Washington vs. USC Game Grades

The Washington Huskies continued their trend of fast starts in the first quarter with scoring two touchdowns and establishing momentum.

In the end, the Huskies passed a true test with a 28-14 win over the USC Trojans, on their way to their first Pac-12 Conference victory of the season.

At certain spots of the game, it wasn’t always pretty, but the Huskies were able to show their grit and earn a hard-fought win.

Offensively, the Huskies had their struggles throughout the game with never really getting into rhythm and stalling drives.

Defensively, the Huskies were able to ground the “Air Raid” attack and keep the explosive plays from really impacting the game.

With their win over a top 25 team, the Huskies have catapulted themselves back into the conversation for teams to watch out for.

We will now take a look at each position group and coaching staff on the Huskies, and how they fared last night. Here are how things graded out…..

QUARTERBACKS

After having a stellar game last week, junior Jacob Eason came back down to earth a little bit yesterday.  That was due in part to the solid defensive scheme of the Trojans, with bringing pressure and blitzing Eason.  While his stat line of 16/26, 180 yards, 0 TD’s doesn’t look like much production, he made some big-time throws.  Eason did a good job of controlling the offense and relied on the running game just enough to extend drives and move the chains.  Also…no picks!  B-

RUNNING BACKS

This group’s production on a whole was sort of a mixed bag yesterday.  Junior Salvon Ahmed was welcomed back with open arms – #26 was outstanding yesterday.  He recorded a career high of 153 yards on 17 carries.  His game changing 89-yard TD run was sensational and made Husky Stadium explode.  What was concerning was the production behind him.  Junior Sean McGrew and redshirt Richard Newton never really got going, which put stress on the offense.  B

WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS

For the most part, the wealth was spread around pretty evenly with this position group.  Senior Aaron Fuller was Eason’s top receiver of choice and had himself some nice catches.  Junior tight end Hunter Bryant and sophomore tight end Cade Otton continue to convert a bulk of the catches.  An area of concern is which wide receiver is going to step up and supplement the production of Fuller and senior Andre Baccellia?  The Huskies will need that someone to emerge down the stretch.  B

OFFENSIVE LINE

What continues to be the strength of the Husky offense, the offensive line group continues to get it done up front.  The running game netted 193 yards off the ground and that is no easy task against the defensive front of the USC Trojans.  What needs to get cleaned up are the penalties that held up and caused some drives to stall.  Holding and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties held back an offense that is always trying to keep its rhythm.  Eason was sacked twice as well.  Overall a solid day.  B

DEFENSIVE LINE

Throughout the course of the game, the defensive front for the Huskies did a good job of plugging the middle and forcing USC’s ground game to attack the edges.  The Husky coaches are starting to find a nice rotation of bodies up front to supplement senior Benning Potoa’e and junior Levi Onwuzurike.  This unit still needs to create more pressure on the quarterback with getting more sacks and pushing the pocket.  Redshirt freshman Tuli Letuligasenoa and senior Josiah Bronson look promising. B

LINEBACKERS

It was a tough day overall for this group, as the USC ground game continued to chunk off big yardage plays against the Huskies.  The linebackers need to continue to tackle better and wrap up until the player goes to the ground.  Staying gap and assignment sound will be paramount moving forward.  When you over pursue on a consistent basis, it comes back to bite you and USC made the Huskies pay for it all game.  Senior Ryan Bowman made some timely plays.  C-

DEFENSIVE BACKS

This group was spectacular for the most part yesterday and was vital in keeping the “Air Raid” in check most of the day.  The play of true freshman Cameron Williams and his ability to come up with two turnovers was impressive.  Junior Elijah Molden came away with a game changing interception of his own.  True freshman Trent McDuffie has really solidified the corner position and led the team with 9 tackles.  The lone error was letting the touchdown pass over the top to Michael Pittman.  A-

SPECIAL TEAMS

One of the biggest assets on the season so far, this group had a great day against the Trojans.  McGrew gave the Huskies a boost in the kickoff return game with a couple nice returns.  The player of the game to me was senior punter Joel Whitford.  He had a 56-yard punt and pinned USC down at the 3-yard line once.  Sophomore Peyton Henry remains perfect on the season with two more converted field goals.  The coverage units allowed some yardage, which will need to improve.  A-

COACHING

The coaching staff did a great job of getting the team prepared for a “real” test, against a quality opponent.  Most people have bought into the notion of USC being a down program right now and that the Huskies should have destroyed the Trojans.  Truth be told, the Trojans have great athletes and talent on that roster..It’s USC!  It would have been easy for the Huskies to take a third string quarterback lightly, but they didn’t.  They fully respected Matt Fink and treated him like any other team and quarterback they faced.  The Huskies continued with their impressive fast starts and that has put opposing teams on their heels.  Offensively, the Huskies finished 3 for 3 in the red zone after the first half.  The handoff trickery was extremely head scratching, at a time where it simply wasn’t needed.  Offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan will need to continue to find solutions for defenses that “sell-out” and bring pressure on Eason.  Staying in rhythm when this happens will be extremely important moving forward.  Defensively, the young Huskies seem to be hitting their stride each week and it’s scary what this defense can look like at the end of the season.  Defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake had a sound game plan to ground the “Air Raid’ and provide opportunities for the secondary to make plays.  Head coach Chris Petersen has done a tremendous job of keeping the team focused and buying into the fact that there is a lot to accomplish this season, despite the California loss.  Great job all the way around for the coaching staff.  A-

ENTIRE TEAM

As a whole, the Huskies are building confidence as each week goes by, and that should be concerning for the rest of the conference going forward.  When the year started, the youth showed itself and growing pains were immediately evident.  What looks promising is the confidence that they younger players are exhibiting each week and that will only continue to grow each week.  Historically speaking, Petersen coached teams are some of the best in the nation with player development.  The Huskies have had stints throughout games where all three phases were clicking at the same time.  The goal is to have all three phases finely tuned for an entire 60-minute contest, and that seems to be on the horizon.  The Huskies have a potential “trap game” coming up with the Stanford Cardinal.  The Huskies will have to remain “laser focused” this week and take this game as serious as any this season, despite Stanford’s pitfalls this season.  The Dawgs are surging right now, and they have put the rest of the conference on notice, that the championship still comes through Montlake.  Washington Huskies trending upward…..  A

 

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