This was a game where emotions could have gone haywire for the Huskies. Coming off a heart-breaking loss last week to Arizona despite outplaying the Wildcats and facing the always emotional Senior Night, the Dawgs instead played focused and inspired from the get-go, racing to a 17-0 lead and withstanding counter punches by Oregon State to eventually pull away to a convincing 37-13 win in a cold but surprisingly dry Husky Stadium last night. The win made Washington bowl-eligible while the Beavers now face the daunting prospect of having to beat Oregon next week to do the same. Lets take a look at how each of the position groups played:
Progress has been visible for several weeks now, and last night was probably the best Cyler Miles has played for Washington in his young career. From the get-go he was sharp, decisive and making good decisions. His first pass was a bomb to Jaydon Mickens, and while it was underthrown, it was a ball that Mickens could adjust to (which he did beautifully) that went for 54 yards and an early TD. He was particularly sharp in the first half, going 13 of 15 with one of the incompletions a flat-out drop by the receiver. He did a good job recognizing blitzes and finding quick routes, and he stepped up in the pocket more than I've seen all year. He wasn't spectacular, but he didn't need to be. He avoided any turnovers on the night, though he did have a fumble on a sack that fortunately bounced cleanly back into his hands. Running was not a big part of his game, but I liked one play in particular where he scrambled out of pressure but kept his eyes downfield and found an easy pass to Dante Pettis for a 25-yard gain. This is a QB that is growing and showing why the staff has stuck with him. Grade: A-
Despite the nice numbers, this wasn't necessarily the best game for Dwayne Washington. Outside of the 68 yard TD burst where he showed off his impressive speed, he had a somewhat forgettable night as his other 13 carries went for 32 yards and he fumbled twice, with one of them recovered by Oregon State at a critical juncture in the game. He has the highest ceiling of any of the backs, but is still working on his vision in the hole and ball security. And while Lavon Coleman also put up nice numbers (11 carries for 69 yards) I was more impressed by the blocking on his plays. He's not going to run away from defenders, and to compensate he's going to need to work on his ability to run through tackles. Deontae Cooper didn't get a lot of action (2 carries for 6 yards) but it appears as though he's decided to return next year which is good news. Grade: C+
Mickens built off his Arizona performance with a strong game. Besides getting behind his defender (and then making a terrific stop & go move to secure the underthrown pass) for that early TD reception, he also showed his wheels - and tight-roped the sidelines - on a well-executed fly sweep (including some terrific blocking on the edge by Josh Perkins) as he was able to turn upfield for 36 yards and a TD early in the 4th quarter that pretty much snuffed out any Oregon State hopes of mounting a comeback. He finished with a team-leading 5 catches for 84 yards and the TD, plus another 41 yards on the ground on 2 carries and a TD. TE Darrell Daniels showed off his impressive speed on a well-designed and perfectly executed misdirection slant play midway through the 4th quarter that went for 68 yards and the final TD of the night, and demonstrated why many of us are anxious to see him become a bigger part of the gameplan. TE Perkins continues to be a favored target for Miles as he picked up another 5 catches for 32 yards, but he also had a drop that stalled an early Husky drive. Dante Pettis and Marvin Hall made some nice plays in the passing game, though Hall either didn't see or didn't think he had time to throw to a wide open receiver in the end zone on a reverse early in the 3rd quarter. Kasen Williams was once again a forgotten man in the passing game a week after it appeared he had established himself. Grade: B+
While the Oregon State defense has had their struggles this year, this was a really good performance by the Husky OL, paving the way for 226 rushing yards, 481 yards total on 8.1 ypp and allowing just 1 sack on the night. It took a bit of time for the new look of Micah Hatchie, Dexter Charles, Mike Criste, Colin Tanigawa and James Atoe to gel, but they really had things rolling in the 2nd half as they were creating lots of running room for Coleman. Snaps were on-target all night, and the play of Criste will have folks wondering why it took OL coach Chris Strausser this long to re-insert him as the starting C. They weren't perfect, and they were not facing an upper-tier DL (especially as the Beavers kept losing players to injury over the course of the game), but give them credit for doing their jobs and giving the skill players the chance to shine. Grade: A-
Another game, another stellar job by this unit. Hau'oli Kikaha set the tone right away as he notched a sack on the first play of the game, and Andrew Hudson bookended it with a sack on Oregon State's final offensive play. In between Danny Shelton was clogging the middle as the Beavers were unable to mount a running game on the night (47 yards on 23 carries) and the DL picked up 4 total sacks (2 for Hudson, 1 for Kikaha and the first career sack for Joe Mathis). A week after the Beaver OL did a terrific job handling constant blitzes from Arizona State, the Huskies were able to mount pressure with just a 3 or 4 man rush and, more importantly, kept them from establishing a ground game. While the rush waned at times, they got there enough to make an impact. Another area where they shined (as they have most of the year) was their play against Oregon State's screen passes as they consistently sniffed them out and shut them down for little to no gain. Grade: A
