- Associated Press - Friday, September 5, 2014

SEATTLE (AP) - Chris Petersen’s debut at Washington could hardly have been more of a dud.

After months of anticipation, the Huskies’ season-opening win at Hawaii was an ugly grind and not what most expected in Petersen’s first game as Washington’s head coach.

That brings another level of scrutiny to Petersen’s home debut on Saturday against FCS power Eastern Washington. Were the issues exposed last week simply the result of a first game under a new coaching staff?

“That’s how this season’s going to be,” Petersen said. “There will be a lot of hard-fought games. Our mission in life is to improve a little bit each week.”

Quarterback play was in the spotlight for Washington (1-0) last week. Jeff Lindquist threw a 91-yard touchdown pass to John Ross, but didn’t do much else in the passing game. It wasn’t a surprise when Petersen announced that Cyler Miles - suspended for the opener - would get the start in Week 2.



Miles made one impressive start last season, leading the Huskies to a win at Oregon State. He was the presumptive starter when Petersen arrived before being involved in an off-field incident that led to his suspension from spring practice and the opener.

Miles and the Huskies might need to score in bunches facing Eastern Washington (2-0) and its potent attack. The Eagles are ranked No. 2 in both FCS polls and have a history of causing headaches for bigger programs.

Last season, the Eagles upset then-No. 25 Oregon State 49-46. In 2011, Eastern Washington was on the verge of beating Washington before a late end zone interception preserved the Huskies’ 30-27 victory.

“I think it’s a culmination of just consistency, being able to just be in these types of games,” Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin said.

Here are things to watch when the Huskies and Eagles meet Saturday:

CYLER TAKES OVER: When Petersen was hired, Miles seemed the perfect prototype to fit the offensive system. He’s tall and has a presence as a pocket passer but also has the speed and running skills to be a threat when keeping the ball.

He’s behind in learning the Huskies’ system because of his suspension during the spring. Miles now has three games to prove he’s caught up and Washington’s best option at QB before Stanford comes to Seattle on Sept. 27.

THE OTHER QB: Eastern Washington’s Vernon Adams Jr. will play a secondary role to Miles’ return, but the Eagles quarterback deserves his share of attention. Adams, the 2013 Big Sky offensive player of the year, threw for 302 yards and four touchdowns in the season-opening win over Sam Houston State and followed up with five TD passes last week against Montana Western.

Adams finished with a Big Sky-record 5,559 yards of total offense last season and threw for 55 touchdowns.

“The quarterback is as good and as confident as anybody that’s out there right now. He’s a really, really good player,” Petersen said. “I think he was 28 for 31 in his last game. We couldn’t get that done on air.”

WIN IN THE TRENCHES: Washington’s offensive and defensive lines were supposed to be areas of strength going into the season, yet they came out of the opener as areas of concern. Washington was unable to establish a consistent running game until the fourth quarter against Hawaii and its run defense struggled to stop basic straight-ahead running from the Warriors.

The Huskies have size and depth advantages against the Eagles and need to dominate in those areas or the concerns will linger.

MR. COOPER: Eastern Washington WR Cooper Kupp caught 93 passes for 1,691 yards and 21 touchdowns as a freshman. It was an easy call when he won the Jerry Rice Award as the national freshman of the year at the FCS level. Kupp seems to have more help this year. Kupp has just seven catches, while Cory Mitchell has been Adams’ favorite target with 17 receptions through two weeks.

HANGING AROUND: FCS teams giving the bigger programs a difficult time is becoming more common. The opening week of the season saw North Dakota State rout Iowa State on the road.

Washington never played an FCS team until the 2011 opener against Eastern Washington and they don’t want to see the Eagles adding to the list of lower-division teams pulling off upsets.

“Those guys feel like they’ve got a lot to prove,” Washington linebacker John Timu said. “So do we.”

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