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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

September 27, 2009 at 7:26 AM

Grading the game

Turns out all the “smart money” guys who bet up the Cardinal all week knew what they were doing.
But the time it ended Saturday night it was hard to tell which was the ranked team.
But as the movie title said “Reality Bites” and the Huskies got a dose of that Saturday night in Palo Alto, finding out they weren’t quite ready yet to deal with what might be the most physical team in the Pac-10. Several players, such as Donald Butler, said later Stanford was more physical than USC and LSU.
“I don’t know if guys just weren’t mentally ready to play,” Butler said. “Obiously, physically, some guys weren’t ready to play. But this is something we are going to learn from and go from here and go on to Notre Dame.”
And the big picture remains that the team is 2-2, a record anyone would have taken at this point, and has shown rapid improvement in a number of areas from last season. That there’s still lots of room for growth, however, was also apparent Saturday.
Onto the grades:
QUARTERBACK: After a glittering start to the season, this was Jake Locker’s worst game of the season, though he didn’t get a lot of help as he was often on the run. He also didn’t always seem to get a lot of help from his receivers in terms of getting open or coming back for the ball. But Locker took the blame later for the turnovers, particularly the final interception where he tried to make something out of nothing on a third down scramble and probably should have thrown it away. He’d made good on those kinds of situations the last two weeks, however, and you’re just not always going hit on every one of those. And while this seemed like a game where maybe he would run more, he had just 21 yards on six attempts. GRADE: C.
RUNNING BACK: Chris Polk ran hard and finished with 75 yards on 19 carries despite rarely seeming to have any big holes. He also had three catches. And he continues to somewhat surprisingly get almost all the work as the only other two carries for a TB went to Johri Fogerson, four yards on two attempts. GRADE: B-plus.
RECEIVERS: It seemed going in like they might have more success getting open on Stanford’s rebuilt secondary. Instead, UW had just one reception for longer than 19 yards all night. And Kavario Middleton remains a mystery, as I see by e-mail he has drawn the ire of a few of you out there for appearing to fail to run out a couple of routes, including on the second Locker interception when it looked like he stopped (though in fairness, once plays become broken, hard to know for sure who is supposed to do what). But overall, this felt like a step back for this crew. GRADE: C-plus.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Here’s where the game really seemed lost for the offense. The line had been a revelation for its improvement through three weeks. Maybe this was a matter of an opponent really stepping up its game with the Huskies obviously improved. Or maybe some of UW’s issues up front were exposed — UW really hasn’t mounted a consistent power running game all season, even against Idaho. The line didn’t get great push, and as Steve Sarkisian noted later, Stanford was able to get a lot of pressure with its base front instead of having to resort to blitzes. This was a work in progress heading into the season and that it remains one became apparent Saturday: GRADE: C-minus.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Another area that got exposed Saturday as the Huskies were simply often overmanned in the battle against Stanford’s O-line. D-coordinator Nick Holt also pointed to some alignment and assignment errors, some due to youth, such as Talia Crichton failing to contain the quarterback on the bootleg run for a TD by Andrew Luck in the fourth quarter. Holt summed it up this way: “Our inside guys need to play better. Our two tackles. I can’t really pinpoint who. But when (an opponent runs) for that many yards, you are staying blocked inside. And we’ll look at the film and find some answers. But we need to have more production inside. We can’t rely on Daniel Te’o-Nesheim to make every play for us.” Holt said that was one of the reason so many different players got looks up front Saturday was trying to find the right combinations (as well as keep guys fresh). “Whenever Cameron (Elisara) and Everrette (Thompson) and Daniel and one of the other ends is out there, it seems to be okay,” Holt said. “But maybe that’s just me wishing that’s the answer.” GRADE: C-minus.
LINEBACKERS: After three weeks of sterling play here, the linebackers didn’t seem as dynamic — though they sure made a lot of tackles, proof of Stanford’s dominance up front. The LBs were involved in 48 tackles. Cort Dennison played well in the second half in place of the injured E.J. Savannah and Holt said later he’s comfortable with Dennison out there. Josh Gage also had seven tackles in a reserve role. GRADE: B-minus.
SECONDARY: A few too many missed tackles in this area, and that proved to be the main task for this group as Stanford threw just 14 passes, the fewest against the Huskies since San Jose State tried just nine in 2004. GRADE: C-plus.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The Huskies really lost the kickoff return game with Stanford returning the opening kickoff for a TD while UW rarely went anywhere on its attempts, averaging just 19.3 yards per attempt. That led to a lot of bad field position as UW started three drives following kickoffs inside its own 15 and two others at thee 20 and the 21. UW didn’t bother kicking it to Chris Owusu the rest of the way, which helped the coverage numbers. But the damage had been done. GRADE: D.
COACHING: It’s easy to just say this was a letdown following the big win over USC. But not sure I really saw that. The Huskies seemed ready to play, and almost overeager at imes, maybe. It seemed like Stanford was better prepared for some of UW’s new offensive wrinkles than the first three opponents, however. But mostly, Stanford just wore down UW physically. Consider that in the fourth quarter, Stanford outgained UW 113-15 on the ground. GRADE: B.

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