SEATTLE — It was, said Washington coach Steve Sarkisian, “a crazy number” of passes that Eastern Washington threw against the Huskies on Saturday.
It was 69 to be exact, 10 more than any Washington opponent had ever previously attempted.
Nutty as it may have been, however, the Huskies may see a similar number pretty quickly.
After outlasting the Eagles, 30-27, on Saturday, the Huskies now prepare for another team known for its aerial attack — Hawaii.
Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz last year led the nation in passing yards with 5,040, averaging almost 40 attempts per game.
“It’s only going to get more challenging,” Sarkisian said. “We will probably see another 60 pass attempts from Hawaii so we better figure it out.”
Intriguingly, Moniz dialed down the passing a bit Saturday night against Colorado, throwing “just” 33 passes as the Warriors beat the Buffs 34-17.
Instead, Moniz, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound senior, ran 14 times for 121 yards and scored three touchdowns on the ground, including a 57-yarder, a mobility that will provide an additional challenge to the Huskies.
After the escape against Eastern, Sarkisian and UW defensive coordinator Nick Holt pointed in large measure to Washington’s youth on defense as a factor in EWU’s passing success.
With senior cornerback Quinton Richardson out with a sprained ankle suffered the first week of camp, sophomore Greg Ducre got his first start.
And when Ducre and junior safety and nickelback Justin Glenn suffered cramps, the Huskies had to go with previously little-used Anthony Gobern at one corner and true freshman safety James Sample. The game was also the first start for outside linebacker John Timu and just the second for outside linebacker Princeton Fuimaono.
“We had a lot of guys out there in that last series that were very new,” Holt said. “There were three or four guys that haven’t been in the game before. So that’s a good experience and we will learn from it and we will get better.”
Holt said he thought a particular problem was “not doing a great job” when Eastern quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell moved around in the pocket to buy time. That helped lead to Eastern converting four third-down plays of 10 yards or longer.
“I think we were really tentative with the quick (passing) game,” he said. “I mean, our guys were just really tentative and not really dropping to where we need to drop. But that’s stuff we can clean up as coaches.”
Most of the time, though, Mitchell didn’t need to move around much as the Huskies also struggled to get consistent pressure — he was sacked just once. Part of that, UW coaches and players said, is due to the way Eastern plays, with Mitchell asked to get rid of the ball quickly to receivers running short routes.
“They used a lot of quick action to move the ball around quickly, which made it hard to get a rush on the quarterback,” said defensive tackle Everrette Thompson.
But Holt also said he thinks the Huskies can do better putting on pressure.
“There were guys coming unblocked but it looked like we just didn’t believe in what we were doing and not coming full speed and guys were a little hesitant,” he said. “It didn’t surprise me because there are a lot of guys that haven’t played a lot of football. Now after another game I think they will believe in what they are doing and will play a little faster.”
The Huskies could at least console themselves that Eastern’s 69th pass ended up in the arms of UW cornerback Desmond Trufant, preserving the team’s first season-opening victory since 2007. “It was a great learning experience,” said Trufant. “We’ve just got to keep getting better.”