John Timu led the way with his 10 tackles on the night as he was a key part of bottling up the Oregon State run game. Shaq Thompson was his active self and delivered the hit of the night when he blew up a pass to Beaver receiver Damien Haskins, laying a terrific hit on him as the ball arrived leaving Haskins unable to hang on to the catch. But Travis Feeney had perhaps the play of the night. After a 3-and-out on Washington's first possession of the 2nd half and a 46 yard completion from Mannion to Rahmel Dockery gave the Beavers the ball on the Washington 23 down just 17-7, Feeney used every inch of his 6'4" frame to rise up in his zone and pick off a Mannion pass and return it 59 yards (though he was fortunate to recover his fumble at the end of the return). The Huskies would end up kicking a FG on that drive, which meant Feeney's play represented a potential 10-point swing at a crucial point in the game. Cory Littleton then came up with a key TFL on the following Beaver drive to force them into a 3-and-out. On the whole, this was a strong effort from this unit as they held Oregon State below their season averages in scoring, total offense and rushing offense. Grade: A
While they surrendered 314 yards on 30 of 46 passing to Mannion, they were mostly solid on the night. However they allowed two big gainers, one of which was a major error that could have turned the tide of the game. With the Husky defense playing stout and the Beavers shooting themselves in the foot with penalties, OSU found themselves on their own 5 yard line facing 3rd and 25. Budda Baker then made the cardinal error of watching the backfield on a play-action and allowed Victor Bolden to get behind him for a huge 72 yard gain. The Beavers would capitalize shortly to close the gap to 17-7 and get right back into the game heading into halftime. They also were burned on a 46 yard completion to Dockery early in the 3rd quarter, though that came against tight coverage was a perfectly thrown pass and a terrific catch. Most of the rest were underneath routes that, for the most part, were kept to short gains. Grade: C+
Cameron Van Winkle is quietly having a really solid year. He was 3 of 3 on FGs last night and now sits at 19 of 22 on the year, including 5 of 7 from 40+ yards. Korey Durkee was solid, not allowing a return on his 3 kicks and averaging 44.3, though one kick did end up rolling into the end zone for a touchback. John Ross had a consistently good night returning kickoffs, averaging 27.3 on his three returns. The coverage units were generally solid, yielding 19.9 on 7 kickoff returns. However I have to complain a bit about the fake punt look on Washington's first drive of the 2nd half - Jeff Lindquist motioned into position behind center with Shaq behind him, and rather than snap right away and try to catch Oregon State off-guard, he appeared to try to hard count them before shifting back but too late as the Huskies got the delay-of-game penalty. Lindquist has to have more clock awareness there. Grade: B
Well, there weren't any kneel-down issues in this one, so that's progress right? :)
The team clearly didn't suffer any hangovers from the wrenching loss last week, so you have to give this staff some credit for the mentality they've been instilling and the examples they are setting. They started off the game dialed-in and playing smart and with intensity. But let's also give them credit for not stifling the fun this group of players clearly loves to have. It was a blast watching Shelton, Timu and Kikaha during a TV timeout break running around shooting pretend arrows at each other, diving and rolling out of the way and clearly enjoying themselves. Lets also give Petersen some credit for the way he's been rotating players in all year to establish and build experience throughout his depth charts and to keep his frontline players fresh. It's an approach that should pay off handsomely down the road as they will be replacing a lot of key players next year.
The offensive gameplan was solid, with some well-designed and executed misdirection plays and "trick" plays. While they may get a little too cute with the number of these plays, they mostly worked last night. More importantly, they executed the basic plays like Washington's 68 yard TD run and Miles finding Mickens deep for 54. OC Jonathan Smith appears to have a better handle on the players he has and what they can execute, and this offense is also clearly showing progression in their ability to execute what Smith wants to do. The passing game now shows variety, and while I'd like to see Kasen and Daniels involved more than they are, this is no longer an offense that opposing teams don't have to fear.
Defensively it's clear that Pete Kwiatkowski has dialed-in the talents of his front four and does a great job of leveraging their ability to help out his young secondary. They are not an aggressive defense, but they don't need to be - with the pass-rushing skills of the DL, they can play 2-deep looks with underneath zone and keep the ball in front of them to keep explosive plays. While there was that notable bust by Baker in the 2nd quarter, this is something this defense has done very well on the year. It was also encouraging to see this group bottle up the Oregon State run game early and force Mannion into passing downs where the DL could pin their ears back.
In all, it was a very satisfying effort from an execution and gameplan standpoint. Grade: A-