Washington hopes lessons learned from road losses in 2022 help vs. Michigan State
Washington hits the road this weekend for the first time during the 2023 campaign.
In Year 1 under coach Kalen DeBoer, the Huskies won 11 of their 13 games. The two losses? The team’s first two road games of the season. Washington has looked good through two games so far this year, but it hasn’t yet been tested the way Michigan State will.
And the Huskies really have no way of knowing what kind of environment they’re walking into. Last year, MSU was the 11th-ranked team in the country when Washington stunned them in Seattle. The Spartans fell out of the top 25 entirely after the loss and never recovered.
This year, MSU got off to a 2-0 start before an investigation into sexual harassment claims against head coach Mel Tucker threw the entire program into a state of chaos. Tucker was suspended without pay over the weekend by MSU. Many expect he will be fired after a hearing in early October to determine whether he violated school policies.
The situation has turned messy, and MSU — coached by an interim, helped by a legend drawn out of retirement — will take the field the field at Spartan Stadium for the first time on Saturday. It’s hard to imagine how the team will play. It’s hard to imagine how the fanbase will react.
“I’m really feeling that you don’t make a big deal of it,” DeBoer said Monday when he met with reporters. “Because, again, it’s going to be about the 100-plus guys they have on their team that want to do something special. They’re going to be playing at home, trying to go 3-0 in an environment that is hostile. It’s going to be an awesome atmosphere.
“I think there will obviously be some distractions that they have, but we can’t let those distractions be ours.”
UW has its own things to worry about. The run game is still lagging a bit. Special teams remain a bit of a work in progress. And sitting at No. 8 in the AP Top 25 ensures the Huskies will get every team’s very best shot.
“First time on the road. Crowd noise. Travel. Just typical stuff,” DeBoer said of going on the road. “We do have a mature team. We’ve been with most of this crew in loud environments. There definitely shouldn’t be the concern of us overlooking an opponent this week. Because of who we are and the situation, I’m expecting a great week of practice full of energy. Guys ready to go on the road and show off our culture and what we’re all about.”
A year ago, part of the road issues came down to depth. DeBoer talked about it at the time. Particularly in the secondary, DeBoer and his coaching staff were still working to get the two-deep to a place where they felt comfortable in the event of injuries.
When he thinks back to the lessons learned on the two road losses, he feels like UW is in a better place because of it.
“I think we’ve taken some of those and through the offseason done the best we could to help build some depth at multiple positions,” DeBoer said. “O-line, defensive back, some of those places are the ones you worry the most about — especially defensive back a year ago. We’ve played a lot of guys at different spots. There’s some banked reps that players have had, whether it be last season or through this spring, summer, fall. This is where it needs to pay off if they’re needed to step on the football field at some point this year.”