Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

October 23, 2018 at 8:05 pm.

Multifaceted approach buoys No. 15 Washington

No. 15-ranked Washington is not lacking for offensive combinations ahead of its Pac-12 North matchup Saturday with Cal.

“We have about 47 different personnel groups (on offense),” said coach Chris Petersen following the Huskies’ 27-13 win over Colorado on Saturday. “(Player usage) just depends on the play call.”

The Huskies’ offensive diversity most notably took shape in the run game, which went into last week’s game without star running back Myles Gaskin, who was sidelined due to a shoulder injury. Change-of-pace back Salvon Ahmed also entered the week questionable but posted 73 yards with a touchdown on just nine carries — a testament to the balance in the backfield.

Washington (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12) split carries among the trio of Ahmed, Sean McGrew (who had 12) and Kamari Pleasant (who had 10, including a touchdown run).

“That’s a nice three-headed monster,” Petersen said.

And with Gaskin likely back in the lineup Saturday at Cal, the three-headed monster becomes four-headed — with a still-improving fivesome in front of it.

“(Gaskin) is the guy we want in our backfield as often as possible, (but) I think we have a great group of O-lineman who can make it happen even if he’s not there,” offensive tackle Kaleb McGary said in the postgame press conference.

Distribution of carries and variety in personnel groupings give Golden Bears defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter an added layer against which to game-plan.

Cal (4-3, 1-3) is holding opponents below four yards per rush and is coming off a season-best 2.3-per carry yield in a 49-7 romp over Oregon State. The win ended a three-game skid for the Golden Bears, which showed a spark of offensive life for the first time since they embarked on conference play.

The win also widened Cal’s margin for error to gain bowl eligibility. The Golden Bears now just need to finish 2-3 down the stretch for a postseason berth.

Likewise, Washington’s multifaceted offense and a stout defensive effort against Colorado — the Huskies held the Buffs to just 263 yards of offense — combined with an Oregon loss at Washington State simplified their path to the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Washington, if it wins out, is bound for Santa Clara on Nov. 30. And the Huskies can rely on any one of four options to help carry the burden the rest of the way.