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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

September 24, 2011 at 7:56 PM

UW-Cal post-game analysis

The Washington Huskies just keep on finding a way, don’t they?

As was oft-repeated here afterward, the Huskies were far from perfect.

But they are also 3-1, having won a game that loomed as critical to the season the way the schedule plays out for the rest of the season. They’ve also now won four conference games and seven of eigth overall dating to last November.

All have been relatively close. The biggest margin of victory in that time was 17 points, a 24-7 win over UCLA last year that was tight until late in the fourth quarter. Five of the wins in that span have come by eight points or less, three decided in the last minute.

“This group of guys, they have huge hearts,” said UW coach Steve Sarkisian adding that “I continue to be thoroughly impressed with our football team’s resiliency.”

UW also simply had the best quarterback on the field today as Keith Price outplayed Zach Maynard — Sarkisian called him “a freaking stud,” for his play today.

And UW also, frankly, had a better playcaller, as Sarkisian dialed up a few plays that helped turn the tide — the tight end screen to Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the TD pass to Chris Polk, to name two — while Jeff Tedford had some head-scratching calls of his own on that final drive. Cal has two of the best receivers in the conference, yet none were involved in the last series until fourth down. He also has a mobile quarterback, the kind of thing that usually works great near the goal-line, but never called anything to use Maynard’s legs.

But good for the Huskies, who just keep getting it done when it counts.

UW now has just three games left at Husky Stadium of its final eight, making a win today that much more imperative. The Huskies got it, and now are halfway to bowl eligibility before the end of September.

Here’s a quick review of each position in today’s game:

QUARTERBACK: Hard to even know what more what to say now about Price, who was 19-25, a performance that now seems commonplace. Some tougher tests await, but four games is not a fluke. And as has been stated often, must wait until he’s completely healthy. The only negative was the fumble. But as Sarkisian said, a few mistakes are worth it for all that Price gives the Huskies with his ability to move around, see the field, and deliver the ball accurately.

RUNNING BACK: A tough day running for Chris Polk, who magnimously took all the blame afterward, though it was obvious he rarely had anywhere to go. And obviously kudos to Polk for not getting down about the tough sledding running to turn in the big reception at the end that gave the Huskies a needed cushion. Bishop Sankey had a couple key carries on a TD drive in the second quarter, as well, and showed he deserves some more time in the future.

OFFENSIVE LINE: The running was never easy. On the other hand, against a tough defensive front, the Huskies managed 117 yards and did just enough to keep Cal honest and open up some of those passing plays — and did so with a line that has only one senior, and three who are freshmen or sophomores. Cal has a good defensive front, and at the end of the day UW got 409 yards, 31 points and a win.

RECEIVERS: An interesting day here as the two leading receivers were a back (Polk, 4-85) and a tight end (Austin Seferian-Jenkins, 4-54). That in itself is evidence of how much more diverse UW’s offense is now. Devin Aguilar had the early 44-yarder to set up the first score. Otherwise, there wasn’t a pass longer than 21 yards to a receiver. But this was a day when the offense had to use all of its weapons — we all wrote a lot about the impact Seferian-Jenkins might make this year, and you could probably argue they don’t win this game without him.

DEFENSIVE LINE: The Huskies indeed shook things up on the front, with Sione Potoa’e starting at tackle and Everrette Thompson shifting to end. The Huskies again had to shuffle things when Hau’oli Jamora went down with a sprained knee — and obviously that’s a big negative of this day if that’s long-term. Obviously, mixed results as Cal gained a lot of yards (459). But the Bears also had only 108 rushing and couldn’t get it in at the end when it mattered most, nor on a few other drives to the red zone. And it seemed as if the young guys who had to play once Jamora went out got a little better as the day wore on, especially Josh Shirley, who had his first career sack and forced a fumble in the fourth quarter.

LINEBACKER: UW shook some things up here, as well, as Garret Gilliland saw a lot of time at the weakside spot in place of Princeton Fuimaono. And then they were forced to make a change later after the injury to John Timu, which forced Jamaal Kearse into action. Didn’t seem like any real dropoff — if any at all — as those two made some key plays. And Cort Dennison shook off a knee swelling injury that arose on Friday to go the whole way and make a team-high 11 tackles as well as the big fourth-down stop on Cal’s second-to-last possession.

SECONDARY: Lots of different looks at this spot, as well. Quinton Richardson started, then Greg Ducre came on after the first touchdown, then Richardson came back after Ducre suffered a concussion. And that forced Anthony Gobern to get some significant time, as well. No doubt, there are still major concerns with UW’s overall pass defense — Maynard simply missed a lot of open receivers at times yet still threw for 349 yards. But Desmond Trufant came up with a lot of big plays — he had three pass breakups — and the rest did enough to allow UW to get the win.

SPECIAL TEAMS: UW had the edge in most categories here, especially with its kickoff return and coverage units. Kevin Smith had a 53-yard return to set up a field goal, and UW averaged 28.6 yards per return to 18.6 for Cal, and also had 7.5 yards per punt return to no yards at all for Cal — all key yards in a game that goes down to the final seconds. Will Shamburger and Tim Tucker were particularly big in their play in coverage.

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