Any doubt about how the Huskies would respond to their week of challenge was answered in the game’s first minute as UW came out with a relentlessness that seemed to catch Hawaii off-guard.
After a 21-0 first-quarter, the teams pretty much traded punches. But with the early lead, and an ability to come up with big plays when needed, UW hung on to improve to 2-0 on the year and win its sixth straight dating to last season, tied for the fourth-longest winning streak in the nation.
No, UW was far from perfect. Yes, tougher tests await, beginning in seven days in Lincoln, Neb. And yes, there is still lots of room for improvement.
But for the most part, this was the game the Huskies needed to bounce back from the opening game (that felt like a loss) to Eastern Washington (which if you noticed, lost today to South Dakota 30-17).
With 10 games left, UW need win just four to qualify for a bowl, and five to get a winning regular season (something it hasn’t done since 2002). And obviously, there’s renewed momentum and confidence now going into a game against a Nebraska team that will no doubt have revenge on its mind, and every other such cliche you can think of, but that has also shown to be far from unbeatable in its first two games, defeating Fresno State — pretty much regarded as on par with Hawaii in the WAC this year — 42-29 today.
Now for our weekly review of the Huskies by position group:
QUARTERBACK: Any lingering doubt about who the leader of the offense is should be gone now as Keith Price played expertly throughout — if not flawlessly, as the one interception proved, and not sliding and running time off the clock on that last possession. But after last week, there were lots of legitimate questions about Price’s ability to throw the deep ball. Those were quickly quelled today. UW will face better defenses and secondaries, but given that it was his third start and coming off the injury of last week and the discussion that ensued, hard to have asked for Price to have done much more.
RUNNING BACK: Another workmanlike day for Chris Polk (22-107) which left not much to do for anyone else. Jesse Callier had three carries for 22 yards and Johri Fogerson one for six. Bishop Sankey played on special teams but not on offense, after there was talk that he might be featured in the game plan a little bit more. Jonathan Amosa did not get a tough but seemed to again do a nice job blocking. Callier ran two plays out of the Wildcat, throwinig one incomplete pass and running the other time. Not sure how much more we will see of that.
RECEIVER: The depth of the corps showed up today with Devin Aguilar — who some might thought would be a forgotten man this season — leading the way with five catches for 131 yards. Nine different receivers caught passes with no one other than Austin Seferian-Jenkins (besides Aguilar) catching more than two. Jermaine Kearse made the most of his two catches however, both going for touchdowns, as Sarkisian said later the Huskies knew they might be able to get Aguilar in some one-on-one situations with Hawaii doubling Kearse. Credit Price for not forcing the ball to Kearse and going to the open man. Not as much of a rotation in this game, however, as DiAndre Campbell and Kasen Williams each saw minimal time. That Williams didn’t play much may come as a surprise to some. But he’s been listed as a second-teamer and the Huskies leaned on the vets today. Also, seemed like some good downfield blocking.
OFFENSIVE LINE: A much better performance this week against a much better defensive front. Again, the same five went the whole way. Seemed like Colin Porter, in particular, had a nice bounceback game after the struggles of last week.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A better performance by this group, as well, if still not to the level it may need to be against the better Pac-12 teams (or even next week). The Huskies threw a lot of different looks at Hawaii up front, sometimes lining up two ends on one side, making one a defacto tackle, and starting with five players in down positions, then moving two up and back into coverage, etc. After some fans complained there was a lack of imagination last week, there was no lack of it today. UW rotated a bit early, and the main guy to benefit was Andrew Hudson, who had one of UW’s four tackles-for-a-loss and seems assured of future playing time (Josh Shirley, by contrast, barely played). Alameda Ta’au had two tackles-for-a-loss and Everrette Thompson the other, while Talia Crichton also was better this week than last week, including forcing a fumble.
LINEBACKER: A different kind of day for this spot as only Cort Dennison was a regular with UW often going with five defensive backs at the expense of one of the linebackers. Dennison had one of his best days as a Husky with 12 tackles and the forced fumble on Hawaii’s first possession that was a huge momentum-changer. He also played the lead in containing the up-the-middle running of Bryant Moniz, whose longest gain was eight yards and had a net of two. John Timu and Princeton Fuimaono seemed to split time at the other spot, with only Timu recording any stats, making two tackles. No one else played at the LB spot (other than, as some of you pointed out, Gilliland late when Dennison went out for a few plays with his quad injury).
SECONDARY: Still some lingering questions in this area, but it was a better day than a week ago, considering the upgrade in opponent. Quinton Richardson returned to play the inside slot and had six solo tackles — which does mean he let a few passes get caught but also means he kept them from being long gains, key on this day. Desmond Trufant had the big interception late andn Greg Ducre, while getting beat a few times, showed some perserverence and came up with a couple of big stops (notably on the fourth down play). Sean Parker had eight tackles in also helping to at least make sure Hawaii didn’t get a lot of big gains.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Other than the Kiel Rasp botched rugby punt, another good day in this department. The obvious are the two blocked PATs by Thompson and the returns of Callier (120 yards on four kickoffs). An unsung hero here is Cole Sager, who had three tackles on returns. And Erik Folk had another good day with a made field goal in his only attempt and a 65 yard average on his kickoffs (compared to 57.4 for Hawaii).