Preview: Viks head to Seattle to clash with Top 10 UW

By Scott Hood  Sep 17 2016, 9:59 am — Leave a comment
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What: Portland State (1-1) at Washington (2-0)

Where: Husky Stadium (70,138), Seattle, WA

When: Sat., Sept. 17, 5 p.m. PT

TV/Radio: Pac-12 Network (Jim Watson, Yogi Roth, Cindy Brunson); Rip City Radio 620 AM (Tom Hewitt, Mike Lund); Sirius 137 and XM 197

All-Time Series: Washington leads 1-0

Last Meeting: Washington won 52-13 on Sept. 15, 2013.

After scouting No. 8 Washington and watching the Huskies outscore its first two opponents (Rutgers, Idaho) by a 107-27 margin, Portland State coach Bruce Barnum confidently knows where UW is headed this season.

“I wouldn’t be shocked at all (if Washington won the national championship),” Barnum said earlier this week. “I can’t gamble, but if I could I would put up a gazillion dollars and mortgage my house and put it on the Huskies.”

Hyperbole perhaps, but there is no doubt Washington is rolling on both sides of the ball. Sophomore quarterback Jake Browning has thrown for 581 yards and eight touchdowns while completing 74 percent of his passes in the first two games. John Ross has been the top target, catching 12 passes for 157 yards and four scores.

Washington has scored 40 or more points in five straight games for the first time in school history, with 52, 45, 44, 48 and 59 points in their last five, an average of 49.6 per game. It’s the longest such streak in the nation.

“They are a very fast football team,” Barnum said. “They are one of the best FBS teams we’ve played in while. Chris Peterson has done what they wanted him to do. He has Washington back to national prominence. We‘re going to go up there and make a run at them on College Football Saturday with all the pageantry.  It should be fun time from that aspect. We’ll see what we can do against the might Huskies.”

Offense aside, Washington’s revival has been keyed by a tremendous defense. Two years ago, the Huskies had three defensive players selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Yet, the Huskies didn’t miss a beat, topping the Pac-12 in several major categories last season, including scoring defense, total defense, fewest first downs allowed and red-zone defense.

The Huskies could be even better on the defensive side of the ball in 2016.

“Their defense is lights out right now,” Barnum said. “Their coaches have those guys playing like you’re supposed to play the game. They are intimidating. They are very fast. It will be a huge challenge for us.”

Barnum plans to rely on Portland State’s bread-and-butter: the ground game. He hopes the Vikings can consistently run the football and chew up clock with time-consuming drives.

“We’re going to try to run the football and keep them off the field,” Barnum said. “When we punt, hopefully they’ll fumble and we’ll win. We won’t be intimidated. Once the whistle blows, we’ll be ready. But the odds are against you in these money games. We have the attitude of not losing these games before we get there. We will show up and we will fight, I guarantee you that. There won’t be any quit in us. If we’re close in the fourth quarter, the purple sideline will be a little nervous and we’ll take a run at them.”

Meanwhile, Barnum expects PSU senior quarterback Alex Kuresa and the Vikings offense will bounce back after committing six turnovers at San Jose State. Kuresa has thrown for 357 yards and three touchdowns with three INT while completing 54.2 percent of his passes (26-48) in the first two games.

After a brilliant junior campaign in 2015, Kuresa is pressing a bit so far in 2016, Barnum believes.

“He wants to win so bad, no matter the game,” Barnum said. “It could be ping-pong or on a football field. He is very competitive. Sometimes he has not been patient enough in these first two games. He either gets impatient or if guys are covered, he thinks he has to make a play. I have to get him back to the mindset that it’s OK to throw it away and go second-and-10. It’s just his competitiveness.”

NOTES

— PSU has played six nationally-ranked FBS opponents in its history and is 0-6 all-time against those teams. The Vikings’ highest-ranked FBS opponent was Oregon in 2010 (#5).

— Washington has faced five of the 13 teams that currently comprise the Big Sky Conference, though four of those teams (Eastern Washington, Portland State, Idaho State and Sacramento State) have faced the UW for the first time within in the last decade.

— Husky Stadium underwent a major renovation from November 2011 to August 2013 at a cost of over $300 million. The entire lower bowl and south upper deck were demolished and replaced. The new stadium features a state-of-the-art football operations center (weight room, training room, locker room, meeting rooms, coaches’ offices) in the west end, more premium seating options and a new playing surface. The track that once encircles the field was removed, allowing for seating much closer to the field. UW is 17-7 at home since the re-opening of Husky Stadium in 2013.

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Scott Hood

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