With a game finally under their belt, the Washington football team prepares for week two against Arizona, an opponent the Huskies beat 51-27 in 2019. It's a new season though, and a lot has changed in the desert, so here's The Daily's primer on what you should know ahead of Saturday's game against the Wildcats.
3 numbers to know
59: It's been 59 weeks since Arizona last won a football game. In other words, the Wildcats have dropped eight straight games dating back to Oct. 5, 2019. During the losing streak, opponents have outscored Arizona 316-167. In fact, it was Washington who started Arizona’s losing streak, winning last year’s game 51-27 in Tucson.
But Arizona is a much different team than the last time the teams faced off. Sophomore Grant Gunnell has taken over full-time duties as starting quarterback, and impressed last week, against USC, throwing for 286 yards and three touchdowns. On the other side of the ball, Arizona hired former UCLA defensive backs coach Paul Rhoads to take over the duties as the defensive coordinator.
1: Days of measurable precipitation in Tucson, AZ. since September 1st. For comparison, Seattle has 31 such days. Arizona has reportedly been practicing wet ball drills leading up to Saturday's game, but one week of preparation may not be enough for the weather of the Pacific Northwest.
Washington forced two turnovers against Oregon State, while Arizona threw one interception versus USC. The turnover battle will be key in this week’s matchup, a wet game would certainly benefit the Huskies more than it would the Wildcats.
0: Number of turnover forced by the Arizona defense versus USC. Also the number of turnovers committed by Washington versus OSU. While the wet weather will potentially play a factor for the Arizona offense, the Huskies are suited for the elements.
If Arizona hopes to beat Washington, it will need to force turnovers. Last season, Arizona cornerback Lorenzo Burnes picked off four passes, leading the team. The Wildcats finished the season as a team with 12 interceptions, four fumble recoveries, and a -2 turnover differential. In the meeting versus Washington won the turnover battle, four-to-one, forcing and recovering three fumbles.
2 players to watch
Gary Brightwell Jr. - RB
Entering his senior season with less than 1,000 career rushing yards following three seasons behind J.J. Taylor, Gary Brightwell Jr.'s time to lead the Arizona ground game has come. Against USC week one, he rushed for 112 yards, adding 20 more through the air.
The senior running back possesses a large 6-foot-1, 218 pound frame and a bruising rushing style. He didn’t play in last season’s meeting with the Huskies, but if last Saturday’s matchup against Oregon State is any indication, Washington will have a tough time stopping Brightwell and the Arizona rushing attack.
Tayvian Cunningham - WR
A dual sport track and field athlete, Tayvian Cunningham’s speed is utilized whenever he is on the field. Last week against the Trojans, Cunningham beat his defender for a 75-yard touchdown and finished the day atop the stat sheet with 110 receiving yards.
Last year the Huskies locked-down Cunningham, holding him to one catch, but if he can’t get open on the outside, he may hurt the Huskies in other ways, as he also handles kickoff return duties for the Wildcats. Look for Arizona to get Cunningham involved throughout the game and let him use his speed to beat the Washington corners.
1 recap of last week
The Wildcat’s first scheduled game was cancelled due to positive COVID-19 cases, so last week’s 34-14 loss versus USC marked Arizona’s first game of the season. Although they entered the game as 15 point underdogs, the Wildcats hung tough with the Trojans.
Taking a lead with 1:35 remaining, Arizona was in line for the win, but the defense, which plagued the Wildcats all of last year, collapsed. USC used a 6 play, 75-yard drive to take the lead with 25 seconds left, essentially sealing the game.
Despite the loss, there were many positives for the Wildcats. In the first game under Rhoads, the Arizona defense looked improved, as USC was only 4-for-8 on touchdowns inside the red zone, held to three field goal attempts and a turnover on downs.
Gunnell also looked sharp, despite the interception, and will challenge the Washington corners more than OSU quarterback Tristan Gebbia did last Saturday.
Reach reporter Anthony Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @edwardsanthonyb
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