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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

October 11, 2009 at 12:43 AM

Grading the game

It’s tempting to say that in a year the Huskies have gone from heartless to the latest version of the Cardiac Kids.
That’s now three games decided in the final minute, the Huskies showing that they are indeed living up to the one thing that Steve Sarkisian promised more than anything else — that this team would play hard to the finish.
“We’re understanding the power of continuing to battle, continuing to do things right,” he said. “We’re understanding in this conference that it’s never over. These games are physical, they’re hard. Every game is hard. But we just keep competing, keep battling, and sooner or later, good things are going to happen.”
But who could have predicted those good things would materialize in that manner?
Certainly not any of the fans who left, and a few did. And certainly not most everyone else, who surely began to wonder where this season was headed if the Huskies fell to 2-4 with what was a pretty dominating Arizona effort for most of the second half.
But Sarkisian’s “play hard” mantra was in evidence all night and was the only reason the Huskies were even still close enough late to allow the Mason Foster interception — the Huskies again played tough red-zone defense, forcing four field goals and another time holding UA on a fourth-and-one at the 1. And the offense at least kept plugging away, moving quickly for the TD that set up the Foster interception.
Effort, at least, is no longer a question.
Also no longer a question is that the Huskies have legitimate bowl hopes. UW showed a lot of holes tonight. But they have also shown enough to think there are three more wins left on the schedule. This one seemed like one UW had to win to keep post-season hope alive. Next week is another huge opportunity to make it even more real heading to Arizona State.
On with the grades:

QUARTERBACK: This was kind of an old-school game for Jake Locker, once again leading the team in rushing with 92 yards on 11 carries. He said later only five or six were called so he wasn’t really running more by design, just out of circumstance. That includes the 56-yard TD that was a called pass on which Arizona blitzed, leaving a hole open for Locker once he broke a couple of tackles. The yards were needed as the rest of the running game was non-existant. The passing game was spotty as UW seemed to go deep more than it has all year and never really connected. Locker was 12-23, for the third straight game not at the magical 60 percent figure. But at least four passes were dropped, depending on how you want to count them, which would have put him right at that number if converted. GRADE: A-minus.
RUNNING BACKS: Chris Polk suffered an early shoulder injury which impacted everything at this spot. Combine that with Johri Fogerson’s absence and the Huskies were without their top two players at this spot for a little while.That meant the first carries for Demitrius Bronson. He had four yards on two carries then never saw the ball again. Overall, it was the least effective UW running game off the season with just 38 yards on 11 carries from the running backs. Polk also had one of the dropped passes. Obviously, some of the ineffectivness is due to circumstance, but this was the least the Huskies have gotten out of this spot all year. GRADE: C.
RECEIVERS: At least three drops from WRs by my count (and maybe one more depending on who does the judging). And the Huskies had trouble at times breaking free of the Arizona DBs. But it was a nice return for Devin Aguilar, and Kavario Middleton also had some big catches — none more so than the one at the end — which raise the overall grade. GRADE: B-minus.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Take out Locker and UW had no real running game. Locker was also under pressure a lot of the night, sacked twice. And the offense managed just 256 yards, lowest of the season. But again this is a unit that kept plugging away and gave Locker protection on the last drive. The down note of the whole night is the broken fibula sustained by Greg Christine that sounds like a season-ender. That will put Nick Wood into a starting role. GRADE: C-plus.
DEFENSIVE LINE: The Huskies went back to the opening day lineup here with Darrion Jones returning to full health — and Jones responded with one of his best days as a Husky with six tackles, five solo. However, Alameda Ta’amu sat out much of the second half with Everrette Thompson in his place. The Huskies didn’t always get a great pass rush, but they got one when it mattered, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim turning in one of the biggest sacks of his career on that second-and-three play at the 38 on Arizona’s final drive. That’s the kind of big play at a key time the team needs DTN to make, and tonight he did. And the line also deserves kudos for keeping Arizona’s running game in check — the biggest reason for all of those red-zone stops. Other than the move with Thompson, there didn’t seem to be as much rotating up front tonight with Jones back — Talia Crichton officially didn’t play at all and Andru Pulu only on special teams. GRADE: B-minus.
LINEBACKERS: Foster’s interception capped one of his best days as a Husky as he also had a game-high 11 tackles, one for a loss. Donald Butler also had 10 tackles, two for a loss, and got credit for the fourth-down stop of Nick Foles at the goal line in the second quarter. No doubt, some of those 39 passes Foles completed went in front of the linebackers. But the UW linebackers were also a big part in keeping Arizona’s running game in check — the Wildcats had just 77 yards on 30 carries — as noted, really the biggest reason UW was still in the game at the end. GRADE: B-plus.
SECONDARY: Here’s a tough area to grade. No doubt the secondary struggled tonight with Arizona throwing for 384 passes. But obviously there are also huge mitigating circumstances for that with the loss of the regular starting safety tandem of Justin Glenn and Nate Williams and the Huskies having to go with true freshman Nate Fellner as one of the replacements. The results were predictable at times, and the youth there also forced UW to mostly play a zone defense all night — and Sarkisian noted later that UA tried to take advantage of the fact that the Huskies were low on DBs by creating mismatches on linebackers. On the other hand, the secondary played its own role in keeping all of those red-zone drives to field goals. And Desmond Trufant continuned to flash star power, notably with the final interception. GRADE: C.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Here’s UW almost lost the game with the flurry of sloppy play in the third quarter — bad kickoff coverage to start the half, the dropped snap, and then a dropped kickoff. There was also then another bad punt. All of that led to 17 straight Arizona points that if not for the Foster interception would have decided the game. The bright spot was a KO return by Chris Polk and a heads-up return by Paul Homer of 17 yards that set up the scoring drive that made it 33-28. GRADE: D.
COACHING: Sure, you can again quibble with some of the decisions along the way. The offense seemed stagnant in the third quarter, and I’m sure a few people grumbled about not going with an on-side kick when UW scored to make it 33-28. Sarkisian explained later he had faith the defense could hold and that he didn’t want to put the entire game into one on-side kick. He’s right about that, that if UW had gone for that and hadn’t gotten it, the game would likely have been over. But the big picture is that this team is 3-3 and has been competitive in every game (save maybe for the final quarter at Stanford), and a year after going 0-12 is legitimately in the hunt for a bowl game at the halfway point. GRADE: A-minus.



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