The Washington Huskies Avoid Upset with Special Teams

PISCATAWAY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 01: Quarterback Jake Browning
PISCATAWAY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 01: Quarterback Jake Browning /

The Washington Huskies didn’t crush Rutgers as expected, but they did keep themselves in title contention with a win, thanks to their special teams.

It was a wild Week 1 in College Football, with UCLA mounting an epic comeback, Cam Newton‘s brother scoring a huge upset, and the Huskies surviving with a win over Rutgers.

The Huskies offensive and defensive lines didn’t look overpowering against what was supposed to be an overpowered Rutgers team, but their rebuilt secondary and special teams carried the show with big plays that gave 8th-ranked Washington a win in their first game of the season.

The Scarlet Knights scored first for their home crowd and held the Huskies to 10 first-half points. It took two interceptions by freshman cornerback Byron Murphy and a spectacular 61-yard punt return for a touchdown by receiver Dante Pettis. Pettis also bailed quarterback Jake Browning out with a few excellent catches as the game went on.

Browning completed on 17 of 30 attempts for a modest 280 yards. He had two passes batted down at the line and was under pressure for much of the game.

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In the end, Head Coach Chris Petersen’s crew had too much talent for Rutgers, even after a long trip across the country, but there are some concerns for the Huskies when competition heats up. For one, Rutgers out-rushed the Huskies 131 yards to 84. The running game never truly got going against a Rutgers’ defensive front that seemed to clog lanes and harass Browning all game. Washington’s receivers were too much for the Rutgers secondary, but against better competition, that lack of offensive balance could be a problem.

the Huskies defense smothered Rutgers for much of the game without middle linebacker Azeem Victor, who’s sat out a one-game suspension for the opener, but it was their punter, Australian rugby player Joel Whitford, who stymied Rutgers with two downed punts inside the two yardline.

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The Huskies are still a College Playoff favorite and regarded as one of the deepest teams in the Pac-12, and they have another cupcake opponent next week in Montana. But, when they start meeting USC and company, they’ll have to hold up better against physical opponents.