Washington outplayed Utah for a lot of this game. There were a few specific plays that caused the Huskies to lose: four turnovers and a few fumbled snaps. The game was closer than 11 points, the game was close to a toss-up, in terms of overall quality of play. Certain mistakes and missteps will be the plays that stand out.
What matters is the final score. And that final score was 34-23 in favor of Utah. How we got ourselves there is irrelevant, that score is what we put our emotions on, it is where we take our pride. Individual plays are just how we get there.
The opening plays for each teams' first drive showed promise. Travis WIlson hit on a seam pass over the linebackers and underneath the safeties to Kenneth Scott while Jake Browning hit Drew Sample in the flats on a play-action bootleg for 23 yards. The difference afterwards was how each defense responded. Utah wasn't able to gather another first down as Budda Baker and Taniela Tupou combined to stop a third-and-one run up the middle.
Washington used a mix of pass, run and play-action to get down inside the Utah 10-yard line. A touchdown to Jaydon Mickens on what would have been his third reception of the drive was called back on an offensive pass interference penalty, and the offense fell even further from the goalline when Browning fell victim to a sack. Cameron Van Winkle knocked it through the uprights for three.
Wilson responded with four consecutive completions on the next Utah drive, but an offensive penalty killed its drive as well, and Andy Phillips missed a 45-yard field goal wide left. Washington's special teams at the end of their sputtered drive did no better when Corey Durkee fumbled the snap and though the Huskies recovered the football, it made no difference on fourth down. Utah used Wilson's legs on a fourth and inches and also down near the goalline, taking advantage of the short field for seven points.
Two snaps later Utah was again threatening after a near pick-six when linebacker Gionni Paul jumped a Browning slant pass and took it to the Washington eight. The usually unbreakable red zone defense for the Huskies faltered, and Devontae Booker scored on another read option look. Washington's next possession was giftwrapped after a mishandled snap, but Van Winkle was again able to salvage nothing into three points.
Utah's defense was again its best offense when Dwayne Washington was stripped on following a catch on a flare route and the ball went into the wrong end zone. The Huskies wouldn't lay down, as Jake Browning needed three completions to score the first Dawg touchdown of the night.
The second time the Huskies had the ball in the second half they re-established the rhythm and balance from the opening offensive possession of the game and it culminated in a wildcat (not Lindcat) touchdown for Myles Gaskin. We won't mention the officiating on the next couple of drives aside from this statement. And this one. And this one. And this one. And
Utah used a balanced attack on its late touchdown drive, using nine plays to drive 60 yards for a teeder. A stripsack killed the Huskies' only comeback attempt, with Utah kicking for three to the final score of 34-23.
- From the first offensive snap of the game Browning relied on his tight ends. Sample hasn't been a big receiving threat but he opened the game with a 23-yard catch-and-run while also being the first Husky to step into paydirt. Sample's touchdown was set up by Joshua Perkins making it 53 yards on a busted coverage. It is cliche to say that young quarterbacks lean on tight ends with their large catch radii but that is where the receiving talent is on this team, at least at this point.
- The defense couldn't hold the Utes to three points early, which had been its specialty. Read option in the red zone is something that the Dawgs have struggled against all season, but Washington wasn't able to hold its ground backed up on its own end.
- Budda Baker went out on the second defensive possession due to concussion-like symptoms. With Elijah Qualls sitting, that meant two up-the-middle stalwarts for the Huskies were out. Azeem Victor and Keishawn Bierria didn't have their best game, with Victor dropping a for-sure pick-six. John Timu gave him a nod of "approval"
@A_Jude linebacker curse that I think I started ahaha— John Timu (@johntimu_10) November 8, 2015
- There will be specific plays talked about in the next week. The turnovers, the fumbled punt, the [redacted] flags. Washington was still in a position to win but wasn't able to stop the Utes on what became the defining drive of the game.
- The defense can weather injuries but the leader of the backside and the leader of the front four both were out for this game. Greg Gaines and Vita Vea played okay, but the defense in the middle third of the field suffered from the losses of Qualls and Baker. Utah wasn't effective attacking the perimeter of the defense (nobody is) but there was enough effectiveness inside to put up points.
- The defense still wasn't even bad, considering the short fields it was forced to work with following the four turnovers and fumbled snap.
- Browning and Pettis looked like a good combination for the next three seasons. It will be interesting to see how he and Renfro develop over the remainder of Browning's and their careers.
- Sidney Jones is still really good, as is this entire secondary.