There was a lot of praise and hype bestowed upon them in the offseason, and this coming weekend we should find out who the Huskies really are.
When the Huskies arrive in Salt Lake City on Saturday, they will be thrown into another hostile environment when they face off against the Utah Utes.
The start of conference play is here, and this game is a must win if the Huskies want to keep their College Football Playoff aspirations alive.
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…..
Get Off To A Fast Start
The first two games of the season for the Huskies have shown a common trend that must be reversed. Slow starts have plagued them so far, and heading into a hostile environment like Utah, the Huskies must get off to a fast start. Playing from behind is not ideal on the road, and especially against a conference opponent like Utah. The Utes have had this game circled on their schedule and rest assured, the coaches, players and fan base will be juiced up for this game. The Huskies cannot afford to waste away another first quarter, especially against the Utes. They will need a full four-quarter effort from both sides of the ball to win this game on the road and send a message to the rest of the Pac-12 conference.
Jake Browning Will Have To Improve His Level Of Play
One thing that is always deceiving about the play of senior quarterback Jake Browning is his stat sheet. After most games, his stat line looks really clean and productive but watching him play is the opposite. Browning has not played well thus far, and by his own standard he hasn’t played good enough football yet. He has made some questionable decisions that fourth-year senior quarterbacks don’t normally make. It is time for Browning to stop listening to the chatter and criticism and just “cut it loose” and play. When playing with pressure, it is easy to play tight and indecisive. The Huskies need their senior leader to step up to the plate and perform at an elite level that he is capable of playing at.
Don’t Let Utah Quarterback Tyler Huntley Break Contain
Looking at the first two games of the season, one area the Husky defense needs to improve upon is their pass rush. Getting consistent pressure on the quarterback is essential for the Huskies, because it makes the opposing quarterback have to throw into the strength of the Husky defense, which is their secondary. Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley is extremely talented and multidimensional with his ability to beat you with his legs. Most often, the defense wants to force opposing quarterbacks out of the pocket and on the run. In this game the Huskies want to do the opposite, and not let Huntley break contain, and gash them with huge chunks of yards with his running ability. They need to keep Huntley in the pocket and make him beat them with his arm.
Establish A Consistent Running Game
The Huskies arguably have the most dynamic running back duo in the nation with Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed. Behind them, they also have a nice complement of backs’ in Sean McGrew and Kamari Pleasant. It’s why Husky running back’s coach Keith Bhonapha calls his group, “The Stable”. During the first two games of the season, the Huskies have not been able to assert themselves in the running game, which is essential to their success. They must control the time of possession against the Utes and establish a “ground and pound” attack. This will help keep the Husky defense off the field, and will eventually wear down that tough physical defense of the Utes. With all the injuries, finding the right combination on the offensive line should help.
Win The Turnover Battle
Defensively, the Huskies are good enough to win any game they play on their schedule. Defensive coordinators Jimmy Lake and Pete Kwiatkowski have brought a physical, swarming to the football type of defense to Montlake. The defense prides themselves on creating turnovers and getting the ball back to the offense. With the last two matchups going down to the wire between the Huskies and the Utes, it is imperative that the Huskies win the turnover battle in this game. The offense will need to play at a high level in order to win this game and getting an extra possession or two along the way from turnovers could prove to be the difference. It all starts with getting after the quarterback and then making sound decisions on the back-end.