Behind Enemy Lines: Washington

Each week we check in with an expert who covers Oregon State's opponent. Today we check in with Chris Fetters, of Dawgman.com on the Scout network to get his thoughts on the Oregon State vs Washington match-up.

Question: Chris Petersen has quickly and quietly turned Washington into a legitimate power.  What do you see as the biggest thing he’s done to help flip the Huskies from good to seemingly great?

Chris Fetters: He laid the foundation and instilled a process that he hasn’t deviated from. In direct contrast to Steve Sarkisian, who was more results-driven and wasn’t as concerned with how they got there, Petersen is all about the process creating the results. If you do things the right way, the wins will come. He re-built the culture from scratch. He said it would take 18-24 months to do it, and he was true to his word. 

And the second part is the staff’s ability to develop skill. From a fundamentals standpoint, they rarely beat themselves. They were in a lot of close games in 2015, but just couldn’t get over the hump. That’s changed this year because the skill continues to improve and players are just getting better through experience and development. 

Question: What playmakers on offense should Beaver fans be aware of?

CF:  It all starts with quarterback Jake Browning. He’s leading the country in pass efficiency and was responsible for eight touchdowns versus Oregon. It’s hard to imagine the true sophomore playing at a higher level than he is right now. 

There are two running backs, Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman, that have provided a potent 1-2 punch. Gaskin is second only to Colorado’s Phillip Lindsay in the Pac-12 for total rush yards with 599, and Lindsay has played one more game. 

Out wide, John Ross and Dante Pettis have accounted for over 700 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns together. They have been nothing short of exceptional. And the whole offensive line have not only given Browning time to throw the ball, but they have also laid the groundwork for a rush attack averaging nearly 230 yards a game.

Question: Who are the playmakers on defense we should be on the lookout for?

CF: UW has a three-headed monster up front with Elijah Qualls, Greg Gaines and Vita Vea. All three of them are impact players along the defensive line. They have combined for 16 total sacks. 

The Huskies replaced Travis Feeney and Cory Littleton with two seniors, Joe Mathis and Psalm Wooching, and they have combined for more sacks (9.5) than the entire Oregon State defense (9). 

The heart of the defense is the two inside linebackers - Azeem Victor and Keishawn Bierria - and they are 1-2 in total tackles for the Huskies. 

But the secondary is probably the straw that stirs the drink for the whole defense. Budda Baker is an All-American safety, and UW’s other safety, Jojo McIntosh, is a real thumper. The two starting cornerbacks, Kevin King and Sidney Jones, are sure-fire NFL prospects. And Darren Gardenhire is another cornerback that will play a lot. 

Question: What is the injury report heading into Saturday’s match-up?

CF:  Petersen has hinted that receiver Chico McClatcher and right guard Shane Brostek - who both missed the Oregon game - should be back for Oregon State because they’ve had two weeks to recover from their injuries. 

If both of those players are available, that means the Huskies should be at full strength. Obviously I’m doing this during the week so who knows what happens during the practice week. Backup linebacker Sean Constantine suffered a season-ending injury during fall camp, but other than Sean the Huskies have been beyond fortunate to avoid the injury bug in a big way. 

I don’t expect that to last. 

Question:  What can the Beavers do in order to help their chances on Saturday?

CF:  Not to be cliche, but OSU has to keep Washington’s offense off the field. Slow things down, be great on third down, extend drives and finish those drives with points. 

All the main talking points apply: run the ball, stop the run, win the turnover battle and don’t give up short fields. Given Oregon State’s precarious position with injuries and who they are going to have to run out there, they are going to have to play a perfect game. 

But for those that aren’t going to tune in because they expect this game to be a laugher, I don’t have to remind any Washington fan old enough to remember the 1985 game at Washington. They were 38-point favorites but lost to OSU by a point after the Beavers blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone with less than 90 seconds left to pull out the miracle win.  

It’s why they play the games. 

Question: What is your prediction including score?

CF:  Washington has out-scored opponents 79-7 in first quarters this year, and 169-24 by halftime. For the Huskies to achieve the desired result, they have to do what they’ve done basically every game in 2016, save Arizona: score early and often. They need to take away Oregon State’s reason to live. If they can do that, it will be a lot to a little. But if the Beavers can get a couple stops defensively and earn that little bit of confidence, the Huskies may start to look human. 

There’s no doubt the Huskies have a big talent discrepancy in their favor. Over the course of the game their lines should be able to do damage and wear OSU down. That means an effective run game and Browning can remain efficient via play action. 

The weather forecast is looking like rain, so turnovers will play their part. And Washington leads the country in turnover margin, so put another check in the plus column there. 

Overall, there’s a reason why the odds right now rival the same odds seen for that fateful 1985 game. But given OSU’s drastic injury situation I just don’t see the Beavers pulling another rabbit out of the hat. 

Prediction: Washington 56-7


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