Jake Locker put up some big numbers last night which was good to see. The interception that was returned for a TD in the first quarter was unfortunate because without that gift LSU might have been playing in catch-up mode for most of the game. Jake flashed his wheels when he had to especially in the second half but he was definitely in pass first run second mode all night. LSU's team speed negated Jake's ability to create a big play with his feet. He did however pick up some critical third down conversions. What we saw last night was a kid who is a future first round draft choice who finally is getting the type of coaching he needs. Look for Jake to continue to improve every game and when he isn't playing a team as fast as LSU he is just going to eat the opposition up. Take away last night's interception for a TD and you are getting very close to A territory.
Chris Polk put together the type of game we all expected when he was recruited away from USC at the last minute. He hit his holes well, ran with speed and power. He tired in the second half which means UW definitely will need a rotation of players to finish games and the season. Count on Johri Fogerson to be a big part of that rotation. Fogerson didn't carry the rock much last night but had a very nice 50 plus yard reception out of the backfield last night. Demetrius Bronson once the coaches get more confidence in him holding on to the rock is the likely third man who will give UW the physical presence they need to wear down teams. On the negative side, Polk fumbled near the goal line last night taking a potential seven points off the board. You can't take points off the board and expect to beat LSU. Jake's interception, Polk's fumble, and Folk's missed FG represents a 17 point swing in a game the Huskies ended losing by only eight points. We didn't see much of Paul Homer last night, but that was OK because he was providing extra blocking.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
James Johnson showed he was ready for prime time last night. The freshman from San Diego is Washington's go to receiver in his very first game. Jordan Polk and D'Andre Goodwin didn't have great games. The two Husky deep threats were shut down by the big and fast LSU defensive backfield. They will have success this season but there is a solid reason why Sark is recruiting bigger receivers for the future. Devin Aguilar had a 46 yard catch but dropped a critical pass later in the game. He has a good future but his hands need to improve.
One guy who has great hands is Kavario Middleton who served notice last night that he is the most talented TE on the roster. Middleton and Izbicki both played and while Middleton is a step above in the receiving department both TE's have to become better more physical blockers. They are both young so over time the blocking should improve.
You really have to hand it to these guys for their perfomance last night. They didn't go up against the best defensive line they will see this season. That defensive line resides on the campus of USC. what we wanted from these guys this season was the ability to be adequate and they showed last night they can be better than adequate if Jake Locker is in the game. Out rushing a team like LSU is an accomplishment though you can't overlook. Locker's mobility is a big compnent of last nights success. Without that mobility there might have been 5-6 sacks. Washington gained 478 yards last night against a top ten team. Whenever you do that your offensive line is doing the job. Congrats to the coaching staff for getting these guys ready for 2009. It was a team effort that started the first day Sark arrived in Montlake.
Grade: B plus
Alameda Ta'amu arrived last night. The huge sophomore plugged the middle all night with the help of Cameron Elisara. Despite the plaudits we heard during camp last nights perfomance was a pleasant surprise and one of the best defensive performances by the Washington interior this decade. Our ends were occupied for most of the night by two bookends at tackle who are likely first round NFL draft choices. The only criticism I really have is the fact that we didn't get enough pressure on QB Jordan Jefferson. Darrion Jones went down with a bruised knee in the first series and I guess we will have to wait till Monday to see what that is about. Kelani Aldrich did a nice job stepping up to replace him. you have to wonder if the rush would have been more effective if Jones had not been injured.
The trio of Butler, Savannah, and Foster were solid all night, but the overall team speed they faced prevented them from making difference making plays. Overall I thought it was a great effort for opening night in a conservative scheme. Look for Holt to open it up more as the season goes on.
Greg Walker gave up a couple of big plays in his starting debut. Victor Aiyewa looks to be a better choice at this point to pair with Nate Williams, who brought his A game last night. I am not going to blame the two big plays entirely on Walker who was juked out of his pants by a bigger, faster, and stronger athlete. Washington was in a man scheme both times that left him on an island out there. You either make the tackle or the play is going a long way. Vonzell McDowell isn't the answer at corner and the coaches know that. Expect to see a lot of Trufant and Glenn out there in coming weeks. Nothing against Vonzell, but Glenn and Trufant have more talent, size, and speed. Quinton Richardson did fine. Overall despite the two big plays the secondary played better than they have together in many moons. I think we will continue to see improvement back here as the season progresses.
I thought the coaches did a great job by eliminating the vaunted LSU return game with short kicks and smart punts. It was the first games for Mahan and Folk and they both get passing grades. Folk missed a 42 yard FG attempt and was shaky at times with his PAT's. I do think this game was a confidence builder for him because 3-4 isn't all that bad.
If you are going to war you want guys like Sark and Holt in the foxhole with you. The difference between this year and last on the sidelines was a complete 180. These guys were coaching and encouraging their players all night with constant involvement. For contrast compare the Oregon sideline on Thursday which made Ty Willingham's staff look animated and involved by comparison. Washington didn't win last night but they had their chances throughout the entire game. We aren't accepting any more moral victories around here but the goal of gaining the respect of the opponent by the end of the game was obvious. LSU got on the plane knowing they played a game and were fortunate to pull off a victory.
We talked about six victories this season and after watching the rest of the Pac which I will do in my next article I think Washington has enough talent to pull it off and also move into the first division. Help is on the way in the form of a very impressive recruiting class but we don't have to wait to win till next year. As Sark during the spring and again after the game it isn't going to take as long as everyone thinks to turn this all around.
This goes to the fans, players, and staff at LSU who turned out to be a very classy bunch everywhere they went this week including our blog. They played the game it was meant to be played and showed great sportsmanship on an off the field. We wish them well in all the rest of their games this season!
The Pac 10 refs continue to be the worst in the NCAA. Job one for new commish Larry Scott has to be cleaning and shaping these guys into the premier unit they once were in the distant past.