Well, it didn’t rain during the game today — the only few hours a day it hasn’t as far as I can tell.
Still, a cold dash of water hit Husky fans watching that game today.
As Jerry Brewer wrote, you had to think the Huskies were beyond this sort of embarassing defeat by now.
Instead, it was the kind of loss that throws everything into question about where this season headed. You see UCLA rebound to play well against Houston early, Arizona State hang with Wisconsin until the very end, and simply getting five wins in Pac-10 play suddenly looks a lot more challenging (and the outlook isn’t helped seeing how BYU has been dominated by Air Force and Florida State in the two weeks since it beat the Huskies).
Steve Sarkisian says he knows this team can play a lot better. But frankly, fans haven’t seen it yet. There were a couple of decent quarters against a Syracuse team that has no resume, and that’s been about it.
No way around it that UW was dominated from start to finish in every single area of the game. Sadly, because of the way 2008 went, you don’t have to go back all that far to find the last time such embarassments occured.
Still, the 533 yards allowed are the most of the Sarkisian era, as are the 383 rushing. And the 246 yards of offense are the lowest of the Sarkisian era (in fact, all stats the lowest or the most since the last game of the Tyrone Willingham, that dreary 48-7 loss to Cal when it looked like no one even wanted to be there).
The hope has to be that Nebraska is just really, really good — maybe national title good — and that the Huskies won’t face anybody this powerful the rest of the season. That’s possible, but the fact that there had already been a lot of warning signs in earlier games isn’t promising. UW has two weeks to try to figure a lot of things out before playing at USC Oct. 2. That’s a two weeks that figures to define the rest of the season.
Now, on with the grades:
QUARTERBACK: Sadly, in the kind of game that was the reason Jake Locker decided to stay, he instead had the worst outing of his career. The 4-20 passing wasn’t all his fault — he didn’t have a lot of open receivers, nor tons of time to throw. But a QB regarded as maybe the top pick in the NFL Draft simply has to make more happen than did today. And is it worth wondering when the wraps will be taken off and he runs like he did when he was a freshman? It seems like that should be a bigger threat. GRADE: D.
RUNNING BACK: On paper, surprisingly good numbers in this area for what was so one-sided a game, though worth noting that it seems like Nebraska was willing to give up a few runs to take away the pass. UW had 175 net yards rushing, and an average of 4.5. per carry. Take out Locker’s 33-yard run, however, and UW had just 39 yards on 14 carries in the second half as Nebraska began to take complete control. Still, UW’s one long scoring drive in the first quarter came almost entirely on the ground — 10 straight runs after a first-down pass. UW then passed incomplete on first down of each of its next two drives, setting up second-and-longs and eventually three-and-outs, and seemed to give up on the run from there. Jesse Callier was the offensive star of the day for UW with 57 yards on 10 carries, while Chris Polk had 55 on 17. GRADE: B.
RECEIVERS: A back-to-earth day for this unit, which never could deal with the physical, aggressive, pressing Nebraska corners. Jermaine Kearse got open deep once, but that was it, and Devin Aguilar never had any room. UW tried something different, splitting out Marlion Barnett a lot early, maybe figuring his size would match up better. But obviously, nothing worked. UW won’t face corners this good the rest of the year, but can probably expect to see more physical play the rest of the way. James Johnson again sat out, the ankle contining to be troublesome, and that’s impacting the depth at this spot. And think what you want of Kavario Middleton, but he might have been nice to have around today. GRADE: D.
OFFENSIVE LINE: UW shook things up and started Erik Kohler at guard to give them a more physical presence. It worked in spurts, like that first-quartere drive, and Kohler himself appeared to do just fine. But overall, the numbers speak for themselves as UW averaged just 4.2 yards per play. Again, UW won’t face a defense this good the rest of the season, but there was little today to quell the concerns about this group. GRADE: D.
DEFENSIVE LINE: As Nick Holt said later, the line simply got pushed around too much throughout the game — he attributed some of it to the pad level being too high at times. There were a couple of momentary highlights — Talia Crichton got his first sack and Hau’oli Jamora finished with eight tackles. But there’s lots to worry about here as UW gets ready to play all those explosive Pac-10 offenses, many of which you might have rated as better than Nebraska’s before today. GRADE: D.
LINEBACKERS: You can’t be too harsh on Garret Gilliland, thrown into the fire for his first start due to Cort Dennison’s injury, and coaches said later they thought he played well considering. But the numbers are what they are — and Victor Aiyewa missed a critical tackle on the long Taylor Martinez run on the first play of the second half. GRADE: D.
SECONDARY: Here’s a spot where the numbers don’t really tell the story as Nebraska threw for “just” 150 yards. Martinez, though, was 7-11 and on two others appeared to have open receivers and just missed the passes. Nebraska appeared to have zero fear about testing UW’s secondary with a redshirt frosh QB whose forte isn’t supposed to be passing making his first career road start. And obviously there were some deadly missed tackles on a few passes and wrong reads on runs. UW has played nothing but first-year starting QBs to date and is allowing a 56.8 percent completion rate and has just one interception. GRADE: F.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Probably should split this into a kicking grade (an A for Kiel Rasp and incomplete for Erik Folk, not asked to do anything other than PATs and kickoffs) and one for coverages and returns (which would be an F for struggling for a third straight game). Folk deserves some blame for not kicking it properly on a few kickoffs, continuing a season-long problem. Still, it doesn’t seem like UW’s cover guys area being real aggressive or making plays when they have the chance. The KO return following the Polk TD after the Nebraska fumble was a huge momentum swing. And UW just can’t seem to get any returns of its own going. Consider UW’s opponents have 391 yards on 16 kickoff returns this year while UW has 157 yards on 10. That’s a lot of real estate to give up. GRADE: D.
COACHING: No doubt, this game indicated that UW has some talent issues when going against elite teams — more than seemed evident 15 days ago or so. But a loss this total is also a total team loss from top to bottom, coaches included. Strategically, you can question going away from the run so quickly in the first half. And the Huskies have come out of the gates pretty rough the past two weeks. Overall, the program still appears headed in the right direction. But a lot of the excitement of a few weeks ago has obviously been dampened quite a bit. GRADE: D.