Outside of of the 52 points scored against Portland State, an FCS opponent, Washington has not managed to put up more than 21 points all year long. They have been held to 17 or below four out of eight games. Overall, if you remove the FCS outlier, they average a hair over 16 points per game. Even if you leave in the 52 point outburst, with the fact that most teams in the Pac-12 and in the nation have gimme games against soft opponents factored into their own scoring averages in mind, the average only increases to a little over 20 points a game. Last year, Washington averaged well over 30. Why the offensive futility?
Well, early in the season, it seemed like the inexperience (due to injury) of the offensive line and the total lack of a run game were to blame. As the season has gone on, and with the emergence of Bishop Sankey as a feature back, it has become clear that the struggles of quarterback Keith Price have been the main issue. If you have been paying attention to the team at all this year, you have heard about Price’s lackluster season, so I won’t go too heavily into detail about that here.
But, something that also has to be kept in mind is the brutal schedule the Huskies have faced. It is easy to struggle when you have played four top-10 ranked (at the time of the game) teams, with five out of the eight teams ranked in the top-15, and both LSU and Oregon in the top-3. Strength of schedule doesn’t completely explain away the offensive woes, but it is possible that they are at least partially to blame, that perhaps Keith Price would have somewhat more respectable stats if he had had a chance to go against a few weaker defenses.
That theory is fully unproven, but tomorrow, it will be put to the test. Cal is 3-6. Their coach is on the hot seat, their season is pretty much already a disappointment, and the defense, while certainly not bad, is average at best, ranked 69th in the country in scoring with 28.3 points allowed per game. After so many elite defenses, this is the first of four straight games against teams that have not done a terrific job of stopping quarterbacks.
Does that mean Price will suddenly start putting up massive numbers? Probably not. He was not terrific to start the year against San Diego State, and he also did not play exceptionally well against Arizona last week, and they are not, by any stretch of the truth, an elite defense. But, for the offense as a whole, this is a chance to establish a rhythm and make progress. Washington doesn’t necessarily need 350 yards and four touchdowns from Price, but they do need accuracy and efficiency. They need limited turnovers. Most of all, they need the offensive line to build on recent progress and for Bishop Sankey to continue to carry the load. Against Cal, that should be enough, just as it should be enough against Utah, Colorado, and Washington State.
Tomorrow, we will see if the offense is ready to take that next step.