Washington to test Alabama defense with offensive balance

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ATLANTA (AP) — Washington is bringing more than its high-powered passing attack to Saturday's Peach Bowl semifinal against Alabama's tough defense .

The Huskies have proved they can rely on a running game led by Myles Gaskin to provide balance when defenses focus their efforts on stopping quarterback Jake Browning and star wide receiver John Ross.

How balanced is the offense? Just look at Washington's 41-10 rout of Colorado in the Pac-12 championship game. The Huskies' offense flourished even when Browning completed only 9 of 24 passes for 118 yards. Washington (12-1) pounded the ball with 265 yards on the ground, including 159 from Gaskin. Lavon Coleman added 101 yards rushing.

"It's definitely good to have a balance, run and pass," Washington wide receiver Dante Pettis said Tuesday. "There are a lot of teams that can only pass the ball. There are a lot of teams that can only run the ball. So it is good, when one thing isn't working, you can always resort to the other."

Despite completing only nine passes, Browning threw for two touchdowns, giving him 42 for the season — the second-highest total in the nation. Ross has 19 touchdown catches. Pettis has 14 .

Gaskin has 1,339 yards rushing with 10 touchdowns. It's his second straight year with more than 1,300 yards, production that is sometimes overshadowed by the Huskies' passing attack.

"We had a great year passing the ball," Gaskin said. "Jake, John and Dante, everybody was just doing great. ... Sometimes things fall through and sometimes things don't go the way we plan. Knowing we can run the ball felt good."

Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen said he knows the Crimson Tide's top-ranked defense has to prepare for Washington's balance.

"Going in, I thought they were just a pass-happy team," Allen said. "But when you look at it, I'd say they kind of favor the run more. That's definitely a challenge. But as a defensive lineman, I'm excited about it. I love to go against teams that like to run the ball."

Washington ranks fourth in the nation with its average of 44.5 points. Its only loss, 26-13 to Southern California on Nov. 12, was its only game when it was held under 31 points.

Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jonathan Smith said the big production from the running game against Colorado was the result of the Buffaloes' attempt to contain Ross.

"John creates some double teams out there and so if you're going to double-team a receiver, you get a little lighter in the run game," Smith said.

"As that game went on, we felt like we were owning the line of scrimmage and we were going to keep on feeding those backs because we were getting some push up front."


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