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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

November 17, 2007 at 7:10 PM

Grading the game

It’s going to be hard to find much not to like about this game.
Given everything involved in this one — the quality of the opponent, UW’s quarterback situation — this was the best performance of the year for the Huskies.
You could argue that Cal doesn’t have its heart in it much right now. Certainly, their head wasn’t in it all the time as the coin toss snafu illustrates. And you could wonder why the Huskies haven’t played like this more often.
But maybe this is part of the process. As UW offensive coordinator Tim Lappano said “we always say ‘we keep coming, we keep coming.’ Today, we finally knocked the door down.”
Everyone felt good after this one. Not sure if it meant much, but both UW president Mark Emmert and athletic director Todd Turner were on the field congratulating Willingham and some of his coaches afterward. You definitely get the sense this was a real take-the-heat-off kind of win.
Here, then, the grades:
QUARTERBACK: Carl Bonnell’s stats weren’t much —- 7-19 for 108 yards. But UW coaches wanted him mostly to avoid turnovers, which he did, and run the offense, which he did. Bonnell admitted he was off-target too often, saying part of the problem was simply how little UW threw — it was the fewest passes UW has thrown in a game since tossing 18 against Idaho in 2005. Bonnell said it was hard to get a rhythm that way, especially with the weather the way it was. But as most coaches say, the ultimate grade of a QB is whether his team won. This is likely it for Bonnell as it sounds as if Jake Locker will be good to go next week. GRADE: B-plus.
RUNNING BACKS: Another 200-yard day for Louis Rankin and a 100-yard day for Brandon Johnson. Hard to ask for more than that. In fact, as one reader pointed out, UW had a 100-yard rusher in each half, with Rankin getting 171 of his 224 in the first half and Johnson getting 114 of his 121 in the second). Maybe it would have been nice if it had come a little earlier, but Rankin is finally living up to all the expectations. GRADE: A.
RECEIVERS: They weren’t asked to do much — the seven completed passes were the fewest since the 2004 season — and there were a couple of drops. But Marcel Reece and Cody Ellis each came up with big senior-type plays, and they must have done a nice job blocking, as well. The tight ends also caught a couple passes and I think they might have been more involved had the running game not taken off the way it had. Robert Lewis caught his first pass since the USC game and Johnie Kirton had a nice catch on the first drive. GRADE: B.
OFFENSIVE LINE: This unit looks like it may, indeed, be on its way to becoming the strength of the team. The Huskies did struggle last week running against Oregon State, which has quicker linemen, especially at the ends. But matched against Cal’s big, but slower, bodies, UW dominated, and the Huskies have now rushed for 146 yards or more in five of the last six games, topping the 200-yard mark three times and 300 two times. And with all but right tackle Chad Macklin due back next season, this may be the biggest room for hope for the future (along with Locker). Macklin said afterward the line is really beginning to come together in terms of working with one another and that shows. Jordan White-Frisbee played a nice first half at left guard before Ryan Tolar returned. Asked if he thought about leaving JWF in, coach Tyrone Willingham said Tolar is simply playing better. I think one thing they like is Tolar’s mobility — he seems better at pulling and things like that. The Huskies had a little trouble with Cal’s blitzing, but with Locker in there, that’s harder for opponents to do so that might not work as well in the future. GRADE: A.
DEFENSIVE LINE: The Huskies did give up a lot of yards early — Justin Forsett had 118 yards in the first half and Cal had 268 as Nate Longshore usually had all the time it wanted to throw the ball. But the Huskies clamped it down in the second half as the Bears seemed to wilt. And the line came up with a few real big plays — Daniel Te’o-Nesheim’s stop of Forsett on second-and-goal at the 1, and Jordan Reffett’s rumble downfield to cause a fumble. GRADE: B.
LINEBACKERS: Again, Forsett had some yards early that were due in part to some missed tackles from this group. But the LBs kept coming, and E.J. Savannah turned in one of the biggest plays with his interception in the second quarter that led to a UW TD at a time when Cal appeared ready to take some measure of control. Again, a group that seemed to get better as the game went along, and while the early yards are troublesome, in the end, the Huskies held Cal 21 yards below its season average. GRADE: B-minus.
SECONDARY: The bend-but-don’t-break was solid on this day as Cal had only one pass play longer than 19 yards, and the Huskies held the Bears to only 89 yards passing in the second half. Darin Harris continues to get better and led UW with 11 tackles and Nate Williams earned kudos from DC Kent Baer for his play on the nickel defense. Matt Mosley, playing in place of the injured Byron Davenport, got beat a few times, but did a nice job of making sure little gains didn’t turn into big ones, and also keeping Robert Jordan out of the end zone on that 42-yarder in the third quarter. Cal ended up getting only a field goal which helped turn the game UW’s way for good. GRADE: B.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A rare day when this unit not only got the better end of the deal but went a long way towards winning the game for the Huskies. Ryan Perkins had a career-long 45-yard FG, the punt cover team recovered a fumble that led to a touchdown and Anthony Russo had a career-long 62-yard punt return. Cal, meanwhile, botched an extra point that at least seemed to prove momentum-deflating — the Bears never did tie the score after falling behind —- and obviously had the fumbled punt. GRADE: A-minus.
COACHING: The coaches put in an offensive game plan that made a lot of sense and in the halftime adjustment department, seemed to get the better of it with UW outgaining and outscoring Cal in the second half. The coaches also kept the players on task after the disappointment of last week. Certainly a lot better than Cal, which seemed a deflated team after having lost four of its previous five. The defense still has some issues that have to be addressed, but holding Cal to 23 points and under 400 yards is more than solid. GRADE: B-plus.

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