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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

September 3, 2011 at 11:12 PM

UW-Eastern: Post-game analysis

So, are you in panic mode after that one?

The Huskies were outgained by twice as many yards by a lower-division team, and even despite being plus-four in turnovers and having an awful lot of things go their way, needed a last-second interception to pull out the win.

Judging by the e-mail I’m getting, the game elicited a lot off angst.

That didn’t seem to be the feeling in the post-game interview room, however.

UW players and coaches mostly said they expected a tough game, got what they expected, and were happy to get the win.

“We knew coming in they were extremely scary,” said UW coach Steve Sarkisian.

Sarkisian and Nick Holt also pointed to the team’s overall youth.

“The reality of it is when you are playing a lot of young guys you are going to make young-guy mistakes,” Sarkisian said. “The challenge for us as a coachcing staff is to push them and coach them to where we grow from these ballgames as we move forward.”

Said Holt, whose defense allowed 504 total yards — more than all but Nebraska and Oregon got last year — including 473 through the air: “We had a lot of guys out there in that last series that were very new. There were three or four guys that haven’t been in the game before that, so it’s a good experience and we will learn from it and we will get better and take from this game some of the good and the bad. But we will get a lot better.”

And obviously they’d better with a lot of the teams that are to come, starting with next week against Hawaii and QB Bryant Moniz, the nation’s total offense leader a year ago.

“It’s only going to get more challenging and we will probably see another 60 pass attempts from Hawaii, so we better figure it out,” Sarkisian said.

Holt said he thought the team was “really tentative with the quick (passing) game. I mean our guys, we were just really tentative and not really dropping to where we need to drop. But I think that’s stuff we can clean up as coaches. You’ve got to remember, some of these guys are very young that haven’t played a lot, so we will get a lot better at that stuff and I’ll do a better job and the coaches will do a better job coaching it.

“. … Obviously we would love to get more hits (on the quarterback). There were guys coming unblocked but it looked like we just didn’t believe in what we were doing and not coming full speed and guys were a little hesitant. It didn’t surprise me because there are a lot of guys that haven’t played a lot of football. Now after another game I think they will believe in what they are doing and will play a little faster.”

He also said he thought a problem was that the outside ends were “running all the way around the quarterback and letting the quarterback kind of scramble, and then we didn’t do exactly what we needed to do on our scramble emphasis. But again, give them some credit and we’ll go back to work and we will get a lot better in the next week.”

So that’s what the coaches felt — a lot of easily fixable mistakes, mostly by young players who should get nothing but better.

And the good news, as they all said, is that they made those mistakes and still got to 1-0 — Oregon State might like that right around now.

As fans are noting, though, some of the numbers are at least eyebrow raising — and not just the obvious passing, the fourth-most ever thrown against UW.

Despite the return of Chris Polk, who looked just fine, UW didn’t really just manhandle an Eastern defensive front that might be the smallest the Huskies will face all year, averaging just 3.9 yards per carry and unable to run the clock out there at the end. They also had no pass completion for longer than 10 yards — and remember, Eastern’s cornerbacks are each first-year starters that were billed as the weakness of the defense coming in.

As Sarkisian said, lots to work on.

That said, let’s take a quick review of each position group:

QUARTERBACK: Price was hampered by the sprained knee, which seemed to take away his ability to run. He was accurate throwing, going 17-25 with at least three drops. And even with the injury he made some good plays with his feet, basically creating the opening on two of his TD throws by moving around. But he also threw for just 102 total yards and as noted above, none beyond 10 yards. That wasn’t all his fault as Kevin Smith couldn’t bring in the one deep one in the end zone that would have been a 41-yarder. But either by design or because they couldn’t do it, UW was mostly unable to get the ball deep — Jermaine Kearse’s injury obviously played a role in that. A good start for Price but they’ll need to get better throwing vertically.

