Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

October 30, 2018 at 9:37 pm.

Huskies search for offense ahead of Stanford game

Season-long offensive inconsistencies came to a head for Washington in what coach Chris Petersen called a “painful” loss.

“It’s obviously painful when you lose a game and don’t give up a defensive touchdown,” Petersen said in his weekly press conference, referring to Washington’s 12-10 setback at Cal on Saturday. “We’re all trying to figure out how to help that.”

Washington (6-3, 4-2 Pac-12) has not scored more than 35 points against FBS competition this season, but last week’s anemic performance forced the first considerable shake-ups from Petersen. He pulled fourth-year starting quarterback Jake Browning in the third quarter after five straight drives that ended in an interception, three punts and a turnover on downs.

Browning will start on Saturday when Washington returns to Husky Stadium to face Stanford (5-3, 3-2) in a battle of preseason Pac-12 North favorites. But the decision to put in Jake Haener, whose pick-six throw in the third quarter proved to be the difference, spoke to a continued issue plaguing the Huskies.

“Sometimes you just have to go out and try something to spark something,” Petersen said in the postgame press conference. “I don’t want to keep doing the same thing over.”

Stanford comes into this matchup off its own heartbreaking loss, a 41-38 decision last week against Washington State. The Cardinal saw a two-touchdown advantage slip away in the loss, one week after Arizona State nearly erased a similar Stanford lead.

The Cardinal has faced its offensive ups-and-downs this season, a byproduct of 2017 Heisman Trophy runner-up Bryce Love dealing with an ankle injury. Quarterback K.J. Costello threw for four touchdowns last week, in what was the Cardinal’s highest-scoring effort against an FBS opponent this season, but it did not reach the end zone in the second half until 1:25 remained in the fourth quarter.

Washington also has dealt with injuries in the backfield. Senior running back Myles Gaskin missed a second consecutive game, and the Huskies’ committee approach with Kamari Pleasant, Sean McGrew and Salvon Ahmed combined for just 80 yards on 27 carries.