No. 7 Washington (3-0, 0-0 Pac-12) comes into Folsom Field facing their first real test of the season against Colorado (3-0, 0-0 Pac-12). The Buffaloes left Santa Clara dejected at the hands of the Huskies following a 41-10 defeat in last year’s Pac-12 Championship game.
After nine months later the performance still frustrates Coach Mike MacIntyre.
“They beat us pretty good,” the National Coach of the Year told reporters this week.
“We’ve seen them on film and to me (Washington) looks like a better team than we played last year in the Pac-12 Championship.”
After beating the Buffaloes Washington moved on to the College Football Playoff Semifinal vs. top-ranked Alabama, falling short to the Tide with a season-low 194 total yards and three turnovers. Since the 24-7 loss, UW coach Chris Petersen focused on perfecting the mistakes they made against Alabama, knowing the goal of a return trip to the playoff is realistic.
"There's no higher expectations in this country for Washington football than what's in our building,” Peterson said at Pac-12 Media Days.
The electrifying Washington offense will be one of the best on Colorado’s schedule this season. Quarterback Jake Browning has become an early Heisman contender, completing 58-of-78 passes for 798 yards with eight touchdowns to one interception. He and the Huskies dominated their non-conference schedule (at Rutgers, Montana, Fresno State) by scoring an average of 47 points per contest.
Two big contributing factors to UW’s success are Dante Pettis and Myles Gaskin, who have combined for 692 yards and 11 touchdowns (five receiving, three rushing and three punt returns). Colorado’s defense is tasked with limiting Washington’s rushers out of the backfield, something they were unable to do in the championship game. Sixty-nine percent of the Huskies total yards on offense last December came on the ground from Gaskin and Lavon Coleman.
As for Colorado, Steven Montez threw for a career-best 357 yards and four touchdowns last week vs. Northern Colorado. It was a step forward in his progression after taking over at the beginning of the season from the exiting Sefo Liufau. Montez enters the biggest game of his young career against Washington’s stout defensive front. The Buffaloes offensive line will need to limit penalties along with the miscues we’ve seen this year, like surrendering eight sacks in the first three games.
Huskies co-defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake has concerns about the tempo of Colorado’s offense and Montez’s dual-threat ability.
“They have designed quarterback runs where he’s an issue,” Lake noted. “ You’ve got (Montez) who has got one of the strongest arms in the conference and then he’s close to 240 pounds and 6’5”. When he gets out in space he’s not trying quarterback slide, he’s running you over.”
Montez and the Buffaloes deep receiving corps could outmatch UW’s secondary if the threat of the quarterback run becomes more relevant than it has been so far this year.
Colorado opens their conference schedule against Washington on Saturday, Sept. 23 (8 p.m. MT/TV: FS-1). The Huskies hold a 5-10-1 advantage in series dating back to 1915. CU’s Last win at Folsom Field came during the 1990 national championship run.