Grading the Game: Arizona Edition

RB Bishop Sankey set a new Husky record with 40 carries in the win over Arizona - Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

It was very wet and very windy in Husky Stadium yesterday - throwback weather for Washington football. And Washington beat Arizona in a throwback way, running 61 times for 244 yards and using stingy defense to win 31-13. Let's take a look at how each position group played:

Before we begin the grading, a note about the weather - it was nasty.  That first half was extremely wet, and the wind was significant throughout the game.  If you saw the Oregon State/Colorado game, the Oregon/Cal game or the WSU/Stanford game, you saw essentially the same storm and how it affected each game.  I've been to a lot of games over the years at Husky Stadium, and yesterday ranks high on the list of miserable weather.  The only saving grace is the temperature was not in the 30's or 40's.

QB: The elements were not working in favor of Keith Price for much of the game.  While he's a pretty accurate passer, he doesn't have a rocket arm, and the wind and rain affected him.  Sark didn't call much in the way of short swing routes, so KP had to earn most of the completions he got.  I thought he did a really good job of keeping plays alive, none more so than the first TD to Kevin Smith.  The pick wasn't all his fault, as Jaydon Mickens was bumped in his route and kind of gave up on the play.  Other than that Price took care of the ball, ran when needed and didn't let the weather derail him from making plays downfield.  He wasn't as accurate as you'd like, but I'll cut him some slack given the conditions.  Grade:  B+

RB: Bishop Sankey was a warhorse out there yesterday.  Arizona was doing a good job of plugging gaps and there weren't a lot of creases out there, but he plugged along and made the most of what was there.  I'm still amazed at his ability to make guys miss - he doesn't look spectacular doing it, but he's effective nonetheless.  Hopefully those 40 carries didn't take too much of a toll on him.  Jesse Callier impressed again and looked a lot like Sankey in his vision and cutting ability.  Hopefully Sark has gained enough trust in him to feel more willing to not overload Sankey.  Dwayne Washington had a couple nice runs late, and is doing what he can to earn back trust from the coaches that he's over his fumbling problem.  Grade:  A

WR/TE: Kevin Smith continues to cement his status as comeback player of the year.  The leap he's made here in his Sr. season has been phenomenal, and he's a big reason the passing game has greatly improved.  Kasen had a nice game, and you can't help but feel he's on the verge of a huge game.  Austin Seferian-Jenkins is still working his way into this offense, but he had his moments yesterday.  If Price had been more accurate, ASJ's tumbling 20 yard catch in the middle of the field might have gone for 30+ if he'd been able to run after the catch.  Mickens was mostly a non-factor after bailing on the pick early in the game.  Yes, he was bumped and might have been interfered with, but he needed to stay with the play.  He and John Ross were basically non-factors as Sark largely abandoned the Rocket swing passes and bubble screens.  Grade:  B

OL: Tough to know how to grade these guys.  On the one hand they allowed no sacks and the run game picked up 244 yards despite Arizona knowing the Huskies were trying to keep the ball on the ground.  On the other hand, KP was getting pressured and did a really good job escaping the pocket, and there weren't a lot of openings for Sankey - he was getting a lot of his yards on his own.  I'll say this - they'll need to play better in the next two weeks if the Huskies are to have a reasonable shot at pulling the upsets.  Grade:  C+

DL: For most of the first half, these guys were playing lights out, pressuring B.J. Denker and not allowing Ka'Deem Carey much running room.  Whether it was fatigue or the Wildcats adjusting, Carey started finding some room.  Still, they held Arizona more than 100 yards below their average on the ground and managed to corral Denker twice for sacks.  Danny Shelton was a key factor in the middle in gumming up the works to keep Carey contained and notched 6 tackles.  Evan Hudson and Cory Littleton got the two sacks, and Littleton, Kikaha and Shirley all did a good job (other than one notable breakdown) of keeping contain on the edges.  Grade:  A-

LB: Carey is a tough back to tackle - he's very reminiscent of Chris Polk.  As the game wore on, he started breaking more and more tackles, mostly among the LB group.  And Travis Feeney was burned badly on a 4th down conversion when Carey was wide open on a wheel route that eventually led to Arizona's last TD.  But they were also active, with Princeton Fuimaono and Shaq Thompson tying for game-high honors with 13 tackles each.  And it was good to see John Timu out there again - he's more athletic than Thomas Tutogi, though he had one missed tackle/sack on Denker I'm sure he'd like to have back.  Grade:  B

Secondary: This wasn't the biggest of tests given the weather and the ineptitude of the Arizona passing game, but they played terrific.  They gave up nothing downfield, and both Sean Parker and Marcus Peters came up with big interceptions - Parker's set the early tone for the game, and Peters' clinched it.  The only glitch on the day were a couple of pass interference penalties; the first - on Peters - was deserved, but the second - on Greg Ducre - was highly questionable.  Still, these guys are the strength of the team and a big reason why this defense has a chance to slow down Stanford next week.  Grade:  A

Special Teams: Travis Coons did terrific work yesterday, nailing a tough 42 yard FG in the 2nd quarter in brutal conditions, and dropping every punt inside Arizona's 20 yard line with no return, averaging nearly 41 yards per kick.  Cameron Van Winkle had a better game kicking off, forcing 2 touchbacks, but still needs to get more consistent in either driving the ball into the end zone or getting more loft on his kicks.  Kasen busted off a big return off the safety kick, but the rest of the returns were brutal, with illegal block penalties combining with short returns to leave the Huskies on the 5 and 10 yard lines (though they ended up scoring touchdowns on both drives).  I'll give Coons and the PAT team a pass on the muffed snap and missed kick due to the weather, and I'm not sure you can give the Huskies much credit for the bad punt snap that led to the Arizona safety.  Grade:  B-

Coaching: I've seen some grumbling in places over Sark's play-calling in this game, but unless you were at the game, I'm not sure you understand just how bad the weather was.  Clearly it affected his game management - whether it was the Arizona defense or the weather (likely a combination), the horizontal passing game was MIA.  He called for a somewhat surprising number of downfield passes given the conditions, but he was doing what he could to try and stretch Arizona's defense and give the run game some room.  I'd grumble a bit that he ran Sankey too much and should have spread the load more to Callier, but I can't complain too much about the balance of run vs. pass given the conditions.  Wilcox had a better gameplan this year than last, though the lack of a credible passing threat from Denker was a huge help.  He has to find some guys to rotate in for Shelton that he can trust.  Banks, Tupou and Lagafuaina all got reps, but you noticed when big #71 wasn't in there.  Overall, you have to be pretty happy with a 18 point win in a game where they were favored by 9.  Grade: B+

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