Huskies’ recent history suggests running game will improve in Pac-12 play

UW coach Chris Petersen described the run game as “a work in progress” on Monday, but he didn’t seem overly concerned about it.

The baseline numbers suggest there is a problem brewing with the Huskies’ rushing game.

Washington’s recent history suggests otherwise.

As they prepare for their Pac-12 opener on the road this week, the No. 7 Huskies (3-0) rank ninth in the conference in rushing yards, with 389 in three games. Their 4.27 yards per carry ranks eighth.

In Saturday’s rout of Fresno State, the Huskies had 92 yards rushing on 30 carries. For a team with designs on another run to a conference championship, that kind of performance won’t be good enough over the course of a full season.

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As they prepared for their Pac-12 opener on the road, a similar question came up at this time a year ago: What’s wrong with the UW run game?

In 2016, the Huskies answered with 352 yards on 51 carries in an overtime win at Arizona. Can they do something similar this week at Colorado?

UW coach Chris Petersen described the run game as “a work in progress” on Monday, but he didn’t seem overly concerned about it.

“The running game takes a minute,” he said. “I watch everybody’s run game. It is kind of hit or miss at times. I think it’s when you get into a rhythm and get enough touches and carries and build some confidence that if you can get some positive things going, guys start to believe in things.”

The Huskies haven’t had much chance to build momentum in the run game.

Because of Rutgers’ slow-it-down style, the Huskies ran just 54 plays in the opener. They have had back-to-back blowouts of Montana and Fresno State. And, yes, they probably should have put up bigger rushing numbers in those games, but the reality is the Huskies were playing many of their third- and fourth-string players in the second halves of those games — and those defenses were loading up the box with eight or nine guys, knowing the Huskies were just trying to run down the clock.

“No team runs the ball well with nine in the box,” quarterback Jake Browning said.

In the first half of their first three games (with starters in), the Huskies are averaging 5.2 yards per carry — 198 yards on 38 carries. In the second half (with mostly backups in), they are averaging 3.6 yards per carry — 53 carries for 191 yards.

Through three games, star running back Myles Gaskin…

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