Offensive Game Ball Goes To: Myles Gaskin
It's amazing to me that Jake Browning threw for more than 400 yards, and isn't even a consideration for this particular plaudit. It's almost by default, then, that this recognition goes to Gaskin. The freshman running back came thisclose to breaking off a 54-yard first quarter touchdown run, instead getting tripped up at the 1-yard line and punching it in on the next play. However, it's extremely disappointing to see Myles go from having such a dominant first half (12 attempts for 98 yards, 8.2 average) to such an utterly forgettable second half (six attempts for 10 yards). Much of that responsibility should be laid at the feet of the offensive linemen, who simply started losing their one-on-one battles as the game wore on.
Defensive Game Ball Goes To: Keishawn Bierria
Bierria gets the nod here for his two sacks—especially the second, which stalled an impressive 12-play ASU drive and forced a field goal attempt when the score was tied at 17 midway through the fourth quarter. But I think that an equally strong case could be made for nixing the defensive game ball entirely this week. Washington's fourth quarter was a comedy of errors that led to missed tackles and blown assignments. For this defense to give up 27
second-half unanswered points is hugely dispiriting and worrisome, and the linebackers' sudden phobia against wrapping up when tackling must surely have driven Pete Kwiatkowski insane. In addition to practicing the fundamentals of tackling, this defense suddenly finds themselves needing to rehearse creating turnovers: The Huskies have not created a takeaway since Psalm Wooching's fumble recovery at the 8:29 mark of the Arizona game's third quarter. That's a stretch of 141:31 without a takeaway, during which In the last two weeks, the Huskies' turnover margin has dropped to a pathetic -5, leaving them at -2 on the year.
Most important play: Marvin Hall's third-down drop
On a day characterized by shameful receiver play (the Huskies dropped at least 11 catchall balls, by my counting), Marvin Hall's stands out as the point when the game's momentum tipped decisively from Washington's favor to the Sun Devil's. In Washington's first drive of the second half, the Dawgs faced 3rd-and-14 from their own 21-yard line, and Jake Browning's throw hit Hall squarely in the facemask before bouncing harmlessly to the turf. After a Korey Durkee punt, the Devils ripped off two explosive pass plays en route to a touchdown, and though the scoreboard still read in Washington's favor, the momentum was completely on ASU's side.
Most Important Statistic: 4 (Number of Gaskin's second-half runs that went for zero or negative yardage)
In order of increasing yardage, here's how many yards each of Myles Gaskin's runs in the second half earned: -1, -1, 0, 0, 6 and 6. Worse, three of those four plays that went for negative or no gain came on first down, which had the effect of putting responsibility for extending the drive squarely on Jake Browning's shoulders. It's no surprise that placing that sort of pressure on a true freshman quarterback resulted in three interceptions in the game's last four series. If UW is going to go bowling, its offensive players (the line and receivers especially) are going to have to learn how to avoid becoming one-dimensional.
Most Encouraging Takeaway: The offense finally found a way to start fast
Believe it or not, Saturday was the first time this season that Washington has engineered two scoring drives in the first quarter against Pac-12 opponents. Even against Arizona, whom the Dawgs routed 49-3, Washington held just a 7-3 advantage coming out of the opening 15 minutes. It's unlikely that I need to explain to anyone reading this just how inept UW's offense has looked at the start of so many games this year, and for them to figure out how to come out of the gates and build a two-score lead was a sure sign of growth. On the other hand ...
Biggest Source of Frustration: The young pups simply don't have a killer instinct
... The Huskies showed a maddening inability to put their foot on the opponent's neck and build an insurmountable lead, even in the face of ample opportunities to do so. This was especially true in the realm of dropped passes, magnified all the more by the gaffes committed by seniors Jaydon Mickens (numerous dropped passes, including at least one potential touchdown grab) and Josh Perkins (fumbled on the game's penultimate Husky series). If Washington's receivers could simply execute their jobs and become B+ pass-catchers, the Dawgs are looking at going into halftime with a 35- or 38-point lead, rather than a 14-point advantage. Until they learn how to take advantage of the opportunities that are dealt them, these Huskies will likely keep finding ways to lose winnable games.