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Washington vs. Oregon State: Huskies must run the ball to be successful on offense

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Otto Greule Jr

Oh what a curious year it has been for these Washington Huskies. Despite only losing to teams that have been ranked at some point this season, despite the fact that all those losses but one came on the road, and despite a key upset over a Pac-12 North rival, there's little doubt that, for the UW, this is a season on the brink.

Sitting at 3-4, the Huskies still have a chance to make a season of it, but it will take some drastic changes, while the team licks its wounds from a brutal 52-17 loss at Arizona.

The Huskies offense, there's really no denying that. Quarterback Keith Price has almost no time in the pocket, and when he does he makes uncharacteristic mistakes, a byproduct of the duress he faces on every passing snap.

Head coach and offensive play-caller Steve Sarkisian (CQ) has been hampered, unable to expand his playbook to include defense-stretching passes downfield. The Huskies are 95th nationally in passing yards, 93rd in rushing yards and 103rd in scoring, at an ugly clip of 20.7 points per game.

How can this be fixed? The Huskies need to quit looking for the quick-hitting big play on offense to give them momentum, and put the ball in running back Bishop Sankey's hands. They need to run the ball.

Against Arizona, the Huskies passed on 11 of their first 13 plays. By the time they attempted their 11th rush, Arizona was ahead 24-3.

"We felt like we had some opportunities to throw it," Sarkisian said. "We thought that there were some things for us down the field to take advantage of, some of which we did and some of which we didn't for a variety of reasons; we missed a couple reads, we missed a couple throws, we didn't pass protect the way I thought we would be capable of pass protecting."

Which is why it's fine to think there are some things to take advantage of, but why not hold off a bit? Use the run to set up the pass. As it was, the Wildcats defenders were happy to trade off an occasional six or seven yard run for the prospect of being able to tee off on Price on the majority of the plays.

It may seem counterintuitive not to use playmakers like Price, wide receiver Kasen Williams and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins as much as possible. But when you rely on the passing game to carry the team, it opens up the possibility of quick drives causing the game to snowball on the Huskies, as it did against Arizona.

When the Huskies upended Stanford, it wasn't because the passing game suddenly got better - Price only threw for 177 yards and a touchdown. But Bishop Sankey ran for 144 yards, extending drives and keeping the defense off the field.

Sankey is a good running back, and the Huskies should use him to set up the pass. It'll give Price a breather at least, and maybe even give the passing game a chance to find its stride.