RUNNING BACK: Polk returned and was his usual fine self — and basically was the difference in the game providing UW its only consistent offense. Jesse Callier did fine with 47 yards on 10 carries. Bishop Sankey was in the game early (and one carry was initially announced as his but apparently wasn’t) but then didn’t really see the field on offense. Jonathan Amosa had a nice play for the first TD out of the backfield but otherwise the fullbacks were not involved in the offense.

TIGHT END: Given the hype, fans might have expected more than three catches for 17 yards out of Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Michael Hartvigson. But each was basically playing his first game and you’d imagine we’ll see a lot more of them as the season progresses.

RECEIVER: Kearse’s injury obviously impacted things. That left it largely to James Johnson, Smith and Kasen Williams, who combined to catch nine of UW’s 17 receptions. Johnson led the way with four for 29 yards and his first TD since 2009. Williams had two catches for six yards and might not have been on the field as much as fans expected. But he’s been listed as a second-teamer and that’s the way the rotation appeared to play out today. His TD in the back of the end zone was the kind of play he’s made throughout camp. Surely, the Huskies were being conservative to ease Price into things a little bit, and then maybe even more once he got hurt. But they’ll have to get more going vertically in coming weeks.

OFFENSIVE LINE: It looked like the same five worked up front the entire game, and statistically it was a mixed bag. Polk got a lot of yards on his own and the overall rushing total of 148 on 38 was enough to get the win but not what may be needed down the road. And Eastern had some success getting to Price with three sacks. UW seemed to do much of its running damage going to the right behind Colin Porter and Erik Kohler.

DEFENSIVE LINE: A weird game for these guys given the way Eastern plays — though something they’d better get used to as they are likely to see a lot more of it going forward. Eastern gets rid of the ball quickly and Mitchell was really good at that, so that made it hard to get many sacks — the Huskies had just one by Hau’oli Jamora. UW did bottle up the run, but that was kind of to be expected — this might be the smallest OL the Huskies will play against all season and neither running back is quite to the caliber of Taiwan Jones, EWU’s back of last year. The big question here is the ability of the ends to rush the passer. Jamora had some moments, but UW tried a variety of guys on the other side — Talia Crichton, Josh Shirley, Andrew Hudson — to not much success. None of those three made as much as an assisted tackle. Another area that obviously will have to get a lot better.

LINEBACKERS: Again, given the way Eastern plays, a different kind of game for these guys — their job most of the day was pass coverage. There were a few coverage breakdowns, but Garret Gilliland also came up with one of the game’s key plays with an interception at a time when the Huskies began to control things — UW outscored EWU 20-3 from the beginning of the second quarter to the final minute of the third. It was the first game as an outside linebacker duo for John Timu and Princeton Fuimaono, so a learning curve was to be expected.

SECONDARY: Obviously worth remembering that Mitchell is a good QB other than his propensity to throw too many picks — that’s what lost him the job as the starter at SMU in 2009. And Brandon Kaufman is a receiver as good as most UW will see this year. But obviously lots of room for improvement here. Would Quinton Richardson have made that much difference? Everyone has to hope so right now. But somewhat ominously, this looked real similar to some of the performances of a year ago before that final four-game set when the Huskies played some pretty subpar quarterbacks (other than WSU’s Jeff Tuel, who lit them up pretty similarly to Mitchell when he was actually allowed to throw). The saving grace was obviously the play by Trufant at the end that won the game — give him credit for hanging in there during a tough day and making the play that had to be made to avoid what would have been a mammoth disappointment.

SPECIAL TEAMS: It could be argued UW won the game in this area, getting two fumble recoveries on punts, a couple of good returns, three long field goals by Erik Folk, and solid punting by Kiel Rasp, who obviously is the real No. 1 punter on the team. A good start, though many will tell you that due to better depth, FBS teams often dominate special teams when going against FCS teams. We’ll need to see the coverage and return units continue the improvement against FBS teams before declaring it truly back.

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