No. 15 Washington hosts Colorado with both seeking rebound
SEATTLE — Washington and Colorado are going to need help along the way if they are interested in a replay of the Pac-12 championship game of two years ago.
One of them will be stuck with a second loss in league play after the 15th-ranked Huskies host the Buffaloes on Saturday, each looking to rebound from losses a week ago.
Washington (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12) saw its chances of being in the College Football Playoff conversation likely end with an overtime loss at Oregon last week. Colorado (5-1, 3-1) was knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten after getting thumped at Southern California.
It’s not an enviable position for either team knowing a second league loss will make it extremely difficult to win a Pac-12 division title.
“We always have something to prove just because people don’t look at Colorado and think we are an elite college football team year in and year out. We have had something to prove since the season started,” Colorado quarterback Steven Montez said. “We just have to keep moving in a positive direction. I think we’ll prove what we want to prove. There is always something for this team, for sure.”
Washington probably had the more painful loss last week. With a chance to escape Eugene with a huge victory, kicker Peyton Henry missed from 37 yards on the final play of regulation after Washington’s offense became suddenly passive in the final minute after getting into field goal range. Washington coach Chris Petersen said he would have liked a do-over to get a bit closer for Henry’s attempt.
Washington also had a missed opportunity in overtime, settling for a field goal and then watching the Ducks score a touchdown on their possession to set off a wild celebration.
“When you lay it on the line like that and you don’t get it done and come up a play or two short, it’s painful. It should be painful. And it is,” Petersen said.
Both teams enter with questions about offensive stars. Colorado wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. suffered a toe injury against USC that limited his action. Washington running back Myles Gaskin aggravated a shoulder injury against Oregon and barely played in the second half, although there was optimism late in the week that Gaskin may be able to play against the Buffs.
Here are other things to watch:
MR. EVERYTHING: It’s hard to overstate how much impact Shenault has had for Colorado’s offense. As a receiver, he’s caught 60 passes for 780 yards and six TDs. His 130 yards receiving per game lead the nation. As a tailback in the wildcat formation, he’s scored five times, including a 49-yard scamper last weekend. He’s responsible for 11 of Colorado’s 27 touchdowns through six games.
Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said earlier this week that Shenault was day-to-day.
BACKUP PLAN: Gaskin isn’t the only running back Washington has injury concerns about. Backup Salvon Ahmed suffered a knee injury in the second half against Oregon when he took an awkward step away from the play. Ahmed played sparingly late in the game and was a decoy.
That left Washington going deep into its reserves, turning to the combo of Sean McGrew and Kamari Pleasant. The pair combined for 60 yards rushing on 12 carries against Oregon and combined average 5.5 yards per carry.
“Myles has been such a workhorse and he’s just so durable, but in this game there’s going to be times when you can’t go with your first guys, especially at that position,” Petersen said. “I’ve said this a million times: You have to have a handful of good tailbacks, because that position just takes too much pounding.”
QB SPOTLIGHT: Colorado’s Montez and Washington’s Jake Browning are looking to erase the bad memories of last week. Montez fell to 3-7 as a starting quarterback on the road with the loss at USC and has seen his road completion percentage dip to 58.8 percent, nearly 10 percentage points lower than his completion rate at home.
Browning was on the verge of a career-defining drive in the final minutes against Oregon before the missed kick. Browning needs less than 100 yards passing to move into eighth place on the Pac-12’s career list.
28 STRAIGHT: It’s been a long time since Colorado beat a ranked team on the road. How long? Try 16 years. The Buffaloes have lost 28 straight road games against ranked foes. Its last road win over a ranked team came in September 2002 when the Buffaloes won at UCLA.
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