Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

September 25, 2018 at 8:43 pm.

Mirroring styles in showdown between Washington, BYU

No. 11-ranked Washington concludes its nonconference schedule in much the same way it began: facing another nationally ranked opponent with a stout defense and power-run game.

No. 20 BYU (3-1) visits Husky Stadium on Saturday already boasting wins on the road against a Pac-12 opponent — Arizona in Week 1 — and a highly ranked opponent with College Football Playoff aspirations — Wisconsin. A physically imposing style reliant on owning both lines of scrimmage fueled the Cougars’ unexpected start.

BYU’s style is comparable to that of Washington’s Week 1 opponent, Auburn — and to the Huskies, as well.

Such matchups set the theme for the first month of the season for Washington (3-1), which outlasted Pac-12 Conference opponent Arizona State, 27-20, in a similarly hard-hitting contest Week 4. The win came one week after a 21-7 road defeat of Utah, BYU’s rival and a program renowned for its outstanding line play.

“These games are the best for you in the long run,” said Washington linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven in the Sept. 22 postgame press conference. “At the end of the season, every game in the Pac-12 Championship or a bowl game will be like this.”

BYU held each of its first four opponents to 23 points or fewer, including Cal to 21 points in the Cougars’ lone loss Week 2. Last week, BYU scored a season-high in a 30-3 rout of Football Championship Subdivision opponent McNeese State, though its offense struggled beyond a 24-point deluge in the second quarter.

Low scores have indeed been both teams’ M.O. through four games. Washington’s 27 points against Arizona State marked the Huskies’ second-highest output of 2018.

Their 5-of-5 performance in the red zone was the Huskies’ best on the season, and quarterback Jake Browning’s three touchdown passes without an interception equaled his best showing of 2018. Washington coach Chris Petersen credited an offensive line still adjusting with preseason All-American Trey Adams scratched for the season due to a back injury.

“I think our (offensive) line did a nice job of allowing him to see some things, and when that happens it always feels good,” he said.

A similar effort is crucial against BYU. Although the Cougars have not produced numbers comparable to Washington opponents like Auburn and Utah in terms of sacks and tackles for loss, they’ve excelled at limiting quarterbacks’ options. BYU has more interceptions (4) than passing touchdowns allowed (3).