Washington set to host 2-0 Illinois
SEATTLE (AP) Illinois visiting Washington was supposed to be the first major test of Chris Petersen's initial season with the Huskies.
Challenges are all the Huskies have faced in their first two weeks.
Sure Washington is 2-0 hosting the also unbeaten Fighting Illini on Saturday. But getting to that point was supposed to be easy facing Hawaii and Eastern Washington.
That was before Washington's one-point win in Honolulu, followed by a wild 59-52 escape against FCS powerhouse Eastern Washington. Now the Huskies face Illinois (2-0) and an offense that's put up impressive numbers through two games.
''They throw the heck out of the ball and they are pretty good at it,'' Petersen said. ''From where we are right now, you've got to believe they're probably feeling pretty good about themselves and can't wait to get out here and get after it.''
Washington's secondary was exposed by Eastern Washington and quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. Adams threw for seven touchdowns, using his feet to move around and keep plays alive while also dropping perfect passes over the top of the Huskies defense.
Washington's secondary could be even more limited with top cornerback Marcus Peters reportedly suspended for Saturday's game after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and sideline outburst during the third quarter of last week's game. Petersen did not confirm Peters' suspension during the week.
''We have discipline things and we keep those in-house and go from there,'' Petersen said.
That youthful secondary will now be tasked with trying to slow down Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt, who threw for 456 yards in last week's win over Western Kentucky. Lunt, a transfer from Oklahoma State, posted the fourth-best passing performance in Illinois history.
''I would say I was more comfortable,'' Lunt said. ''Definitely did some things I shouldn't have. ... I thought we got better as the game went on. We just need to focus in starting faster. We're just kind of hitting our stride a little bit. Just from the receivers, they're getting more and more comfortable. The running game, we really haven't tested that out yet.''
Here are other things to watch as the Illini and Huskies meet for the 11th time:
SCARY SHELTON: Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton is showing off an array of skills to begin his senior season. Shelton is the national leader in sacks with six through two weeks after having 2 1/2 total in his first three seasons. Shelton bullied the offensive line of Eastern Washington with four sacks last week and lined up both as a traditional tackle and also as a stand-up defensive end.
''It's only two games in so we can't really say anything and the games are only going to get tougher,'' Shelton said. ''So I'm not expecting to show up again and get another four sacks. If it happens, it happens.''
ERRATIC KICKING: Illinois' kicking game has been a puzzle so far, and coach Tim Beckman said that, two weeks into the season, playing time is up for grabs.
Starter Taylor Zalewksi has put two kickoffs out of bounds this season, and he's 0-2 on field goals (though one of those was a 50-yarder Illinois elected to try rather than going for it on fourth-and-short against Western Kentucky). Backup Ryan Frain has kicked one kickoff out of bounds.
''Put them in competition-type situations. We're going to do that,'' Beckman said. ''We cannot kick the football out of bounds. That's inexcusable.''
MILES PART TWO: Cyler Miles' return at quarterback jumpstarted Washington's offense. Miles was suspended for the opener but returned to account for four total touchdowns against Eastern Washington. The Huskies offense worked with better precision because of Miles' running threat and he made throws when needed.
That was against an FCS opponent. But he could find success against an Illini defense that's giving up nearly 400 yards per game thus far.
PERFECT START? Beckman pointed out this week that only four Illinois teams have started 3-0 in the past 25 years, giving his team extra incentive this week.
''We're fighting for that fifth one,'' he said.
Of course, the last Illini team to start 3-0 was the one that cost Beckman's predecessor his job. The 2011 Illini went 6-0 before dropping six straight. Ron Zook was fired shortly after the last regular-season game and Beckman - now coaching under job pressure himself - was hired from Toledo.
Associated Press Writer David Mercer contributed to this report.