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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

September 6, 2009 at 12:33 AM

Grading the game

This got to be a pretty futile exercise last season, grading and analyzing the game afterward. Not tonight, as the Huskies are showing they will be an interesting team to watch all season.
On with the grades.
QUARTERBACK: Jake Locker, by his own admission, missed some throws. And he had one critical mistake on the interception that was returned for a TD. He said later he simply didn’t go through his progression long enough to see that the middle linebacker hadn’t blitzed, as it initially appeared he might — evidence he’s still adapting to this system. But he also had one of his best days passing, going 25-45 for 321 yards, at least 3-4 of the incompletions coming when he threw it away to escape a rush or a bad play, and at least two others that were dropped. He also ran 12 times for 51 yards picking up a few critical third-downs with his legs. Steve Sarkisian said later that that will likely be the kind of ratio Locker may have all season on his throws compared to his runs. He’s far from a finished product, and he shouldn’t have been expected to be given the newness of the offense and the youth of many of his teammates. But he went a long way tonight toward dispelling any worry that he won’t fit into this offense. GRADE: B
RUNNING BACKS: Consider Chris Polk another who went a long way toward quieting the doubters tonight with his performance, getting 90 yards on 21 carries against what may turn out to be a pretty good defense. And while Johri Fogerson got just three carries, he also showed his versatility with a 51-yard reception out of the backfield — though he later had a costly drop in the end zone. The big negative was Polk’s fumble when UW was threatening to score and that Polk got a little less effective as the game wore on — he was held to eight yards on nine carries in the second half. Only Willie Griffin of the others got a carry, one for eight yards, but figure that all may get more work next week against idaho. GRADE: B.
RECEIVERS: James Johnson, the revelation of fall camp, showed he was ready for prime time with six catches for 63 yards, several coming on third downs to keep drives alive. He showed a knack for positioning his body to shield the defender and get open, and he caught everything thrown his way. Devin Aguilar also had a 46-yard catch, and Kavario Middleton had a career-high five catches. But other than the Aguilar pass, the Huskies had trouble connecting deep. And Aguilar also had a costly drop. GRADE: B.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Maybe the surprise of the offense was the job the line did, allowing the Huskies to rush for 4.1 yards on the day and just one sack of Locker, while admitting that Locker gets himself out of a lot of sack situations. Sure, the line seemed less effective as the game wore on — UW had just 44 rushing yards on 16 attempts in the second half with Locker accounting for 36.But given the uncertainty of UW’s line heading into the season — and the move made this week that seemed to indicate some concern even on the part of the coaches — it has to be considered a sucess overall. Who really figured the Huskies would gain 478 yards going into this game? That was the most since getting 539 against Stanford in 2007. The coaches were obviously pleased as the line never changed once all game. GRADE: A-minus.
DEFENSIVE LINE: LSU did a really nice job of running away from Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, who didn’t make a tackle. And the Huskies had trouble getting to Jordan Jefferson, who was sacked just once, and seemed to wear down a bit at the end, especially on that final drive. But overall, this was a huge improvement from a year ago when the Huskies were routinely manhandled up front — LSU’s 149 rushing yards were fewer than the Huskies allowed in all but one game last year (BYU with 137). The Huskies need to make more plays — they had just one tackle for a loss. But again, overall a definite step in the right direction. The one personnel concern is a bruised knee to Darrion Jones on the first series, Kalani Aldrich played the rest of the way as the Huskies didn’t really rotate all that much up front. GRADE: B-minus.
LINEBACKERS: The big three that the Huskies will count on this year — E.J. Savannah, Mason Foster and Donald Butler — had 25 of UW’s 49 tackles. But if there’s a nit to pick, it’s that they didn’t make more big plays. Other than Foster’s forced fumble there were no turnovers or tackles-for-a-loss out of this group. Some of that seemed by design — this wasn’t as aggressive a game plan as you are likely to see later. But the LBs did miss a few tackles and it seems fair to expect some more dominating performances down the road. GRADE: B.
SECONDARY: If there’s a unit that struggled more than the others tonight it was here. Greg Walker failed to stop two short to intermediate passes that turned into touchdowns, and the Tigers turned increasingly to the pass as the game wore on — Jefferson was 8-11 in the second half for 107 yards. Nate Williams, however, turned in a solid night and had maybe the biggest hit of the night, though he paid the price with what was described as a rung bell. And Victor Aiyewa also made his presence felt, taking over for Walker — who had some cramps — at the end and turning in two pass breakups. It’s possible he could emerge as the starter there soon. Overall, a night that the secondary will need to improve on. Despite that, there was a noticeable uptick in overall play here from last season. GRADE: C-plus.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A mixed bag. New punter Will Mahan had a nice night with a 42.3 average and two downed inside the 20, Johri Fogerson had a nice punt return, and Erik Folk hit three field goals. The bad, however, was Folk missing one from 42 in the fourth quarter when the game was still in doubt, and otherwise not getting much out of the return teams. The Huskies also did a nice job negating LSU’s dangerous returners by essentially not letting them get it where they could do anything with it — the reason for some of the short kickoffs — though that did once give the Tigers the ball at their own 40. GRADE: B.
COACHING: As with any game, you could nitpick a play call here or there, But the big picture is that this team is so much more competitive and together than it was last season. As debuts go, this was about as good as a loss could probably get. GRADE: A-minus.



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