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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

October 24, 2009 at 7:31 PM

Grading the game

Well, that was a cold splash of reality for the Huskies.
As UW coach Steve Sarkisian said afterward “we are going to have growing pains and this was one of them.”
For UW fans, it was simply painful as the Ducks rolled to their sixth straight win.
This was UW’s eighth straight game — the Huskies are the last Pac-10 team to have a bye — and it seemed like maybe the Huskies ran out of gas as Oregon pulled away in the second half. UW defensive coordinator Nick Holt disputed that, however, saying that “we didn’t get worn down physically.” Not sure if that’s a positive or not. You might feel better if there was some rationalization for what happened late other than Oregon simply being that much better.
It’s also tempting to wonder if fate maybe didn’t just catch up to UW. Reality is that despite a 3-4 record, UW has been outgained this season in every game it has played except the opener against LSU. Stats don’t mean everything and can be misleading, but if you’re getting outgained every game, at some point that has to mean something — and Oregon was one team that didn’t just gain yards but converted them into points, something other recent UW foes struggled to do.
UW is now being outgained 423.5-365.1 per game.
Sarkisian has sold the team and fans on his “expect to win”’ mantra. But this game also seemed to show why it shouldn’t be expected that the Huskies will return to winning easily. This team had lost 15 straight games just seven weeks ago. That it’s not going to happen overnight became apparent in this game. UW showed against USC it has enough to pull an upset. But this game showed it has a long ways to go to pull off that kind of thing consistently.
Still, Sarkisian said it’s not time to give up on the season and start playing for the future.
“I hesitate to say ‘man, we are not good,”’ he said. “I don’t want to say that. And that ‘boy, it’s going to take us longer than we thought.’ I still think we are a dang good football team and opportunities are there for us to continue to grow and get better because there are plays for us to make and opportunities for us as we keep moving forward.”
On with the grades:

QUARTERBACK — There’s no question Jake Locker has improved this year, and that he also is often running for his life — he was sacked four times today. But the reality is also that his passing efficiency rating has gone down considerably the last few weeks. After peaking at 149 following the Idaho game, his rating is now down to 123.90. He was high a few too many times today — one almost resulting in what could have been a pick six in the second quarter that might have all but ended the game before halftime. Overall, he was 23-44 for 266 yards and two interceptions with one TD. And this really seemed like a game where he should have run more — several times even the crowd seemed to be trying to will him to take off and he stayed in the pocket or threw. Take out the four sacks and he ran three times for nine yards today. I’d still think the most dangerous offensive weapon this team has is Locker running and they’ve got to figure out a way to utilize that better. GRADE: C.
RUNNING BACKS — Chris Polk really ran hard today, especially considering a hurt ankle and shoulder. His 104 yards is even more impressive considering he didn’t always have huge holes. The one big negative is obviously the fumble that capped Oregon’s third-quarter onslaught. Demitrius Bronson got his most significant playing time and while he took the blame later for not getting in the end zone on two attempts in that critical second-quarter drive near the goal line, he had some good runs later andn finished with 39 yards. For now, Bronson is ahead of Johri Fogerson on the depth chart and Fogerson barely got in the game, Sarkisian saying it’s too hard to get three guys going. GRADE: B-minus.
RECEIVERS: Another nice day for Devin Aguilar overall (eight catches for 87 yards) as he continues to solidify his standing as maybe the team’s most dependable receiver. And Jermaine Kearse had UW’s play of the day on that 47-yard reception while pretty well-covered. But this was one game where you saw just how much a deep threat at tight end can help — Oregon got receptions of 32, 27 and 26 out of its tight end position — and left you wondering when the Huskies will get that kind of production out of its TE spot. GRADE: B.
OFFENSIVE LINE: The Huskies were simply overwhelmed at times on the edge Saturday, the Ducks having an obvious speed advantage there, the biggest reason for Locker’s four sacks. And while Polk put up some decent numbers, he seemed to get an awful lot on his own — there weren’t huge holes being blasted everywhere. Nick Wood suffered a stinger that held him out for a while with Mykenna Ikehara stepping in. Otherwise, it was the same group until the end. As OL coach Dan Cozzetto said this week, the Huskies have to get bigger and stronger up front. That they aren’t where they need to be was evident today. GRADE: C-minus.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A decent effort early dissolved late as the Ducks finally got their offense rolling. Oregon’s offense puts a premium on indentifying who has the ball, and the Huskies seemed to struggle with that as the game went on, especially once Jeremiah Masoli started running it more. Kalani Aldrich had one of his best games with 1.5 tackles for a loss but otherwise there wasn’t a lot of production here in terms of tackles — not that there necessarly would be against this type of offense. But this was another game it seemed like UW didn’t get much pressure other than on blitzes. GRADE: C-minus.
LINEBACKERS: Again, a decent effort for a while, but not so much later. Mason Foster had a good sack that killed an early Oregon drive. But other than that, the main thing was that this group simply didn’t make a lot of plays. One example is the long pass that David Paulson caught to keep alive that second quarter drive on a third-and-26. He was well covered by Donald Butler. But Butler didn’t make the play on the ball and Paulson did. Those are the kinds of plays the Huskies need from this group — the most experienced on the team — and it isn’t really getting them right now. GRADE: C-minus.
SECONDARY: Starting two true frosh and one redshirt frosh is a hard way to go against an offense as good as Oregon’s, and that also eventually showed up in this game. Nate Fellner made some really nice plays and showed lots of promise. But he also missed a tackle on a key run in the second half and then couldn’t evade a block onn the long TD run by LaMichael James in the fourth quarter. But again, he’s a freshman being put in a tough spot — some of those growing pains Sarkisian referenced are to be expected out of this group. GRADE: C.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Other than Erik Folk making a career-long 48-yarder and both of his attempts overall, this was a disaster. The blocked punt, two-point play and fake field goal resulted in a difference of 12 points for the Ducks and swung the momentum Oregon’s way at a time the contest was still in doubt. And UW continues not to really get much out of its return game. The Huskies did cover Oregon’s returns okay. But on this day, the mistakes it made were too costly to pull any real positives out of this. GRADE: F.
COACHING: No one anywhere can question the overall job Sarkisian has done to return some life to this program, or that the program appears headed in the right direction. But there was lots to question on this day — the special teams stuff seemed like one team being better prepared than the other; the decision to go for it on fourth-down is certainly debatable as an FG there would have at least turned the momentum back to UW a bit and kept the game close. And then there’s the second half, If you’re a believer in the power of halftime adjustments, no question Chip Kelly got the better of the Huskies on this day as Oregon outscored UW 21-0 in the third quarter and 28-13 overall in the second half. GRADE: D.



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