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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

September 17, 2011 at 8:41 PM

Washington-Nebraska post-game analysis

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Well, this game turned quickly, didn’t it?

I can tell reading a lot of the e-mails that a lot of you are placing a lot of blame on the officials, and certainly the Huskies didn’t seem to get a lot of breaks there. The Huskies seemed particularly peeved about two — the two punt returner interference calls, one in the late second quarter and the other in the early third.

You can read Steve Sarkisian’s comments in the entry with all of his post-game quotes. Desmond Trufant, who was flagged for the second one, said he didn’t see the returner call for a fair catch on the penalty in the third quarter. “I didn’t see it (fair catch signal) so I just did my job,” he said. “I was looking at him the whole way. I just didn’t see it, so I just did what I was supposed to do. I guess they just seen it different.”

Those two penalties, coupled with the fumbled kickoff (pictured in a Dean Rutz photo), pretty much ended the suspense here.

Chris Polk called that sequence a “momentum swing” and said “that really shifted it their way.”

UW coaches, players and fans would obviously like to see how this game might have turned out had none of those things happened. Still, the officials didn’t let Nebraska drive right down the field after the Trufant penalty. Nor did they cause UW to go three-and-out on the possession that began the third quarter. Nor did they fumble the kickoff that followed.

In other words, no football game is decided entirely by the officials.

Nebraska rushed for 309 yards, the most against UW since Nebraska had 383 in the game in Seattle last year. Maybe it could be argued that UW’s will was kind of broken by that third-quarter sequence and it didn’t play the run as well. Regardless, Nebraska got the yards behind an offensive line that started three walk-ons and was the subject of much criticism all week long here. Nebraska got 131 rushing yards on 15 carries in the third quarter as it jumped out to a lead of 37-14, which became 44-17 early in the fourth quarter.

UW, meanwhile, rushed for just 146 yards against a Nebraska defense that is talented, but also had given up 169 yards last week to Fresno State’s Robbie Rouse.

The UW defense will obviously remain a source of consternation this week in Seattle. After being blistered in two games by the pass, it now gave up a ton of yards on the ground against the first good rushing team it played (and frankly, Nebraska seemed to have guys open almost every time it wanted to throw — it’s not breaking news that passing is not Taylor Martinez’s strong suit).

The challenges don’t get any easier with Pac-12 play now starting up. UW has had its way with Cal of late, but the Bears will be motivated and dangerous. No rest for the weary, indeed.

That said, here’s a quick position review:

QUARTERBACK: Keith Price threw two interceptions and wasn’t real mobile after injuring his good knee — he now is ailing in both. But he also threw four more touchdowns and for 271 yards — Jake Locker, for what it’s worth, threw for 141 yards in two games against Nebraska last year, though no one is confusing this Nebraska secondary with that one. Still, it was more proof that Price has what it takes — as long as he can stay upright.

RUNNING BACK: Polk was his usual self and again seemed to will his way to a 100-yard game, his third straight this year and fifth straight dating to last season. Jesse Callier got the only other carries by a tailback, with six yards on three carries, before leaving with a hamstring. Johri Fogerson was out there for a few plays but didn’t touch the ball.

RECEIVER: Another solid day if not for three drops by Devin Aguilar, one on a third down play that would have been a first down on the first series of the second half. James Johnson showed again that he’s back, Jermaine Kearse had some big plays, and Kasen Williams also got a little more involved. One mystery is that Kevin Smith wasn’t out there as much — maybe a thinning of the rotation with Williams getting a bit more action. And after getting involved a lot last week, UW had a little more trouble getting the ball to Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who had just one catch for 15 yards.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Again, it was the same five out there all day. And given the reported stoutness of Nebraska’s defensive line and the setting, things probably could have been worse. Still, Polk seemed to do a lot of work on his own to get his yards, and Price had to use what mobility he had quite often to evade pressure — he could have been sacked a lot more than the two times he was.

DEFENSIVE LINE: It was thought we might see a lot more rotating here. But other than the strongside defensive end spot, the same guys went most of the way. As you can see in the Nick Holt video, he didn’t think anyone wore down, and said that they wanted to go with what they feel are their best players — so there’s your direct answer to why certain guys aren’t playing more right now, that the coaches simply feel the other guys are better and don’t want to take them off the field. Andrew Hudson and Josh Shirley each got their chances spelling Talia Crichton but that was about it for rotating. Hudson and Shirley each had two tackles. But overall, the numbers obviously indicate that the line didn’t play near as well as it had in the Holiday Bowl and improvement is needed as the offenses don’t necessarily got a lot easier going forward.

LINEBACKER: This was an area that elicited a lot of concern during the week, fans wondering how John Timu and Princeton Fuimaono would hold up. Seemed like they did okay in handling assignments, especially early on. But seemed like, as with a lot of other defenders, this area of the team wore down as the game wore on. Timu had a nice deflection of a screen that might have gone for a touchdown, and Fuimaono had a sack. Fuimaono suffered a shin injury late and Garret Gilliland came on and had three tackles. Cort Dennison had eight tackles but also got beat up and had to come out for a few plays in the second half.

SECONDARY: A tough beginning for this unit as Quinton Richardson was beaten deep on the first play. Here’s Holt’s assessment of the first play: “We go out there and we go, ‘hey, look watch the double moves, first play awareness,’ all that kind of stuff and it still happens to a veteran guy that knows better. We kind of worked some of those in practice, we worked some of that stuff and we just didn’t get it done on the first play and they scored the next play and all of the sudden you’re down 7-0 already and it starts tumbling from there.” And as noted earlier, it seemed as if Nebraska could have thrown for a lot more yards if Martinez had been a little better either at throwing, or spotting open receivers. In better news, seemed as if this area tackled pretty well against the run, especially the option — Justin Glenn stepped in for Nate Fellner and had a game-high and career-high 15 tackles and Sean Parker had eigtht.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Obviously a tough day here with the penalties, the long kickoff return that led to one Nebraska touchdown, and the fumbled kickoff that led to another. As for the fumbled kickoff, some will wonder why Bishop Sankey was back there. But he’s gotten a lot of work at that spot during camp and the season in practice, and they probably felt it was time to give him a shot. Nate Robinson was the kickoff returner in the first game he ever played as a true frosh at Michigan in 2002. The kickoff coverage might be more concerning as it’s been an issue all year. Ameer Abdullah had 129 yards on three returns before being hurt and seemed a threat on every one.

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