This may really be about all that needs to be said:
The Cougars are, obviously, an awful team, and that can’t be completely ignored in assessing this game, or what it means to the big picture of Husky football.
On the other hand, the Huskies did do to bad teams what they should do, especially in rivalry situations where the early blowout isn’t real likely — wear them down, then pound them into submission.
In a lot of ways, this was an old-style Husky game, UW sticking with the running game until it worked, and never granting the Cougars anything on offense.
“They played physical football,” was the way UW coach Steve Sarkisian described it and it was hard to argue after seeing Washington get five sacks and pitch a shutout.
The Huskies also knocked out WSU’s QB on three different occassions.
“It’s always a goal to take quarterbacks out of the game,” said defensive tackle Cameron Elisara. “And we had two out today and we were putting hits on them. It felt great to be able to put a hit on someone. And it really hurts a team to put their leader out.”
This would have been the perfect way for this program at this time to go into the off-season. But the realities of college football these days means a Agame at home against Cal next weekend. On the other hand, that game will at least allow for maybe a truer gague of whether what we saw today has some real substance, or is just due to WSU’s ineptness — the Cougars end the season having been outscored 357-80 in Pac-10 play this year, never once holding a lead in a conference game.
But that’s a conversation for another day. For now, the grades:
QUARTERBACK: This is the Jake Locker we’ve been waiting to see all season. He missed a few passes here and there, but the combination of his arm and his legs was dynamic today. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the last time he had this many carries (10) was the last time UW won a game (11 against Arizona). He needs to run it 6-8-10 times a game, and not just sacks that are called runs. One of his most efficient days as a Husky. GRADE: A-minus.
RUNNING BACK: Another solid day for Chris Polk, who got his fourth straight 100-yard game and topped the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Polk is setting himself up to be one of the best UW running backs in school history. Paul Homer also had one of his more productive days with four catches. The only downer was the fumble by Demitrius Bronson in garbage time. GRADE: A-minus.
WIDE RECEIVERS: A couple of drops early portended a not great day for this group. But Jermaine Kearse, who had two early drops, rallied to have a big second quarter, including the 50-yard catch that put UW in control for good. Devin Aguilar also had a couple of nice plays and three catches for 48 yards overall. Negatives? D’Andre Goodwin forced a time out at one point when he lined up wrong and James Johnson had the first game of his career without a catch, dropping one pass. And in the neutral category, Kavario Middleton — who made a splash with his 50-point comment during the week — didn’t do much, with one catch for eight yards, though he didn’t really seem asked to do much, either. GRADE: B.
OFFENSIVE LINE: (Whoops, forgot to include this on the first posting). A slow first half as the Huskies had trouble running consistently early. But UW stayed with the run and it paid off with a dominating second half, that was due not just to Polk and Locker, but also some holes from the OL. Again, the opposition has to be noted. But ultimately a solid day. Nick Wood and Ben Ossai shared the LG duties, but otherwise pretty much a set crew all day long. Huskies also allowed just the one sack. GRADE: B-plus.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Huskies pretty much went with the same foursome — Daniel Te’o-Neshiem and Darrion Jones at ends and Cameron Elisara and Everrette Thompson at tackles — and got as much push as they have all season. WSU’s 47 net rushing yards were the fewest for a UW opponent since the 2007 season. DTN and Jones also each had sacks as the Huskies got as much pressure as they have all year, with a season-high five sacks. Again, the opposition was terrible. But the Huskies did what they had to do. GRADE: A.
LINEBACKERS: A solid day here for the trio of Donald Butler, Mason Foster and Cort Dennison, who also pretty much went all the way until the heavy subbing at the end. Nick Holt said he didn’t really think the Huskies brought more pressure today than in other games, just that it seemed to work better. Indeed it did, after a few misfires early — Dennison and backups Josh Gage and Trenton Tuiasosopo each had sacks. Foster also picked off a pass and now leads the team with three for the season. The first shutout in 12 years won’t yield many poor defensive grades. GRADE: A.
SECONDARY: Jason Wells got the start at free safety and Holt pointed to that as a real key, saying he really settles the defense, getting everyone aligned right. The Huskies held WSU to 116 passing yards, actually just the third lowest of the year after Stanford (103 and hardly needing to throw) and USC (110). Most importantly, WSU had no pass play longer than 17 yards as the Huskies kept the few completions there were (WSU was just 14-32) from turning into big gains. GRADE: A.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Don’t forget the day Erik Folk had as he made three field goals in pretty tough weather conditions, including a long of 46. And while UW again didn’t get much out of its return game, it made sure WSU didn’t either. The special teams effort was punctuated by what was the hit of the day, Nathan Fellner’s layout of WSU KO returner Carl Winston in the fourth quarter. GRADE: A-minus.
COACHING: The theme from players afterward was how the coaches kept them at a fevered pitch all week, showing the end of 2008 Apple Cup at the end of each meeting. Locker called it “a great method” for getting the team ready, saying “everybody got kind of fed up with it toward the end of the week” and wanted to go play. That was the main task before the coaches for this game, making sure the Huskies — for whatever reason — didn’t overlook the Cougars or think the game would be easy. They obviously hit the right notes there as the Huskies came out ready to play. Strategically, letting Locker run a little more was also a good move. GRADE: A.