SEATTLE — Washington’s Bob Gregory already knew the drill when he stepped into the role of interim head coach this week.
He did it once before while at Boise State, even though the result was a rather forgettable loss.
“Thanks for reminding me of that,” Gregory said this week with a straight face. ‘That was a long time ago. It was a completely different team.’
The defensive coordinator is filling in after Coach Jimmy Lake was banned for one game without payment for making physical contact with one of his players on the sidelines during last week’s loss to Oregon. As an interim, Gregory leads Washington (4-5, 3-3 Pac-12) when it hosts Arizona State (6-3, 4-2) on Saturday.
It’s been a tumultuous few weeks for the Huskies, who are on the brink of their first losing season since 2009 and need wins in two of their last three games to qualify for the bowl. It started before the rivalry when Lake took a shot at Oregon’s academics. It continued with another lackluster offensive performance and Lake’s loss of composure on the sidelines.
A day after the loss, Lake fired offensive coordinator John Donovan and replaced him with wide receiver coach Junior Adams for the remainder of the season. Lake was suspended a day later.
Gregory believes the Huskies will gather amid the chaos.
“I think our boys will be energized and ready to go,” Gregory said. “We are playing a great opponent. So there is no stopping in this soccer team. That’s not happening. We have had many setbacks this year. We’ve had tough times, but our team has been fighting all the time. We’ve been close. We just have to cross the threshold.’
The Sun Devils have also faced chaos, but it was on the field and mostly because of inconsistency. The same Sun Devils defeated at home by Washington state two weeks ago recovered with a thorough 31-16 thrashing of USC last Saturday.
Arizona State is still just one game behind Utah in the Pac-12 South standings, although the Utes won the head-to-head game. The Sun Devils must avoid a stumbling block in Seattle—a place they’ve lost on their last two visits—if they’re going to stand a chance if Utah goes down.
This week begins an audition for Adams at the helm of a foul that has underperformed all season. The Huskies are in the bottom third nationally in several major offensive categories and 10th in the Pac-12 in total offense and scoring.
The Huskies only managed a total of 166 yards against Oregon last week and Adams sounded open to making personnel changes, including a possible change at quarterback, where Dylan Morris struggled.
“It’s too late in the season to reinvent the wheel, right,” said Adams. “If we go in and try to reinvent the wheel, we don’t give our players success, we don’t prepare them for success. We’re going to go back and look at the things we’ve done this season that brought us success and we’re going to try to build on that.”
Arizona State QB Jayden Daniels has not been at his best in recent weeks. Daniels has four interceptions and one touchdown in the last two games, and was just 11 of 20 for 145 yards against USC last week.
Getting back on track against Washington won’t be easy. The Huskies’ defense was one of their few strong points. They held Oregon QB Anthony Brown at 98 yards last week.
“It’s progress, there’s no doubt about that. But we’ve seen what it can look like,” said Arizona state coach Herm Edwards. “I think UCLA was a good game when it all came together, our running game and our passing game. So we still have a chance to clear that up in the next three weeks.’
For the third consecutive week, Arizona State will face a team with an interim head coach in place. Two weeks ago it was Jake Dickert in Washington State. Last week it was Donte Williams at USC. And now it’s Gregory.
“Whoever takes over will of course do their business, but I think it’s all about the players, making sure the players can perform well,” said Edwards.
Gregory last stepped into the interim role after Chris Petersen left Boise State for Washington in 2013. Gregory was asked to lead the Broncos in the Hawaii Bowl, where Boise State was knocked out by Oregon State 38-23.
“This is a different team. Really different situation,’ said Gregory. “I think our guys are very competitive and are playing against a very good opponent. And we’re not in Hawaii.”
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