No. 7 Washington hopes for better execution vs. Montana (Sep 09, 2017)
Washington coach Chris Petersen knows his team's season-opening victory over Rutgers wasn't aesthetically pleasing.
While it is clear improvement is needed when the No. 7 Huskies host Montana on Saturday, Petersen is proud of one important thing.
"We won. That is what we are here for," Petersen said at a press conference. "We got that done, but I do think that it was a little bit of a wake-up call."
Junior quarterback Jake Browning can hear the alarm ringing. The player that finished sixth in last season's Heisman Trophy balloting wasn't the least bit impressed with the offensive performance despite passing for 284 yards and two touchdowns.
"We've got a standard we try to play to, and that's not the standard at all," Browning said.
Washington possessed the ball less than 22 minutes during the 30-14 victory over Rutgers. The Huskies didn't take the lead until the game was more than 26 minutes old -- on senior Dante Pettis' sixth career punt-return touchdown to tie the Pac-12 record set by California's DeSean Jackson (2005-07).
That leaves Petersen looking for a faster start from his team against the Grizzlies, an FCS team receiving a reported $625,000 to visit Seattle. Montana posted a 45-23 win over Valparaiso in its opener.
"I think they're a really well-coached team," Petersen said of the Grizzlies. "They've got their style. Who knows how they will play against us. They're more of an up-tempo (attack) trying to run a lot of plays."
Grizzlies senior quarterback Reese Phillips passed for 381 yards and four touchdowns against Valparaiso. The fifth-year senior, who began his career at Kentucky, thrived in his first career start.
Montana coach Bob Stitt said Phillips -- who is in his second year in the program -- received high grades in every area.
"He had a great day," Stitt said at a press conference. "He can really throw the ball and everybody saw that. We've been saying this since he got here that he can throw the ball as well as anybody. ... He probably had three or four throws that he'd like to have back but the rest of them were pretty darn good."
The Grizzlies feature a playmaker in sophomore receiver Jerry Louie-McGee, who caught nine passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns against Valparaiso. In one game last season, Louie-McGee set a school record with 21 receptions.
Junior Jeremy Calhoun, who rushed for 77 yards and two touchdowns in the opener, is the top running back.
Meanwhile, the Washington defense gets senior All-American inside linebacker Azeem Victor back after he missed the opener due to a suspension for a violation of team rules. Having Victor back should help Washington get off the field quicker.
Washington has much larger defenders than Montana typically sees, and the Grizzlies will certainly find it challenging to block 6-foot-5, 340-pound standout defensive tackle Vita Vea.
The Huskies have a revamped secondary, and one of the highlights of the win over Rutgers was the play of redshirt freshman cornerback Byron Murphy.
Murphy made covering receivers look easy by intercepting two passes in his first college game.
"If the ball is around him, the guy can catch," Petersen said. "He's an instinctual player."
Offensively, while Browning is aiming to improve on his shaky 17-of-30 accuracy, the Huskies also see the need to get the ball into the hands of junior running back Myles Gaskins.
The speedster topped 1,300 rushing yards in each of his first two college seasons but had just seven carries against Rutgers. He had 59 yards for a gaudy 8.4 average and played a pivotal role in the passing game by catching five passes for 79 yards and one touchdown.
"Myles Gaskin was up to his old tricks," said Petersen, "and we've got to get him the ball as much as we can."
Dealing with Washington's offense will be a stern task for the Grizzlies, who allowed 450 yards in their opener.
Senior linebacker James Banks (12 tackles) had a solid opener for Montana, while safeties Evan Epperly (a junior) and Josh Sandry (a sophomore) each nabbed interceptions.
Montana is playing an FBS program for the first time since losing 17-12 at Wyoming in 2014. The Grizzlies were routed at Tennessee 42-16 in 2011 in their most-recent contest against a Power 5 conference school.
The Huskies hold a 16-1-1 edge in the series but Saturday's meeting is the first since 1951.
"This is going to be a great challenge for our football team mentally to be able to go in, focus on their job and when adversity does strike, that they just keep coming, keep your head down," Stitt said. "The scoreboard's going to take care of itself. Just keep working and doing your job and we'll look at it at the end."
Washington sophomore cornerback Austin Joyner will miss the contest to complete his two-game suspension for violation of team rules.