In its first five games, Washington ran its new up-tempo offense effectively and efficiently. The Huskies averaged 85 plays, three more than their stated goal before the season, with they ranked among the national leaders at that point with an average of 557 yards of total offense.
In the last three games, UW’s averaged dipped 72.3 plays per game and 410 yards.
Those figures are dragged down considerably by the debacle at Arizona State. UW ran a season-low 65 plays and gained just 212 yards. A week earlier against Oregon, UW also had just 74 plays; even in the bounce-back rout of California, the Huskies, with 78 plays, fell short of their season average.
If the Huskies want this November to look more like September — and not a forgettable October — then the offense has to get moving again … in a hurry.
“In the last little bit of stretch, we slowed down a little,” UW coach Steve Sarkisian said after practice Thursday. “We had talked about this. I felt like our actual speed, we had slowed down a little. We talked about being a little lethargic at Arizona State, maybe not appearing as fast. So I want to make sure this final month here we’re playing really fast football, and that starts with our pace, it starts with our tempo and how we’re running plays. It’s a little bit of unique challenge when you start losing a couple guys at key positions, but I think our guys are excited about the opportunity. We’re going to go fast — we’re going to go as fast as we can go — but yet be efficient and execute really well and do things the right way.”
The Huskies have talked often this season about being in top shape. That should show itself this month, and it should be revealing in the offensive pace.
“We talked about it again this morning, of how well conditioned we are, that this is going to be a great stretch run for us,” Sarkisian said. “We’ve played really good football in the second half of ballgames; I think we’re going to play great football in the second half of the season and ultimately the fourth quarter.”
Having a refreshed Keith Price at quarterback and having an offensive line intact should help that cause. Starting left guard Dexter Charles has not appeared to be limited in practice this week, Sarkisian said. Charles had missed the last two games with a shoulder injury.
“Obviously, (Charles is) an important piece to what we do,” Sarkisian said. “The continuity’s really good when it’s he and Micah (Hatchie) and Mike Criste there. It’s good to have your original five back together. But like I said earlier in the week, Erik (Kohler) got some valuable experience, James Atoe got some valuable experience. So with these four games down the stretch we’re going to need those guys at some point, so I think the experience they got was good for them.”