Editor’s note: The following is a Q&A between Josh Yuen, sports editor of The Daily Californian, and Josh Kirshenbaum, sports editor of The Daily. The two editors have known each other since they were in preschool, and their families have remained close friends ever since. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Josh Yuen: Hey, buddy. Long time, no see! What’s going on up there?
Josh Kirshenbaum: I’m all right, how are you doing? So much has been going on, I’ve just had my hell week from hell, so I’ve just been kind of recovering.
JY: Let’s get down to what we’re supposed to talk about — football. UW is really a couple of big plays shy of being undefeated at this point. Would you say that that’s a fair assessment to make?
JK: Definitely. Obviously, Jake Browning had that goal-line fumble against Auburn, and if Peyton Henry makes that field goal against Oregon, you’re looking at a team that’s undefeated and probably a top-6 team or so. That’s definitely something that’s in the back of everybody’s head, but every team is really three or four plays away from being at two losses or three losses. ASU cut it close, UCLA came a little close, and if Colorado makes a couple more plays and goes up 10-0 or 14-0, you’re looking at a completely different game where UW may not come back. A play here or a play there can go a whole lot of ways depending on how you spin it. But nobody in the locker room is thinking about it that way.
JY: Jake Browning was once a potential Heisman candidate two years ago. What has gone downhill, and do you think it’s been a “bad” season for him?
JK: Not at all. What’s gone downhill is that John Ross and Dante Pettis aren’t here anymore, and that’s really the main thing. Browning was a very good quarterback at getting the ball to the very best athletes that have ever come to Washington, but he’s not Andrew Luck, he’s not Baker Mayfield, and while he’s making some plays by himself, he’s really just distributing. That being said, with a couple of exceptions, he’s been much better this year than he was last year. A lot of the wideouts have stepped up big time. Aaron Fuller has had a breakout year, Ty Jones has had a breakout year, and Browning is finding them. The problem last year was that Browning’s receivers weren’t finding separation, which made it seem like Browning was trying to make a lot of plays by himself, and that kind of hurt him last year and early this year.
JY: Can you talk a bit about the situation in the backfield? What’s Myles Gaskin’s health status, and how about the others?
JK: That’s a really good question. Myles Gaskin is obviously not healthy. Salvon Ahmed is obviously not healthy, at least not fully healthy. It was really interesting watching the sideline against Oregon because it was obvious that Gaskin was not 100 percent, and I got the sense that he was basically talking himself onto the field time and time again, which tells you a lot about the man. Washington’s depth has been a story because Sean McGrew and Kamari Pleasant have been more than admirable at getting the bulk of the carries. It wasn’t really a surprise that Gaskin missed the game (against Colorado). Unless he was fully healthy, I was going to guess that he wasn’t going to play, so I don’t know where he is right now. Obviously, Ahmed was better and good to play (against Colorado), but he was really the change-of-pace back, the speed back. He kind of kept the same role he had when Gaskin was healthy, which was being the extra guy to get the pitches wide, while McGrew and Pleasant were sort of doing the dirty work. So all in all, I don’t really know where they are. Obviously they can get it done with whoever’s out there, as they ran for more yards than they have this season (last weekend) with their third and fourth stringers getting 22 carries. We’ll see if Gaskin’s back — if so, that’s huge. If not, obviously they can win without him.
JY: How have Peyton Henry and special teams as a whole handled themselves after the late miss against Oregon?
JK: Henry had a good game (against Colorado). They didn’t ask a whole lot of him — he made from 30 and 31, I believe. It’s kind of like in basketball — when you just need to see the ball go through the uprights, that can be a huge boost in confidence. We didn’t really get to talk to any special teamers at the end of the Oregon game, but as a whole, special teams for UW has seemed weird because they usually have one of the best units in the country. That’s something that (head coach) Chris Petersen takes pride in. But they’ve been downright bad on kick coverage, and nobody’s really sure what’s up with that. They’ve been getting gashed the last two or three weeks, and it’s kind of been weird; that’s definitely something to look for.
JY: Until the Apple Cup, Washington really controls its own destiny in terms of getting a chance at the Pac-12 North title. What needs to happen for the Huskies to make that happen?
JK: They just need to really kind of figure everything out. There’s still a lot that’s gone wrong — Colorado there were a bunch of turnovers, which Washington usually doesn’t commit. Chico McClatcher had a fumble, Browning had an interception and almost a couple more fumbles. There were just mistakes that were kind of uncharacteristic, and the main thing for Washington is first down and second down — getting into third and shorts on offense and being away from third and shorts on defense. They’ve been getting into third and longs on offense and allowing teams to move the sticks pretty easily, so if they can figure that out like they did against Colorado, it will work out well.
JY: It’s been a pleasure catching up! What’s your score prediction for Saturday?
JK: I can say that I suck at predictions, but what was good for Washington against Colorado was that this was really the first time this season where they finished well in a while. Oregon they obviously didn’t finish well, UCLA stayed in it way longer than Washington should have allowed it to. The Auburn game was close at the end, and they just couldn’t finish it. I think this weekend will be close because every game Washington plays will be close, but it will probably play along the lines of the Colorado game, so put me down for 27-13 — that actually sounds about right.