Washington Huskies running back Myles Gaskin (9) runs for a nine-yard touchdown during the second quarter against the Oregon State Beavers at Husky Stadium October 22, 2016 in Seattle., Washington. File photo by Jim Bryant/UPI | License Photo
Myles Gaskin was often an afterthought while the Washington running attack was practically invisible through the first three games of the season.
But toss in a career-best rushing performance in Game 4, and Gaskin and the Huskies' ground game looks significantly better entering Saturday's game against Oregon State (1-3, 0-1 Pac-12) at Corvallis, Ore.
Gaskin rushed for a career-best 202 yards in last Saturday's 37-10 victory over Colorado. The junior entered with 153 yards in three games before recapturing the form that saw him top 1,300 rushing yards in each of his first two college seasons.
"Myles always gets better the more you give him the ball," Washington coach Chris Petersen said. "He'll get into a rhythm if you can give him a little bit of space. I think we took a step forward in the run game."
The No. 6 Huskies (4-0, 1-0) figure to be able move the effectively in any manner they choose against the struggling Beavers.
Oregon State, which did not play last week, has been atrocious on the defensive side by allowing 485.5 yards and 47.5 points per game, the latter ranking 126th nationally out of 129 FBS teams.
"I don't believe we've represented ourselves the way that we should as a football team as a whole," Beavers coach Gary Andersen said. "And that's just not the wins and the losses. That's the overall package. That is extremely frustrating to me and we've talked about that."
Now Oregon State gets to contend with Washington quarterback Jake Browning (958 yards, nine touchdowns, two interceptions) and the re-emerging Gaskin, who appears to be back in the flow after getting 24 carries over the first three games.
Gaskin received 27 attempts in less than ideal conditions against the Buffaloes and suddenly looked like the highly productive back of the past two seasons.
"The guys up front we're doing their job, they were making it easy for me," Gaskin said of an offensive line that enjoyed its best overall game of the season. "The rain and everything kind of factored in so we were sticking to the run and it worked out how it did."
Gaskin could again receive a heavy workload with senior backup Lavon Coleman (concussion) appearing likely to miss his second straight game. The Washington offense will also be without Chico McClatcher after the junior receiver broke his left ankle against Colorado.
Oregon State is dealing with its own significant injury after losing junior starting quarterback Jake Luton to a spine injury in its most-recent game -- a loss at Washington State on Sept. 16.
Luton was down on the field for 15 minutes before being removed from the field via a stretcher and taken to a nearby hospital. Andersen hasn't yet ruled him out for the season but senior Darell Garretson is now the Beavers' starting quarterback for at least the short term.
"I think the kids have always believed in Darell," Andersen said. "Darell's come in and done some really good things for them in games. These kids will rally and they'll go play. ... Again, you've got a young man that's a senior. He knows it's his last rodeo. He's very excited about this opportunity to hop in there and lead our offense."
The start will be the 18th of Garretson's career. He started 11 games at Utah State before transferring and he was Oregon State's starter for the first six games of last season before suffering a season-ending ankle injury.
A prime part of his job description against the Huskies will be to feed the ball to junior running back Ryan Nall, who has 323 rushing yards this season and eight 100-yard games in his career.
Defensively, freshman safety David Morris (32 tackles) and senior inside linebacker Manase Hungalu (29) are the top tackles for a unit that has been zinged for 48 or more points in each of its three losses.
The Washington defense received a boost against Colorado from senior inside linebacker Azeem Victor, who had a season-best 10 tackles in his top effort of the campaign. He had six stops in two games following a suspension that caused him to miss the opener.
"Azeem is running around pretty good," Petersen said. "We are moving him around a little bit to create some matchups. He is a physical player. He showed up pretty good in the game."
Huskies junior cornerback Jordan Miller had two interceptions against the Buffaloes and will be counted on even more with redshirt freshman Byron Murphy out at least six weeks with a broken foot.
Washington senior Dante Pettis has three punt return touchdowns this season and his eight career scores are tied with Texas Tech's Wes Welker (2000-03) and Oklahoma's Antonio Perkins (2001-04) for most in NCAA history.
The Huskies have won the last five meetings and 31 of the past 40.