University of Washington

Loss to Stanford leaves Huskies’ offense searching for answers

Center Nick Harris wouldn’t say Washington was surprised, but he did admit they weren’t prepared. At least not as prepared as they should have been.

After the 23-13 loss to Stanford on Saturday night, Harris was one of the Huskies tasked with explaining what went wrong with the offense.

It wasn’t an easy job.

“(It was) nothing crazy,” Harris said of the Cardinal’s defense. “Just putting us in bad situations, not being able to play how we usually do. They just put us in sticky situations that we weren’t probably ready for.”

Last week, in a 28-14 victory over USC, the Huskies had 373 yards of total offense. Running back Salvon Ahmed rushed for a career-high 153 yards, including an 88-yard touchdown. The week before, UW cruised by BYU 45-19. Quarterback Jacob Eason completed 24-of-28 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns. Aaron Fuller caught eight passes for 91 yards while Sean McGrew rushed for a career-high 110 yards on 18 carries.

But that offense was nowhere to be found against the Cardinal.

The offense that took the field at Stanford Stadium finished with just 294 total yards. Only one wide receiver caught more than one pass. Redshirt freshman Richard Newton was the leading rusher — he had 64 yards on 10 carries — and he left the game with an injury in the third quarter. And Eason, who spent much of the night under pressure and out of options, completed 16-of-36 passes for 206 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

Harris didn’t know how to decipher it. Not really.

“We see that stuff week in and week out,” he said, “but when they had the chance to execute, they executed better than we did on offense.”

Most concerning was the disappearance of the receivers. Only tight end Cade Otton, who finished with two catches for 16 yards and a touchdown, joined wide receiver Aaron Fuller with more than one catch. Fuller had nine catches for 171 yards, but he also had several costly drops. So did tight end Hunter Bryant.

Fuller was targeted 17 times, and no other receiver was targeted more than five times. Andre Baccellia had one catch for 1 yard. Terrell Bynum had one catch for 9 yards. Chico McClatcher didn’t have a single reception, and freshman Puka Nacua wasn’t even targeted.

“I don’t know,” head coach Chris Petersen said the disparity. “We need to look at that, too. You know, figure out if we’re throwing the ball, moving one guy around too much to do that. But you know, like I said, I think the quarterback just goes with his read, so we’ll take a look at all those things.”

Newton injury

Newton left the game in the third quarter after suffering what appeared to be an injury to his left leg. He stayed down on the field for several minutes before he was helped off by a trainer and McGrew. Newton didn’t put any weight on his left leg as he headed to the sideline.

After the game, head coach Chris Petersen said Newton didn’t suffer a knee injury. He said it was “somewhere in his foot” but didn’t have an update on Newton’s status.

Newton seemed to be getting into a rhythm before the injury forced him out of the game. In five games this season, Newton has rushed for 326 yards and six touchdowns on 64 carries. He also has a receiving touchdown.

Ahmed finished with just 28 yards on six carries against Stanford. McGrew had 12 yards on three carries.

Extra points

Defensive back Asa Turner and linebacker Laiatu Latu, both true freshman, played against Stanford. It was the fifth appearance for both, which means redshirting is no longer an option.

Lauren Kirschman is the UW Huskies beat writer for The News Tribune. She previously covered the Pittsburgh Steelers for A Pennsylvania native and a University of Pittsburgh graduate, she also covered college athletics for the Beaver County Times from 2012-2016.