Huskies Break the Bland Mold, Top Overmatched Arizona 44-27

A fake punt deep in UW territory set the tone for a more aggressive football team to emerge in its second outing.
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Four plays into his second game as coach, Jimmy Lake removed the conservative label from his University of Washington football team.

Ripped it off.

Threw it into Lake Washington.

Tied a rock to it.

On fourth-and-1 from the Husky 31, Lake boldly called for a fake punt against the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday after the sun had set on Husky Stadium. 

This decision was a tone-setter. A momentum-generator. Certainly a reputation-builder.

Jackson Sirmon, better known as a starting inside linebacker, took the short snap as an up-back and crashed through the middle for 4 yards — sending the Huskies to a well-earned first down, an immediate first touchdown and a dominant 44-27 victory.

This was the kind of gamble Lake's predecessor, Chris Petersen, was known for at Boise State but rarely summoned in his six seasons in Seattle.

Lake heard plenty of outside criticism following the UW's season-opening 27-21 victory over Oregon State the weekend before that his team was efficient but bland. 

Against Arizona (0-2), the free-wheeling Huskies were much more the aggressor, repeatedly blitzing, throwing deep and pressing the issue. Hey, Lake had his guys dressed in their new all-black uniforms. 

The weather was better. The new players were broken in. The UW (2-0) scored on its first four possessions and this one was over early for all intents and purposes.

"We want people to be surprised about what we're doing," senior outside linebacker Ryan Bowman said of the fake punt. "There's definitely going to be more things to see."

Three plays following the fake punt, redshirt freshman quarterback Dylan Morris found Puka Nacua on a crossing pattern that turned into a 65-yard scoring strike. The game was just three minutes and 33 seconds old.

Once more, the Huskies' gigantic offensive line permitted Morris to do pretty much what he wanted in the pocket. He completed 15 of 25 passes for 230 yards and 2 touchdowns. These beefy boys still haven't allowed him to be sacked in eight quarters, though he stepped out of bounds late and officially drew one. 

This mountainous group also enabled Washington's four rotating running backs to get their yards, collectively 233 yards compared to the team's 239 passing, and three of these ball-carriers chalked up four scoring runs. 

"We're mammoth up front, if you haven't noticed," Lake said. "I know for a fact our humongous offensive line weighs on people and they're going to break."

Following Peyton Henry's 20-yard field goal, senior tailback Sean McGrew — the Huskies' only new starter from week 1 — found the end zone on a 1-yard run and sophomore Richard Newton plowed in to score from 2 yards out, putting the UW up 24-0 at half.

Kamari Pleasant wasn't the first-team tailback this week, but he was no less effective. He broke free on a 21-yard scoring run in the third quarter.  

Morris made junior tight end Cade Otton his favorite target, sending 5 passes to him for 72 yards in the first half alone and hooking up with him on a 20-yard TD throw in the third quarter. Otton finished with 7 catches for 100 yards. 

"He got our game ball tonight," Lake said of his talented tight end. "Wait until you see film of him blocking tonight. He was just mashing people all over the field."

With just under 13 minutes to play, Morris gave way to sophomore Jacob Sirmon rather than grad transfer Kevin Thomson, who was in uniform this game instead of street clothes. Sirmon put the Huskies in the end zone in three plays covering 65 yards, with Newton closing out the UW scoring with a 54-yard breakaway run. 

Newton led the Huskies with 81 yards rushing on eight carries. Sirmon even had a rush for 3 yards, while his cousin, on the fake punt, was credited with a rush for 4 yards. Two Sirmons ran the ball.

Lake's defensive unit was much better against Arizona, clamping down on the run and making life miserable for Wildcats quarterback Grant Gunnell. The 6-foot-6 sophomore from Texas, impressive against USC, was manhandled much of the way by the Huskies, who sacked him five times and forced him to fumble the football away on the UW 9, setting up McGrew's first-quarter TD run. 

Sophomore outside linebacker Zion Tupuola-Fetui, supposedly in a  substitute role until fellow Husky sophomore Laiatu Latu returns from an unexplained absence, doesn't look like he plans on giving up the job anytime soon. He had two more sacks, giving him four in two games. 

The UW secondary was in lockdown mode most of the game, though it had a brief scare when senior nickel back and team leader Elijah Molden went down in the fourth quarter after getting leg-whipped. He was able to walk off on his own power. 

After Molden went out with the UW up 37-0 and substituting liberally, Arizona scored four times in the final quarter, with Stanley Berryhill catching a pair of scoring passes. 

Even with the late flurry of Wildcats points, Lake was satisfied with his team's performance.

"It could have almost been 60-0 if we catch a few football there," he said. 

A host of players made their UW debuts in true freshman defensive back Makell Esteen, wide receiver Sawyer Racanelli and offensive tackle Roger Rosengarten, and redshirt freshman tight end Zeke Pelluer, defensive back Kamren Fabiculanan, offensive linemen Nate Kalepo and Julius Buelow, defensive lineman Noa Ngalu and inside linebacker Miki Ah You, 

With two victories in hand, the Huskies now await word on whether they'll have an Apple Cup to play next Friday in Pullman, Washington, or need to find someone else to schedule if virus-idled Washington State can't go.

No matter who they play, Jimmy Lake's guys are plain Janes no more. 

Follow Dan Raley of Husky Maven on Twitter: @DanRaley1 and @HuskyMaven

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