SEATTLE — The Aggies are jetting off to Jet City in search of a rare win over a Pac-12 Conference opponent.
Utah State (1-1) will play at Washington (2-0) at 3:10 p.m. MDT Saturday at Husky Stadium in Seattle. The Aggies are 0-2 all time against the Huskies, including a 45-0 setback in 1904 and a 53-12 drubbing in 1998, and are a combined 40-123-5 all time against current members of the Pac-12. USU’s last win over a Pac-12 opponent was a 27-20 overtime victory against Utah in 2012.
“It’s another Pac-12 opponent on the road,” lamented USU coach Matt Wells, whose team lost 24-14 at Utah last week.
Now in their second season under Chris Petersen, the Huskies opened the 2015 season with a 16-13 loss at Boise State, where Petersen won 92 games from 2006-13. After spotting the Broncos 16 points in the first half, Washington outscored BSU 13-0 in the second half and missed a potential game-tying field goal from 46 yards out with 21 seconds left.
The Huskies’ defense kept things going last week, keeping Sacramento State scoreless in a 49-0 rout at home to extend the team's shutout streak to six quarters.
“I have a lot of respect for this staff, in particular the defensive staff,” Wells said of UW’s coaches. “Most of them are from Boise State, and we’ve gone against them before and seen them a lot. Schematically, they’re very sound. They’re aggressive in what they do, and we’ll have to match that aggressiveness.”
Historically, Petersen has owned the Aggies, going 6-0 against Utah State while winning those games by an average of 34 points. Wells also used to go up against Petersen in the old WAC when he was an assistant at Tulsa and Petersen was the offensive coordinator at Boise State.
“Just getting to know him over the years, I have a lot of respect for him,” Wells said of Petersen, who guided the Huskies to an 8-6 record last season. “On both sides of the ball, we know they’re very, very good scheme coaches. They’ve got juice. They’ll get their guys motivated, and it’s a tremendous staff, in my opinion.”
That respect for Petersen is why Wells believes the UW head coach made the right decision at quarterback. Jake Browning is the first true freshman to ever start a season opener for the Huskies, as well as the first true freshman to ever start at QB for Petersen.
Although he boasts a little more size, the 6-foot-2, 206-pound Browning has been referred to as the second coming of Kellen Moore, who guided Boise State to a 50-3 record during his four years as a starter.
“The kid’s best days are ahead of him” Wells said of Browning. “ … Coach Pete is one of the best in the business, and that kid will get better and better each week, and by the end of the year, he’ll he very productive in that league.
“The kid has a great future ahead of him. He’s got arm strength and you see accuracy. And you know the kid has toughness and grit, or he wouldn’t have won the job in training camp.”
Browning completed 20 of 34 passes for 150 yards with one interception in his debut at Boise State, then went 17 for 34 for 362 yards and two TDs in the win over Sac. State.
On the ground, Washington was awful against the Broncos (29 yards on 22 carries), but picked it up last week, totaling 218 yards and five touchdowns on 36 carries. Although he’s listed as No. 2 on the depth chart behind 6-2, 226-pound senior running back Dwayne Washington, 5-9, 192-pound freshman Myles Gaskin had 146 yards of those yards and three of the TDs.
“They’re much different backs,” Petersen said earlier this week. “We’ve all seen Dwayne do some pretty good things against some pretty good competition, so we know he can do some good things. Myles we’re still figuring out. But we’ve been pleased with him since fall camp and in the first couple of games. He’s shown he can make some plays.”
While USU has been good against the run this year — opponents are averaging just 3.3 yards per carry — the Aggie defense is still looking to record its first takeaway. The Huskies, meanwhile, have committed just two turnovers and only eight penalties for 62 yards, while Utah State has racked up 17 infractions for 184 yards.
But the Aggies will have three players back from suspension when they line up against the Huskies. Senior wide receiver Hunter Sharp, senior cornerback Bryant Hayes and sophomore guard Tyshon Mosley have been practicing this fall, but the trio had to sit out USU’s first two games due to a violation of team rules.
Although Wells said, “I was happy with the way our receivers played, and they’re going to keep getting better,” Sharp was USU’s biggest deep threat last season and may also see time as a kick returner.