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The good, the bad & the unknown: Heart of Dallas Bowl

The Huskies end the season on a good note.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Good

7-6 - 7-6 may not seem like a great record, but it is honestly about as ideal a record as I imagined for the Huskies, both going into the season and at a couple points during the season. To me, this season was about rebuilding on the fly while not letting things get too bad, and finishing the season off with a winning record and a bowl win was the final piece of doing that.

Myles Gaskin - Gaskin had an all-time great performance as the motor of the Husky offense. The best thing about the freshman was his ability to maximize plays with his toughness and shiftiness to keep the chains moving, especially in the red zone.

Gaskin's long TD run - This was the turning point of the game and the perfect time for Gaskin to have his best run of the year. Just when it looked like Southern Miss might pull off the upset, Gaskin made something out of not much and basically closed the door while also giving the Huskies back the spark that appeared to have gone out in the second half.

Run defense - The Husky defense absolutely locked up the run game for Southern Miss. They gave up less than 27 inches per carry and gave up just one double-digit-yard run the entire game.

Defensive physicality - The Husky defense ended up giving up as many points as they have all season, but they made Southern Miss pay for it. The Husky defense seemed to deliver heavy blows on every play they were on the field, and I think you saw it take its toll when Southern Miss ran out of gas late in the game.

Defensive pressure - The Huskies had four sacks, but even more importantly, laid huge hits on Nick Mullens time after time right after he got rid of the ball and rarely gave him time to look for secondary options.

Azeem Victor - Along with laying his customary big hits, Victor was simply all over the field. He made a couple tackles for loss, held down the middle on run defense, forced a fumble, and knocked down a couple of passes.

Jaydon Mickens & Joshua Perkins - The key Husky seniors on offense had probably their best games of the season to go out on a positive note. Mickens had a lot of catches (with almost no drops) and yardage, and his touchdown run was almost all on him and the best highlight play of his career. Perkins had a really nice receiving game, and his 41-yard reception was the biggest of the day.

Jake Browning - His stats weren't jaw-dropping, but Browning again showed his progression. He missed only a couple of passes, had some highlight-reel accurate passes, and avoided pressure with his feet while never making a true mistake in a game where they couldn't afford one.

Refs - They missed a couple of calls (notably the Jones PI that should have been called on the receiver), but it was very nice to watch a game without Pac-12 refs gumming it up for no reason.

Nick Mullens & Michael Thomas - I was really impressed by the Southern Miss QB/WR duo. Mullens took a lot of huge hits and hung in there with rare misses, and Thomas looked better than any receiver the Huskies faced all season--including Juju Smith-Schuster and Gabe Marks.

Offseason buzz - A bowl win, even a lesser one, was huge. That gave the Huskies a winning record in a year where most expected them to win around four games. For the next nine months, it will be nice to have the last game be a win.

The Bad

Coverage without King - The Husky pass defense was shockingly troubled without Kevin King in the lineup. Mullens and Thomas did a nice job, but the Husky pass defense still basically had maybe their worst game of the season.

Marvin Hall fumble - It ended up being okay, but this was exactly the kind of play that could have been the turning point in a loss.

Run blocking - Gaskin ran for a lot of yards, but there were way too many run plays blown up in the backfield against a Conference USA team, and the Huskies' overall yards per-rush was greatly inflated by Gaskin's big touchdown run.

Crowd - Man, it was weird to watch a game where the Huskies almost appeared to be playing in an empty stadium.

The Unknown

Retirements/transfers/declarations? Sounds like Dwayne Washington will be the first loss of the season as he tries to head to the NFL but I am sure we are about to start hearing very soon about some players retiring due to injury and transfers. Who will they be?

Injuries? I am assuming and hoping some players who were still missing due to injury like Trey Adams, Kevin King, and John Ross will be back full strength by spring. Will they be?

Progression? The Huskies made massive strides as a team over the course of the season. Will they be able to continue that in the off-season and show up as an upper-conference team come September? It has been a long time since I can remember the Huskies following through on their late-season progress by showing up the next season as an improved team.

Identity? This team ended up being known as a team with a physical defense that could lock up opponents, but with a young offense. What will they be known as next year?

Pac-12? As someone who primarily covers the entire Pac-12, I can honestly say next year is probably the least clear year I can remember going in. I don't know if there is a single team that looks like a pre-season Top 10 team let alone a Playoff contender and in the North, Oregon and Stanford are going to be retooling a lot again. Will the door finally open for the Huskies to become a championship contender?

Expectations? What are the official expectations next year for Washington? With the amount of talent and experience returning, they will assuredly be expected to up the win count above seven, but how much higher?