Washington got their home schedule off to an exciting start yesterday, though it was likely a lot more exciting that Husky fans were hoping for as they surrendered 52 points and 573 yards to FCS power Eastern Washington. Fortunately for the Dawgs, Eastern doesn't have a particularly good defense and the Huskies put up 59 points of their own.
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It's another win that will still serve as a teaching moment for this staff as there remains many, many things to clean up and improve if this team is to contend in the Pac-12. Here's one man's view of how the team played:
What a difference a week makes. While he didn't have a spectacular game in terms of individual numbers, Cyler Miles clearly had the kind of confidence and command of the team that Jeff Lindquist lacked last week. While both are good runners, Miles appears faster and more assured, and he generally appeared to make good decisions in the read-option. In terms of passing he still has limitations - his wonky mechanics rob him of velocity and thus reduce the effectiveness of the bubble screens and quick lateral passes to the sidelines. And he didn't really take any shots down the field - whether that was by design or just something that he's not adept at is hard to say, but with a rocket like John Ross at WR and a match-up nightmare like Darrell Daniels at TE you'd sure like to see some vertical stretching of defenses. But 59 points is 59 points - it's hard to knock Miles too much. Grade: B+
The coaches had a liberal rotation going in this one as all four RB's got multiple series in this one and everyone's favorite two-way Husky experiment Shaq Thompson got his first looks at RB too. Ultimately though it was Lavon Coleman that impressed the most as he built off a nice game vs. Hawaii showing the best combination of vision, balance, power and speed as he tallied 118 yards on 17 carries. Dwayne Washington didn't have gaudy numbers, but I remain impressed with his combination of power and speed. Where he continues to need some work is reading the holes. Deontae Cooper had a few nice-looking carries, and while he's not the blazer he used to be, he's still showing enough to earn playing time. Jesse Callier got a number of chances, but he's the fourth back in my book. As for Shaq - man, seeing him carry the ball with authority, vision and speed, you start to wonder if maybe his pro future isn't highest as a RB. It was just 3 carries today, but he looked really impressive. Grade: A-
Thanks to steadier QB play the receivers got more opportunities to show their stuff in this one. Ross continues to show blazing speed that just begs for more touches - his 55 yard TD burst came off a bubble screen that wasn't particularly well-thrown or blocked, but he made guys miss and turned on his afterburners and it was all over. He needs to see the ball more. Jaydon Mickens bounced back and had a better game as he was Miles' favorite target in the short passing game and had some clutch plays both in the passing game as well as on jet sweeps. Daniels played a much bigger part in the passing game this week, and I expect the staff will continue to look for ways to exploit the size/speed mismatch he presents. One area of concern from this group was their extremely poor blocking on bubble screens. Grade: B
Even considering the quality of the opponent, this was a good showing by the OL. They weren't perfect - there were times they got gummed-up and couldn't clear much of a hole, and they allowed enough pressure that Miles was flushed early from the pocket a few times, but the bottom line is they allowed no sacks and paved the way for 356 yards rushing on 57 carries - that's going to win you 99% of your games doing that. Ben Riva made his return at RT and looked decent, but it appeared to me more of the damage in the run game was being done behind Dexter Charles and Micah Hatchie. There were a few series where Mike Criste got a look at C and Siosifa Tufunga replaced RG James Atoe - whether this was just standard subbing on a hot day or perhaps there was more to it I can't be sure of without hearing from OL coach Chris Strausser, but it bears some watching for next week. Grade: A
If I were grading individuals, Danny Shelton would get an A+ - he had a huge, huge game for the 2nd week in a row. He's simply unblockable with one guy, and even two are going to have a hard time containing him. Kikaha looked pretty good rushing the passer and collected another sack, but it was a head-scratcher to see him split wide to cover slot receivers. Call me crazy, but I don't see how that's a good use of his skills. The rest of the guys didn't stand out to me. There was a liberal amount of subbing going on with this group, and usually en masse, with the 2nd unit group of Elijiah Qualls, Taniela Tupou, Jarret Finau and Joe Mathis going in together. I'd be interested to see some looks that pair Qualls with Shelton (perhaps against Stanford?) Overall the group notched 5 sacks and generally did a fair job against Eastern's run game. Grade: B-
