Widgets Magazine
Behind enemy lines: Washington Huskies
The Washington Huskies feature a strong defensive line which might create difficulties for McCaffrey. (Raghav Mehrotra/The Stanford Daily)

Behind enemy lines: Washington Huskies

No. 7 Stanford football looks ahead to a Pac-12 showdown this weekend against the No. 10 Washington Huskies. To preview the game, The Daily’s Vihan Lakshman spoke with sports editor Alexis Mansanarez of The Daily of the University of Washington about UW’s experienced coach and which team will remain undefeated after Friday.

The Stanford Daily (TSD): In just three seasons, head coach Chris Petersen has turned the Huskies into serious contenders for the conference title. How would you describe the culture of the program under Coach Petersen, and how has he set this program up for success?

Alexis Mansanarez (AM): Petersen entered the program with a team first mentality and promoted competition and brotherhood from the get-go, qualities that are seen this season more than ever. The depth of the defense, and even the offense, show how successful Petersen has been in not only recruiting, but in promoting competition among position groups.

His no-nonsense approach and ability to tune out the noise – most specifically this year’s preseason hype – trickles down from other coaches to the players. Petersen’s expectations have been the same from the first day he came to the UW up to now, except this year, he finally has a group of guys who have the potential to exceed those expectations.

TSD: After cruising through their first three games of 2016, the Huskies faced a strong test at Arizona before prevailing in overtime. What were the Wildcats able to do to push Washington to the very end, and where must the Huskies improve before this week’s matchup?

AM: Arizona is a good team and with the home field advantage, the Wildcats were able to come out of the gate pushing the tempo and commanding an early lead, but despite Washington’s more or less “easy” preseason schedule, there was no doubt the Huskies would fight back.

I credit Dawkins for being able to find holes in the UW’s extraordinary defense, and it was clear that after the first half Washington made the necessary adjustments. The Pac-12 opener was not going to be as easy as Washington’s first three games, and looking ahead to Stanford, it won’t get any easier.

The Huskies essentially have to do what the Wildcats did last week, but instead of controlling the tempo on the ground, Browning will to move the ball down the field via passing and allow the UW’s big playmakers to do what they do best: put points on the board.

TSD: By all indications, this game looks on track to be the first sellout in the history of the new Husky Stadium. What kind of atmosphere are you expecting on Friday, and what impact might that have on the game?

AM: National spotlight, a Friday night game and two top-10 teams – all of these qualifiers speak to the potential sellout. Regardless of the crowd, Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium is the greatest setting in college football, and now the fans will be able to show the nation how deep and vital their base is on Montlake.

No matter who the opponent is, the home field advantage is always beneficial, and when facing one of the best teams in the conference, it’s an advantage I will happily take.

TSD: How has quarterback Jake Browning progressed from Year 1 to Year 2 in Seattle? Who are some other UW offensive players to keep an eye on this Friday?

AM: Browning opened up the season extremely well, showing the most improvement in his deep passing game. With targets like Ross, McClatcher and Pettis, Browning has a number of options and has utilized all of them extremely well so far this season.

I would keep an eye out for the offensive line. If they can hold Stanford’s defense, giving Browning more time in the pocket, then he’ll be able to post the big numbers similar to that of the first three home games.

TSD: The Huskies once again feature one of the best defenses in conference. What has been the secret behind Washington’s perennial defensive success in the Petersen era and which position group do you consider the strongest on that side of the ball?

AM: The depth of the defense is the biggest part of its success. In each position group you have No. 2’s that have just as much talent as the guy for whom they are coming in. The communication between the position groups makes it easier for them to make adjustments, like they did last week against Arizona.

TSD: What are your keys to the game for each side, and who do you see emerging victorious?

AM: Washington has to do what has worked, and use the passing game to push the ball up the field. Stanford’s defense is too good at stopping the run. And of course, there is Christian McCaffrey. There is no doubt he will rack up the yards, but if the defense can stop McCaffrey, then I say Washington has a pretty good shot at remaining undefeated. It’s hard to pick just one, but I would say the linebackers are the heart of the defense. Bierria and Victor led the defense last year, and continue to top the stat sheet this year.

Contact Vihan Lakshman at vihan ‘at’ stanford.edu and Alexis Mansanarez at sports@dailyuw.com.

About Vihan Lakshman

Vihan Lakshman's journey at The Stanford Daily came full-circle as he began his career as a football beat writer and now closes his time on The Farm in the same role. In between, he has served as an Opinions columnist and desk editor, a beat writer for Stanford baseball, and as a member of The Daily's Editorial Board. Vihan completed his undergraduate degree in Mathematical and Computational Science in 2016, and is currently pursuing a master's in Computational Mathematics. He also worked as a color commentator on KZSU football broadcasts during the 2015 season. To contact him, please send an email to vihan 'at' stanford.edu