PROVO, Utah (AP) — After opening the season with three consecutive games at home, Washington’s young squad gets its first exposure to a hostile road environment on Saturday at BYU.
Coach Chris Petersen feels optimistic the No. 22 Huskies are up to the challenge.
“You can feel that there’s some growth,” Petersen said. “You see different things that haven’t come up in practice. Different styles, offense, defense, special teams. There’s no substitute for that experience.”
Having an experienced quarterback has helped Washington (2-1) accelerate the growth progress.
Jacob Eason, who transferred to Washington from Georgia, threw for 349 yards and four touchdowns in a season-opening win over Eastern Washington and tallied 262 yards and three scores through the air in last week’s win over Hawaii. He had no interceptions in either game.
Petersen sees progress in Eason’s command of the offense and his ability to discern the best time to throw versus handing the ball off.
“That’s probably the No. 1 thing,” Petersen said. “Certainly he can throw the ball and get the ball to the receivers in a hurry.”
Washington will be the third Pac-12 opponent BYU has faced over a four-week stretch. The Cougars (2-1) got wildly different results in the previous two such games.
Utah dominated BYU after halftime, scoring three touchdowns and holding on to the ball for nearly 23 minutes in a 30-12 Utes victory on Aug. 29. USC, on the other hand, could get little going on offense in the fourth quarter and allowed the Cougars to rally from a seven-point deficit for a 30-27 overtime victory last Saturday.
BYU earned back-to-back overtime victories, in part, because the Cougars locked down defensively after halftime. They outscored their last two opponents 23-13 over the third and fourth quarters.
“Our players have done an amazing job believing in each other and trusting that their energy and their effort will pay off,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “That’s been the key for us. The players keep working at it.”
The Cougars are looking to bounce back from last season’s 35-7 loss to Washington in Seattle. BYU totaled just 194 yards of offense in that game.
Other things to know when BYU hosts Washington on Saturday:
BRYANT, TIMES TWO: Hunter Bryant and Myles Bryant both played critical roles in Washington’s bounce-back win over Hawaii last weekend. Hunter Bryant tallied five catches for 115 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown on the third play of the game.
Myles Bryant snagged two interceptions against the Rainbow Warriors. Those were the first forced turnovers of the season for Washington’s defense. Bryant also served as an extra rusher, blitzing from his safety position on multiple occasions against Hawaii.
“I feel like at this point, once the team starts getting turnovers, then it just becomes a downhill thing to where it just keeps happening and happening,” Myles Bryant said. “Hopefully from this point on it just keeps going and going.”
SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT: BYU employed a unique short-yardage package twice against USC, inserting Khyiris Tonga at fullback, Dayan Ghanwoloku at tailback, and Austin Kafentzis at quarterback. All three typically play on defense.
The Cougars scored their first touchdown of the game on Ghanwoloku’s 1-yard run out of the formation. It didn’t produce positive results the second time. The Trojans stopped Ghanwoloku for a 1-yard gain on 4th-and-2 from the USC 9 in the third quarter.
Sitake plans to use the package from time to time throughout the season.
“There’s so many things we can do with that formation and that personnel group,” Sitake said. “We’ll see if it has a role this week or not.”
THIRD-QUARTER TROUBLE: Starting strong after halftime hasn’t come easy for Washington. Opponents have outscored the Huskies 27-3 combined during the third quarter over the past two games.
California put together two long touchdown drives, covering 75 and 73 yards, and held the ball for more than half the quarter. Hawaii produced TD drives of 93 and 53 yards. The Rainbow Warriors also had the ball for more than 12 minutes during the quarter.
SPREADING IT AROUND: After completing passes to eight different receivers against Utah and Tennessee, Zach Wilson went a step further against USC. Wilson completed passes to 10 different receivers and caught a 19-yard pass himself, giving BYU 11 players with at least one catch. Gunner Romney led the group with three catches for 54 yards.
“It’s awesome just knowing that we have so many different weapons,” Romney said. “We can score and we can make plays from tons of different places.”
AP Sports Writer Tim Booth in Seattle contributed to this report.
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