You know by now the scripture from Saint Petersen The Chris: Thou Shalt Not Peek Ahead in Thy Schedule, For Ye Shall be Smited.
Which didn’t stop him Saturday afternoon from sending a message ahead to Salt Lake City, site of next Saturday’s game with 21st-ranked Utah. Decoded from the original Hebrew, it said: Go deep.
On the third play of game against Oregon State, third-and-nine at the Washington 30, the Huskies coach dialed up a flea-flicker. None of this flat-pass, bubble-screen, incremental fluffiness.
RB Myles Gaskin flipped a handoff back to QB Jake Browning, who chucked it nearly 60 yards to The Flash, a k a John Ross. He caught it in stride and was tackled at the OSU 19-yard line.
“Coming off a bye, sometimes it takes a minute to get going,” Petersen said. “We did it a little different than we have in the past.”
The shot of adrenaline straight into the heart of the fifth-ranked Huskies machine lasted through the first three possessions, producing a 21-0 lead en route to a predictable 41-17 thrash of the Beavers.
But it was the way they did it that likely will give pause to the 7-1 Utes, who beat UCLA 52-45 Saturday to set up the Pac-12 Conference’s game of the season so far. The Huskies struck early, going deep four times in the first quarter to Ross for 115 yards and a touchdown.
All defensive coordinators fear Ross, and adjust accordingly. Which means it’s a party for everyone else in the Washington offense. The Huskies didn’t go back to Ross again, because they didn’t need to: 219 rushing yards, let by Gaskin’s 128, ground out the remainder of the game.
Chief beneficiary of the wrinkles for Ross was fellow WR Dante Pettis, who’s the first to admit his football life is so much better with Ross in it.
“They’re afraid of his speed, as they should be,” Pettis said. “You got a guy who runs a 4.2 (seconds in the 40), he’s going to open up a lot of stuff for different people.
“I’m just listening to what the coaches are saying. Then it’s up to Jake to put the ball on us.”
A game after his career-best 134 yards, and two touchdowns on eight catches, in the Huskies’ 70-21 win at Oregon, Pettis had four catches for 112 yards and TDs of 23 and 41 yards against the Beavers.
His second TD, a season-long 41-yarder in the third quarter that put the Huskies up 38-3, was ridiculous, because it illustrated how versatile the UW offense is.
Facing a third-and-two at the OSU 41, the Huskies appeared ready to run, and the Beavers loaded up the box. Instead, Browning dropped back and spotted Pettis more alone than Donald Trump in Mexico. The Beavers are still looking for Pettis on film.
“They obviously all rushed up at 3rd-and-2, thinking it was going to be a run,” Pettis said. “No one accounted for me. Honestly, I was a little worried Jake didn’t see me. I saw him, and said, ‘Oh man! Just throw me the ball.'”
A 6-1, 188-pound junior from San Clemente, CA, Pettis has 27 catches, seven fewer than team leader Ross, but averages a team high 16.9 yards per catch. He also has a 12.3-yar average on 11 punt returns. He’s gone from role player to star.
“Dante understands what he’s trying to get done,” Petersen said. “He’s an acrobatic-type receiver, has great range. Jake is pretty accurate, but when he isn’t, Dante can make the tough catch. He’s taken the next step in his game — technique, details of routes. It’s all showing up.
And It always helps to have other guys who can make plays.”
The versatility and the willingness to go deep makes for a lively week in the receivers room before practice.
“We call them ‘auditions’ for trick plays,” Pettis said. “When (the play is discussed), it’s, ‘Oh, we having auditions for that?’ (Coach Bush Hamdan) just picks who fits for that certain play. We do try (to suck up to him), but it doesn’t work.”
The business-like dispatch of the Beavers bodes well for the Huskies and their ability to avoid trap games when they are heavy favorites.
“Coach Pete does a good job every week not downplaying an opponent,” Pettis said. “He said, ‘These guys can play some football.’ So if we stick to our stuff, we should have a good game. Don’t overlook anyone. I don’t think we’ve done that yet.”
At 7-0, they have not. But complacency will be no factor next weekend. They can set down the Book of Pete, having memorized the gospels.