College football does its best to produce marquis match-ups every Saturday from September through November for its regular season. The major networks roll out the Top 25 in a glorious prelude to the Power Five conference championships, Bowlpalooza, and the College Football Playoff. It’s easy to forget that every Saturday produces a concurrent stream of unranked Division I, FCS, and Division II and III football. This is where hundreds of future Power Five head coaches, coordinators, and assistants cut their teeth. The early weeks of the college football calendar are littered with Power Five mismatches. Today Washington vs. Sacramento State features a PAC 12-Big Sky game that doesn’t even rate a line in Vegas.
Chris Petersen knows better. Sacramento State has its own football history, and Petersen was part of it in 1985 and 1986. Petersen was winning conferences as quarterback for Sacramento City College before he transferred to UC-Davis. Petersen led Division II UCD to two consecutive wins against Sacramento State.
Petersen did his part, dazzling in a 37-30 victory in 1985 as a junior and in a 29-6 win in 1986 as Division II UCD set an all-levels collegiate record by winning its 15th consecutive conference championship.
Chris Petersen’s winning habits were established early in his collegiate playing career. He knows that people are good at football in California, and he won’t take anything for granted today against Sacramento State.
“They have some very good talent,” Petersen said. “I know what Sacramento State is going to bring. They’re going to bring tremendous focus, energy and effort. They’re going to play well. They’re going to play inspired.”
Petersen’s Huskies are going to have to improve on a running game that was stymied last week in Boise as the Broncos held Washington to 29 yards net rushing. True freshman starter Jake Browning needs more help than that. Browning rewrote California high school records playing for Folsom High, just a few miles away from the Sacramento State campus. Sacramento State Head Coach Jody Sears knows that Browning can be a Division I star.
“They have probably one of the finest young quarterbacks in the country, there is no question about it,” Sears said.
Browning teased Washington fans with his impeccable fundamentals, beautiful release, and powerful arm. However, his numbers weren’t spectacular. Browning was 20 of 34 for 150 yards and an interception in a conservative game plan. The Huskies had a huge third down called back due to penalty, but still managed to line up a potential game-tying field goal in the closing seconds. Cameron Van Winkle’s 46-yard attempt sailed wide right. Washington failed to complete their second half turnaround, and missed their chance at an early season upset.
This week Petersen and his Huskies look for a big rebound and plan on establishing their ground game. Look for #12 Dwayne Washington to get the bulk of the carries. The junior looked powerful in his 6’2” 226 pound frame, but he only rushed for 14 yards on 8 carries against Boise State.
“It starts with the run game. And when you can’t run the ball, you’re putting a lot of pressure on your pass game,” Petersen said. “It always starts right there and if you can’t do that, then we’re not helping (Browning) like we need to.”
Dwayne Washington and Myles Gaskin will try to establish the Huskies’ dominance on the ground, and give Browning some time to shine in his second NCAA game.
Washington’s defense was run over in last week’s first half, but they showed lots of speed and ferocity. The Huskies gave up 185 yards on the ground against Boise; but they stuffed the Boise run attack in the second half.
Sacramento State will feature 5’7” wide receiver/return specialist Isaiah Hennie. Hennie had a 21-yard touchdown reception and 67-yard punt return for a score in last week’s Sacramento State win over Eastern Oregon.
Washington should dominate, but Petersen knows better than to look ahead. The Huskies need to notch every win possible, and look good doing it. The PAC 12 gauntlet is right around the corner. Utah State is next week, and that’s no picnic; but starting on October 8th and finishing on November 14th Washington faces USC, Oregon, Stanford, Arizona, Utah, and Arizona State in succession.