Old friends clash as No. 6 Washington host Fresno State
SEATTLE (AP) — When Jeff Tedford told Chris Petersen he was leaving his role as an offensive consultant with Washington to take the head coaching job at Fresno State, Petersen was all for it.
There was just one little matter to take care of before Tedford left Seattle.
“I didn’t even know we were playing those guys until he got the job and everybody said, ‘Take his playbook,’” Petersen recalled. “I was chuckling until someone told me we actually played them and I’m like, ‘Yeah, you’d better get his playbook.’ But by then it was probably too late.”
Tedford will bring his Bulldogs (1-1) to Seattle to face No. 6 Washington (2-0) on Saturday and complete one of the more brutal two-game road trips in recent college football history. Fresno State played last week at No. 1 Alabama and now face the other team from that national semifinal a season ago.
That would be a monumental task for an experienced Power Five program to play those two programs on consecutive weeks, let alone a smaller conference school getting acquainted to a new head coach.
“It’s all the things that go into it. It’s the quickness. It’s the speed, all that,” Tedford said. “It’s important to get recovery after a game like Alabama that was so physical. There were a lot of heavy shots in that game. A lot of guys got bruised and battered a little bit, but that’s what recovery is for. ... But it’s going to be another physical game, no doubt about it.”
Fresno State got punched right away against Alabama, watching Jalen Hurts scamper 55 yards for a touchdown 39 seconds into the game. The Bulldogs trailed 14-3 after one quarter and 28-3 at halftime.
Washington would love to emulate that kind of start. The Huskies were sluggish in the opener against Rutgers. While they were better from the start last week against Montana, it’s not an easy read based off the level of competition. The matchup represents Washington’s final tuneup before jumping into Pac-12 Conference play next week with a conference championship game rematch at Colorado.
Here’s what else to watch as the Huskies and Bulldogs meet for just the fourth time:
MAKING RETURNS: Washington punt returner Dante Pettis has taken kicks for touchdowns in each of the first two games. His 67-yard return last week against Montana was the seventh of his career, giving him sole ownership of the Pac-12 record and sitting one shy of the NCAA record.
QB WATCH: Fresno State’s Chason Virgil will get the start and has done well through two games of taking care of the football. His only turnover was a fourth-quarter interception against Alabama.
“Last week we had five dropped balls and that’s not really on him. He put the ball where it needed to be,” Tedford said. “Not perfect all the time, but you’re playing the No. 1 team in the country, not many quarterbacks are going to be perfect ever against the speed that they have. I thought he did a really good job managing our game plan.”
But there is debate about whether Virgil is the best option for the Bulldogs to have long-term success with Oregon State transfer Marcus McMaryion on the roster. McMaryion, who didn’t join the Bulldogs until mid-August and has seen little playing time so far, brings experience as a Pac-12 starter.
BETTER BROWNING: Washington QB Jake Browning had one of the most efficient days of his career against Montana, completing 22 of 26 passes for 259 yards and a touchdown. His only blemish was a tipped pass that was intercepted and returned for Montana’s only touchdown. His 84.6 percent completion percentage against the Grizzlies was fourth-best in school history.
EMERGING LINEBACKER: Fresno State sophomore linebacker Jeffrey Allison had a breakout performance last week against Alabama with a career-high 14 tackles and his first career sack. Eight of his tackles came in the first quarter and he had 11 in the first half. It’s surprising production from the Miami native, who had 21 tackles total as a freshman.
BACK FROM SUSPENSION: Washington’s already talented secondary will get even deeper with the return of sophomore Austin Joyner from a two-game suspension for violation of team rules. Joyner may have a tough time cracking the lineup with the way Byron Murphy, Myles Bryant and Jordan Miller have played through two games, but Joyner brings experience playing in 12 of 14 games last season.