Exactly how much yesterday’s win really means won’t be determined until next week. But regardless of if it serves to help UW get to a bowl game or not, that’s a drive that will go down in UW lore, and it’s already preserved on YouTube.
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UW has won two Pac-10 road games this year on the final play and each required a fourth-down converstion — the Huskies had to get a fourth-and-11 at USC, converting on an 18-yard pass from Jake Locker to D’Andre Goodwin and yesterday getting it on the final play.
By the way, a few of you have asked why there was no extra point. I never heard an official explanation but it was probably because it was meaningless and Senio Kelemete was being attended on the ground with his ankle injury, which took a few minutes to get him off the field. No need to risk further injury to anyone at that point.
Also worth passing along this morning that Jon Wilner writes that he hears there is a chance UW could end up in the Alamo Bowl depending on how Arizona does against Arizona State, though there is so much else that could still determine things it’s hard to say anything definitively at the moment (obviously, Oregon still has one big game to win, as does UW, just to settle the Pac-10 order of things).
On with the grades:
QUARTERBACK: Another game where Jake Locker’s raw numbers don’t tell the story. He was spotty for a while, and the two turnovers were obviously costly — he now has lost five fumbles this season. But when UW really needed him to come up big he did — he was 3-3 for 54 yards passing on the last drive and ran four times for 14 yards. And you see how much his running opens things up for the entire offense when the defense realizes he reallly may go at any time. GRADE: B.
RUNNING BACK: It figured to be tough to run on Cal, which came in with one of the better run defenses in the country, and it was as UW was held to 112 yards and a 3.1 per carry average (though three sacks for losses of 23 yards also factor into that). But Chris Polk ran big when he needed to, getting 86 yards on 18 carries (a 4.8 average). Jesse Callier lost a fumble but also had a huge kickoff return. And kudos to fullback Austin Sylvester for a big block on the final play. GRADE: A-minus.
RECEIVERS: UW has really shortended the rotation here and Saturday it consisted almost solely of Jermaine Kearse, Goodwin and Devin Aguilar, with Kevin Smith (who had his first career reception) getting a few plays, as well. Like Polk and Locker, Goodwin and Kearse came up with huge plays when absoultely needed that turned the game around, and that alone gets a good grade. GRADE: A.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Cal has a solid defensive line, and for a lot of the day it got the better of the Huskies. But again, when UW absolutely had to get a yard it did, with two true freshmen — Erik Kohler and Colin Porter — helping lead the way. And those looking for hope for the future should note that four of the five who started — Porter, Kohler, Kelemete and Drew Schaefer — return next year, forming what is starting to look like a solid group for 2011. GRADE: B.
DEFENSIVE LINE: The line appears to have been transformed by the move two games ago to put Semisi Tokolahi inside alongside Alameda Ta’amu, with Everrette Thompson and Hau’oli Jamora on the outside. Not sure those four ever came off the field (other than passing downs). Jamora continues to be a playmaker with six tackles and Thompson might have had his best game with 2.5 tackles for a loss, a batted pass and a quarterback hurry. Cal got some rushing yards early, but mostly on sweeps and other counter-type plays. When it was straight-up running UW held its own all day. GRADE: A-minus.
LINEBACKERS: Another solid day for what may be the most consistent position group on the team. A few quibbles early with some guys getting out of position on a few of those Cal runs. But the Bears never converted any into points, so ultimately not much to complain about. Mason Foster continues to show that he is an All-Pac-10 player and Victor Aiyewa‘s strong play of late makes one wish maybe he’d redshirted or made the move to LB earlier. GRADE: A-minus.
SECONDARY: Another really good game for this group as well, with the caveat that Cal’s passing game obviously really suffers with Brock Mansion at QB in place of Kevin Riley. Hard to have imagined a month ago, but it may be true that WSU will pose the biggest offensive threat to UW of these last three games. But you can only play against what the other team offers on that day, and the Huskies had Cal’s WRs covered well most of the day, and Quinton Richardson — looking as confident as any time in his career — again came up with a big interception. And it may have gone unnoticed, but the tackling in the back area has gotten a lot more consistent of late, evidenced by Nate Fellner’s team-leading 11 tackles Saturday. GRADE: A.
SPECIAL TEAMS: And how about this? A second straight game where UW won the return game and the overall special teams battle. UW played conservatively early, playing the field position game, and more good punting from Kiel Rasp helped pull that strategy off as he averaged 50 yards on six kicks (and a tip of the cap to Cody Bruns for his one emergency punt). Callier had the key kickoff return after Cal appeared to regain momentum with the fumble return. Erik Folk hit a big 47-yard field goal in tough conditions. And the coverage units won the day as UW averaged almost nine yards more per kick return than Cal. GRADE: A.
COACHING: Judging by my e-mails, there were some quibbles early with some of Steve Sarkisian’s calls, especially his conservative nature on a few early fourth-downs. But I think Sarkisian figured this would be a low-scoring game and wanted to play it that way early. He was bold when he needed to be late, and as the Cal players said later, they didn’t see that play coming. And in the big picture, this has been a nice late-season rally for UW to get back into legitimate bowl contention after many left the Huskies for dead following that three-game losing streak. But it doesn’t get any easier this week. (And upon further reflection (meaning, I initially tried to finish this as my flight was being called, I should note the imperfect handling of the clock at the end of the first half that loomed large. Grade adjusted a bit as a result). GRADE: B-plus.