Washington vs. Utah Game Grades

The Washington Huskies were looking to make a statement during the national television prime time spot on ABC.

They delivered a thrilling 24-21 comeback performance, culminating in an epic game-winning drive for the offense.

Throughout the game, the Huskies were a tale of two halves; a complete reversal of fortune after halftime.

Offensively, the Huskies couldn’t establish their run game effectively and had to air it out in the second half.

Defensively, they made some crucial stops on third and fourth downs, which gave the offense a chance to win the game.

While the overall performance was far from perfect, the Huskies saved their best for the end when it counted the most.

We will now take a look at how each position group for the Huskies fared last night and also how the coaching staff graded out…..

QUARTERBACKS

For the first time last night, we saw a young QB in Dylan Morris make some rookie mistakes with reading the defenses and making some errant throws into coverage.  What was remarkable was we also saw a quarterback shake off those mistakes, stay positive, and lead his team on a game-winning 88-yard drive to secure an epic victory.  Despite some underthrows and missed opportunities, Morris continues to show his moxie when it counts the most and that is the true sign of a winner!  B

RUNNING BACKS

Every game presents its own challenges as Jimmy Lake always says.  Utah’s game plan was to completely shut down the run and force Morris to make plays with his arm.  There simply weren’t enough holes or space for the running backs to establish a consistent running game.  Sean McGrew lead this group with 38 yards on 7 carries.  While it wasn’t pretty in the stat sheet, this group did just enough to help extend drives and setup “play action” for Morris to take advantage of in critical situations.  C+

WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS

The story of this group continues to be the stellar play of tight end Cade Otton.  He continues to be the top target for Morris and a true “safety valve” in key situations to extend drives.  After the game, Lake called him the best tight end in the nation.  It was a breakout performance by Puka Nacua with 6 catches for 67 yards and a dazzling diving reception.  Terrell Bynum added some production of his own.  When the game was on the line, this group made some important catches that helped seal the victory.  B

OFFENSIVE LINE

Overall, it was a tough night for this group in supporting the run game.  The Huskies tried to establish their physical running nature early, but this group couldn’t open any holes for the backs to run through.  The massive size of this group prides itself on being able to get push and dictate the game, but it just didn’t happen as planned.  One positive was the fact that they were able to protect Morris pretty well all night, which allowed him to deliver some game-deciding throws in the clutch.  C+

DEFENSIVE LINE 

The ability to plug gaps and eat up blocks is a certain measuring stick for this group and the glaring thing we saw all night was Utah’s ability to run the football and extend drives.  The Utes were able to notch 215 yards on the ground and that certainly is not the standard or measuring stick that Lake will be operating from.  This group had its moments, especially on crucial 3rd and 4th down attempts by the Utes.  Tuli Letuligasenoa’s debut comes to mind here.  Finding a way to be more disruptive and make a steady impact will prove to be most important going forward with this group.  C+

LINEBACKERS

Once again the story continues to be the rise of Zion Tupuola-Fetui and his huge impact on the game.  He currently leads the nation in sacks at 2.33 per game and is second in forced fumbles at 1.00 per game.  He wreaked havoc last night on Utah QB Jake Bentley.  There were some missed tackles by this group and some bad angles that resulted in big gains for the Utes.  Jackson Sirmon missed two huge sacks that helped Utah extend drives, but he also made some great reads when it counted.  There is room for growth overall for this group.  B

DEFENSIVE BACKS

When the Huskies needed a spark, it was senior leader Elijah Molden who provided a huge spark in the 3rd quarter with his momentum-changing interception.  This group prides itself on creating turnovers and getting the ball back to the offense.  Obviously, the game-sealing pick by Trent McDuffie was one of the biggest plays of the game as he continues his ascent into greatness.  One area that this group can improve on is providing support in the run game and taking good angles toward the ball to make plays.  B

SPECIAL TEAMS

It was a solid night for the coverage units as Kyler Gordon continues to show his greatness by making sound tackles.  Peyton Henry missed a 40-yard FG and will need to find his consistent comfort zone down the stretch of the season.  Speaking of the field goal, the fake field goal attempt prior to that?  What was that?  It clearly disrupted Henry and forced the Huskies back another 5-yards.  Would rather see the Huskies just kick the 35-yard FG there and get the points.  Getting cute against an opponent like Utah where games are usually decided by a few points isn’t smart.  B

COACHING

When assessing the week that was, the Huskies had been planning for the Apple Cup even the week before.  The focus and emotion of that rivalry is second to none.  When the game got cancelled, the Huskies were in limbo for a couple of days, eagerly awaiting their next opponent.  On a short week, the Huskies were able to secure a matchup with a team in Utah, who has battled the Huskies down to the final whistle as of late.  Navigating these sudden changes are not easy game planning wise, and whoever adapts the best will win each week.  Offensively, the Huskies had trouble establishing a run game against the Utes stout front and it wasn’t the best-called game by OC John Donovan, compared to what we had been accustomed to seeing over the first two weeks.  Nonetheless, enough adjustments were made in the second half to engineer a fantastic comeback.  Defensively, the Huskies allowed too many yards in the running game but made enough crucial plays to give the offense a chance to win the game.  Coach Lake operates from the “positivity through adversity” philosophy and it is rubbing off on his team.  His team didn’t flinch last night because he doesn’t panic in adverse situations.  Give the staff credit for erasing the first half and getting the team refocused at halftime.  B

ENTIRE TEAM

We can clearly talk about the things that need to be fixed and cleaned up because the first half wasn’t pretty.  The Huskies seemed sluggish and couldn’t get into their normal quick groove out of the tunnel.  Now with that out of the way, the comeback thrill ride that the Huskies took everyone on was one for the ages!  Being down 21-0 at halftime, there are a lot of teams out there that would have folded against a quality opponent.  What was most impressive was how fast they put the first half behind them and came out to a quick start in the 3rd quarter.  The ability to refocus and gain a spark immediately is a sign of a championship team.  It’s not always going to be pretty and easy, but they fought and battled together as a “TEAM” with so much growth being attained through the fire.  We always and often talk about the defense winning games for the Huskies, but the beauty of last night was the Huskies offense “held the rope” this time.  A rookie quarterback marched his guys down the field for 88-yards and completed the go-ahead touchdown pass to seal the game.  Grit, fire and moxie describes Morris on that final drive and this comeback victory will forever be a part of Husky history moments.  Outscoring the Utes 24-0 in the second half says something about the character of this team.  It’s their conference title to lose now and they have everything to play for going forward.  Marvelous effort!  B-

 

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