SEATTLE — Jimmy Lake is determined as a head coach to play with a certain style that he believes creates a winning program.
When it was finally unveiled last week in Lake’s debut as Washington’s coach, it was a decided throwback.
Fullbacks. The I-formation. A quarterback under center. A final stat sheet that showed 51 runs and just 24 passes.
“Isn’t that a pretty thing?” asked Lake, who showed up to his video conference this week wearing a “Run The Damn Ball” hat. “I love it.”
Whether that was a one-week game plan or a core philosophy will become clearer when the Huskies (1-0) host Arizona on Saturday night.
Washington’s one scheduled crossover game with the Pac-12 South may test just how much the Huskies are willing to play a ground-and-pound style of offense. A week ago, the Wildcats allowed 173 yards rushing to Southern California in their opener, but gave up 325 yards through the air.
Lake insists he wants balance and a system under offensive coordinator John Donovan that is flexible enough to do whatever is needed. Last week against Oregon State, that meant running.
“If it’s a rainy, cold, wet night, like last Saturday night and we need to run it, let’s run it. If it’s snowing sideways and we need to run it, let’s run it,” Lake said. “But hey, if we have the opportunity to go throw it around and spin it around a little bit, we’ll be able to do that, too.”
The Wildcats (0-1) nearly had an equally big celebration after their opener. A decided underdog, Arizona took the lead twice over USC in the fourth quarter, including on Grant Gunnell’s 6-yard TD pass to Stanley Berryhill III with 1:35 remaining. But the Wildcats defense couldn’t withstand USC’s fourth-quarter surge and gave up the winning touchdown with 25 seconds left.
Arizona has lost eight straight dating back to last year, a skid that started with a 51-27 loss to Washington in Tucson.
“It’s going to be huge for the program, but we know we can do it so as long as we execute our plans,” Berryhill said of snapping the losing streak. “Our defense played great on Saturday. We had a few mistakes with special teams, defense, even on the offense we had mistakes. So if we clean up those mistakes I think we could play and run with anybody in the country.”
Washington quarterback Dylan Morris didn’t have a flashy debut but was solid throwing for 141 yards and running for a TD in his first college game. Morris wasn’t helped by a handful of drops from his wide receivers. Terrell Bynum was his favorite target with four catches, but the Huskies want to get tight end Cade Otton more involved in the offense. Otton had only one reception for four yards in the opener.
Gunnell had an excellent opener for the Wildcats even if it came in a loss. The sophomore threw for 286 yards and three touchdowns against the Trojans. Gunnell threw an interception on the third play of the game, but rebounded from the early turnover.
He’ll face a Washington secondary that’s the strength of the Huskies defense and that held Oregon State to just 85 yards passing.
“To come back and play the way he did, I thought he put us in a position to have a chance to win,” Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin said.
Not only did Washington emphasize the run game, but the Huskies used a variety of running backs in the win over Oregon State. Sean McGrew led the Huskies with 91 yards rushing, but it was Richard Newton getting the most carries with 16 — and most of those in the second half. Kamari Pleasant, who got the start, ended up with 12 carries for 61 yards and a score.
Not only is running the ball a priority for Washington, but the Huskies have the bodies available to focus on the ground game.
On the road
Arizona will finally hit the road for the first time after its opener at Utah was canceled. It’s the longest road trip of the season and Sumlin said they’re preparing for the possibility of the wet conditions that are typical of November in the Northwest.