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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

September 11, 2010 at 10:58 PM

Grading the game

This is kind of how college football is, that you learn a little bit more about a team each week.
Obviously, next week’s game against Nebraska will teach us a lot more about this team than this week’s game did in terms of where it stands with the nation’s elite.
But there were realizations in this one, as well — namely, that the Huskies won’t wilt at the first sign of pressure.
When UW fell down 10-0 early, on the heels of last week’s loss against BYU, it was easy to wonder where things were headed. But a 34-3 run put this game away, and reinforced some (if not all) of the reasons why there were high expectations for this team heading into the season.
Cort Dennison said rebounding from the BYU game was a bit motivator.
“We wanted to move on and prove to people that we are a really good team and I think we made a good statement tonight,” he said.
As noted above, next week would be a much larger statement. But UW had to win this game — and really, they had to win it comfortably for everyone to feel good heading into next week. And ultimately they did that.
Now, on to the grades:
QUARTERBACK: This was a different kind of game for Jake Locker, as UW coach Steve Sarkisian said that the way Syracuse played — strong up the middle, aggressive after the quarterback — made it make more sense to have him become mostly a pocket passer for a game. Sarkisian made clear afterward that it was “a specific game plan thing” that Locker ran only five times for 12 yards. “They come at you right downhill so it just wasn’t conducive to a QB trying to find his way through,” Sarkisian said. “I think we called one tonight for not much success. We thought our game tonight was a perimeter game and it worked to our advantage.” Locker showed he could function in that kind of a game, however, completing 22-33 — right in the middle of the 65-68 percent completion percentage that is the goal for this season. He also had four TDs and no interceptions (though he could have had one had not two SU players collided on a deep throw to Cody Bruns). All in all, a solid game, as it was for Keith Price in his limited time. GRADE: A-minus.

RUNNING BACK: Chris Polk had his first 100-yard game of the season, marred only by a late fumble. And Jesse Callier had a nice game with 46 yards on eight carries, each averaging 5.8 yards per carry. Austin Sylvester turned in a few nice blocks, as well. GRADE: A-minus.
RECEIVERS: Jermaine Kearse had a career day, and was frankly the best player on the field. He always shows an ability for the spectacular play, but as last week showed, is sometimes prone to some drops. But he didn’t have any of those today during what was an almost perfect performance. Devin Aguilar also had another nice day with seven catches (easy to get overlooked). And Marlion Barnett got his first two career catches, with Sarkisian saying that the way SU played made it a game where he could get on the field more. James Johnson, still not 100 percent, got in late and also made a catch. GRADE: A.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Considering that Syracuse was billed as a solid team up front, some of UW’s numbers look pretty good — no sacks, 5.3 yards per carry, 8-19 on third downs. UW shuffled things around a little to get Erik Kohler and Colin Porter in the game, and each played for the first time on what turned into scoring drives. But mostly, it was the usual starting five that got the job done today. Locker got hit a few times, and had to scramble a few times. But as Sarkisian noted, SU’s game was to bring pressure at the expense of giving up a few things elsewhere. Not much to complain about here. GRADE: A-minus.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Another area that seemed to be on its game tonight, as UW rotated quite a bit at a few spots — De’Shon Matthews just about splitting time with Everrette Thompson at end, Sione Potoa’e getting a lot of time at tackle, etc. Sarkisian said there were essentially eight players in the rotation today. SU never got its running game going (and take out the 28-yard QB scramble and it had just 84 yards rushing on 30 carries). And UW got its first three sacks of the season, with the inside pressure the team was getting allowing for the Huskies to bring a few more blitzes from the edges. GRADE: A-minus.
LINEBACKERS: The biggest early defensive mistake of the game was Dennison’s missed tackle on the 28-yard TD run and Dennison admirably owned up to it afterward saying it was entirely his fault. That lessens the grade here a bit since that is the kind of play that has to be made — and really will have to be made next week against Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez, one of the best running QBs UW will face this year. Mason Foster had another good game with eight of his 10 tackles in the first half, a forced fumble, a pass breakup and two tackles for a loss. And Victor Aiyewa also had a good game with eight tackles and half a sack. GRADE: B-plus.
SECONDARY: If there was a defensive area to worry about today, it was here. SU had some receivers open at key times and either Nassib couldn’t get them the ball, or the passes were dropped. UW has been fortunate so far to face QBs all in their first year of starting, and it’s showed in each game. They’ll actually get that again next week with Martinez. But they won’t once conference play starts, and some things have to be shored up here to avoid shootouts. Simply put, too many guys seemed open too often today. A bright spot was the interception late by Greg Ducre, the first of the year for the Huskies and a hopeful sign for the future. And I should note that Desmond Trufant did a nice job with corner blitzes. That’s something UW has in its playbook but couldn’t really pull off well last week the way that BYU got rid of the ball so quickly. But it worked tonight. GRADE: C-plus.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A little bit of good and bad here for the Huskies. It was mostly bad early on thanks to the two penalties on a pair of true frosh (Sean Parker, Taz Stevenson). More worrisome may be the kick coverage units, with Erik Folk admitting that he just isn’t kicking well on kickoffs, and at least once just kicked it to the wrong side of the field. But Folk also hit both of his FG attempts and made the big recovery on Syracuse fumbled KO return that really swung the game UW’s way. And Kiel Rasp on this night didn’t hurt the Huskies, though you can figure that Nebraska will look at the film of this and try to figure out a way to get to him. The KO return unit wasn’t great, but for those who wanted to see some of the young guys that’s what you got as Kevin Smith and Parker got all the returns. And one play I forgot when I first did this was the onside kick recovery by Princeton Fuimaono at a time when SU coiuld have gotten back in the game had it got the recovery. That ups the grade a bit. GRADE: C-plus.
COACHING: The BYU loss was undoubtedly disappointing, but Sarkisian made a big statement throughout the week by showing confidence in his team, saying that none of that changed anything about how he felt about how good the Huskies can be. The players seemed to feed of that faith in the way they rallied after the sluggish start. There were lots of questions about playcalling last week, but give Sarkisian and staff credit for a gameplan that made sense to take advantage of the way Syracuse plays defense. Ultimately, UW got the ball in the hands of its playmakers to let them make plays, which is the most important task for a coach. Some might question the continual special teams errors, and that needs to get cleaned up completely to win the really big ones. It’s understood that this wasn’t Nebraska. But for the opponent they had in front of them, this was obviously a winning game plan. GRADE: B-plus.



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