A mixed bag. Shaq filled up the stat sheet, and while he was pretty good, he missed a few tackles too and didn't wrap up as well as he should on other stops, but kudos for him for helping (along with John Timu) to strip the ball in the 4th quarter which Travis Feeney recovered and ran back 19 yards - probably the key play of the game as it gave the Washington offense the chance to stretch their lead to 14. Timu didn't have his best day, including a holding call which negated a sack late in the 4th quarter. With the Huskies frequently in a nickel look Feeney didn't get a lot of playing time but did have the big fumble recovery. Cory Littleton seemed to provide a nice spark to the pass rush when he got some looks as an edge rusher in the 2nd half - he may have earned some more playing time. In general I was disappointed with how many times the Eastern RB's were able to flare out of the backfield for good yardage on dump-off passes, and I put that on the LB group. Grade: C-
It's not easy being a DB, especially against a QB with great touch like Adams and a receiver with terrific speed like Kupp. And I don't mind so much seeing a corner play press coverage on a receiver and get beat deep when there's no safety help coming, especially if the ball is perfectly placed - letting them play aggressive helps their mindset IMO. But too many times these guys simply were out of position, used poor technique, left wide open spaces within their zones when in zone coverage and let potential interceptions slip through their hands. Marcus Peters was having an OK game up until he got called for unsportsmanlike conduct after a big sack that should have ended an Eastern drive midway through the 3rd quarter. That penalty - and his poor reaction to it - led to the coaching staff benching him for the remainder of the game. Hopefully this serves as a growth opportunity for Peters, because the Huskies need his talent on the field. The coaches tried just about every DB in this one with Jermaine Kelly, Travell Dixon and Sidney Jones getting a lot of time at CB in addition to Peters and Budda Baker, Kevin King, Trevor Walker and Brandon Beaver getting a lot of action at S. When you allow an opposing QB to complete 31 of 46 for 475 yards and 7 TD's, you have not had a good game. Grade: D-
An OK showing here; kickoffs and coverage were reasonably good, and that hard hit on the opening Husky kickoff that caused the fumble and gave the ball right back to our offense was a big play that put Eastern in an early hole. Durkee only punted twice - one was an ugly looking 36 yarder, the 2nd a much better looking 36 yarder that pinned Eastern on their 2-yard line. The missed XP by Van Winkle could have been disastrous in a shootout like this, but the Huskies managed to complete a tough fade route on a 2-point conversion to get the points back later. Grade: B-
I know some out there are convinced that Coach Petersen and his staff are playing possum with the early schedule and not showing their cards just yet. Since they are 2-0, I suppose you can say that if that's what they're doing, they're getting away with it. But these have both been very close calls against teams that, from a talent standpoint, the Huskies should beat by a comfortable margin. Petersen has insisted all along that he and his staff are still working to figure out what they have with this team and they don't really know them as players that well yet, as well as pointing out how being the only new staff to the conference they are behind the 8-ball. Perhaps this is all just coach-speak and he's sly like a fox - letting his coaches experiment with stuff and not worrying if the games get tight as a result. We'll just have to see how the rest of the season plays out to get a feel for whether that's really true or not.
Jonathan Smith ended up looking better in this game than last week (that's what 59 points will do for you), but I still have some concerns. I felt he got a little pass-happy at times rather than just grinding away with a run-game that was looking quite good. I also felt like he should have dialed up a few more vertical routes on the pass plays he did call, but I guess I'm nit-picking here. He had an opposing defense that wasn't good and he took full advantage. Perhaps he experimented at times to get a better sense for his personnel, but ultimately the offense only had a few sputters.
Pete Kwiatkoski on the other hand has to be feeling some pressure. Giving up 52 points and 573 yards is never pleasant. As I've noted elsewhere, it's hard to know how much the variety of looks he threw at Eastern - ranging from 3 down/8 dropped into coverage to 4 down with 2 blitzers, and from full press coverage to full zone looks, and with a pretty lengthy list of players that saw action (especially in the secondary) was out of necessity/desperation and how much was experimentation. When the game was on the line his guys were able to finally get some consistent rush on Adams and take some pressure off his green DB's, but this was a game that quickly turned into one where as a Husky fan you just didn't have any confidence in the defense to force the Eagles to punt.
Bottom line - even while considering that Eastern is among the very best programs at the FCS level and they have some terrific play-makers in Adams and Kupp, this is still an FCS team that came into Husky Stadium and put up 52 points and a huge scare into the home team. You can't convince me that they are really only 7 points worse than the Huskies, and that ultimately falls on the coaching staff. Grade: C-