But how the heck do you really grade this one, anyway?
Statistically, USC dominated, and while stats obviously aren’t everything, they do assert a certain level of physical superiority that can’t be ignored. Still, UW hung in there and had a chance to win at the end, which I still think is all that could reasonably be asked of this team in this situation.
That preamble out of the way, here are some grades:
QUARTERBACK: Another mixed bag for Jake Locker, who took a few mammoth shots (one that was late) with USC unquestionably having its collective eye on him at all times. He again struggled to throw, passing for just 90 yards (UW’s lowest since 63 at USC in a 38-0 shutout in 2004) and missing lots of open throws, none more painful than that high pass over Corey Williams in the end zone in the first quarter. UW offensive coordinator Tim Lappano said the goal in the bye week will be to get Locker to turn from a thrower into a passer, and regain some touch on the ball. Hopefully they can do that in two weeks. But for all his throwing problems, he also showed a lot of guts to and again was the team’s leading rusher with 50 yards and scored UW’s only two offensive touchdowns. Some would argue that he deserves a low grade for all those off throws of seemingly open receivers. I’d argue that his mere presence allows for receivers to be open a lot of the times since defenses have to account for Locker at every step which makes me grade him a little more softly than others might. Grade: C.
RUNNING BACK: Lappano said the Huskies “didn’t run enough plays” to need to rotate backs, so they never did it tonight. Louis Rankin had another bad game statistically with 39 yards on 12 carries, but you can’t take overlook the quality of the USC defense. I thought Rankin ran better at times, though he seemed to be a little less assertive than needed on that third-down pass in the fourth quarter when he came up a yard shy of the first down. A fifth-year senior needs to figure out how to get the yard there. Grade: B-minus.
RECEIVERS: Promising early as Locker spread it around a little bit. But whether it was the receivers not getting open for Locker missing them, the passing game was non-existent after that first drive. Locker threw for 48 yards in the first quarter, 42 the rest of the game. There weren’t any big drops that I remember, but it seems UW should have figured out a way to get open at times against a USC secondary that was down to a third-string cornerback on one side. Grade: C.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Lappano said USC’s front seven was “as good as there is” and USC’s defense overall among the best he’s ever seen. So again, that has to be taken into account. Statistically, UW had little run game, with 100 yards on 33 carries — two plays accounted for 36 yards, meaning 31 went for 64. Locker was only sacked once, but a lot of that was Locker getting out of trouble. I liked the effort, but hard to ignore the numbers. Grade: C-plus.
DEFENSIVE LINE: USC threw 37 times and John David Booty was rarely rushed — he was only sacked once. And that was with USC suffering injuries to two of its starting linemen, who sat out all of the second half. And the Trojans rushed for 224 yards, the third straight foe to rush for more than 200 yards against UW. But the guys up front never stopped plugging and the Huskies held USC to just 19 yards rushing on 12 carries in the fourth quarter when the Trojans were trying to put the game away, a huge improvement from the previous week. Grade: B.
LINEBACKERS: Donald Butler appears to have taken over as the main MLB, and with E.J. Savannah and Dan Howell appearing healthy, this unit seems to have found some stability. Still, there were too many missed tackles and those two long runs by USC were killers. With Arizona State and Oregon on tap the next two games, the Huskies have to figure out how to stop long runs. Grade: B-minus.
SECONDARY: Byron Davenport appears to have taken over as the other corner opposite Roy Lewis, and the secondary also seemed to get better as the game went along. There were the two big plays by Jason Wells and Mesphin Forrester early, though Davenport’s drop in the end zone will long be remembered. You give him some benefit of the doubt for not having played much in two years. You also wonder going forward how much the loss of Wells (it sounds like he’ll be out a little while) will impact things. Darrin Harris deserves some kudos for stepping in and making six tackles. Grade: B.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Rankin appears to have a new role as the kickoff returner, and he turned in a good one late. The kickers themselves were also good enough with Ryan Perkins making a career-high 37-yarder and Jared Ballman punting suitably enough. But the fumble by Anthony Russo on the punt return overshadows all of that and unfortunately marks a third straight game in which a special teams gaffe proved critical. Grade: C.
COACHING: The coaching staff’s job ultimately is to put the team in position to win the game and they unquestionably did that tonight. I wouldn’t argue with Willingham’s decision to punt at midfield with about 10 minutes left. UW’s best chance to win the game was for USC to implode, so it made sense to be conservative there, I thought. But also, in the end it’s still a loss and a blown opportunity to steal what could have been a really big win. Grade: B.
But how the heck do you really grade this one, anyway?
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