So, now you know what it is like to be an Alabama fan.
The Huskies completely and utterly dismantled the Oregon State Beavers yesterday, and yet it was an unsatisfying victory. This despite building a 31-0 halftime lead, having two receivers and a running back easily clear the 100-yard plateau, and getting significant live reps for second and third stringers.
Maybe it was losing the second-half 17-10.
Maybe it was Browning throwing for an un-Browning like 50% completion percentage.
Maybe it was another failed Mild-Cat play.
Whatever it was, the Huskies were indeed imperfect in a game that was effectively in their control once UW scored its second TD in the first five minutes of the game.
This is what it is like for Alabama fans. They’ve seen what “good” looks like and they know when their team hasn’t achieved it, even when the scoreboard says otherwise. That’s how I’m feeling this morning, and I expect the grades to reflect it.
Passing Game: B-
Jake Browning was a tale of two games against the Beavers. On one hand, he was his same old self in how he aggressively pushed the ball down the field, a characteristic that is quickly coming to define the difference between Browning and the rest of the conference QBs. His 10.4 yards per attempt were actually better than his nation-leading average coming into the game (he is now third beyind Baker Mayfield and Logan Woodside). He completed nine passes of over 15 yards against an OSU defense that had only surrendered seven such passes against all of their other opponents combined.
So, that’s good.
Still, the passing game wasn’t exactly on. Browning’s 50% completion percentage over what was essentially three quarters worth of work was the lowest output in his career as a Husky. Several passes were underthrown or off-timed. The good news is that his YPA and four total TDs certainly won’t hurt his Heisman hype. Still, it wasn’t Browning-esque coming off of a bye week.
The offensive line was a culprit in this equation. OSU ran a variety of pressures designed to confuse UW’s young line and to get Browning off his spot. Though they hardly touched Browning all night (1 sack, 0 non-sack hits), Browning was flushed from the pocket frequently.
Dante Pettis and John Ross III did their best to carry the day and, of course, were brilliant. Pettis, in particular, continued his spectacular rise into the ranks of the most accomplished of the receivers in the PAC while it was Ross who set the tone early with his deep routes and YAC. It was nice to see Aaron Fuller continue to impress. But I still can’t help but to wonder where in the world our tight ends have disappeared to, especially Darrell Daniels. He had one opportunity to make a play in the end zone that he ultimately couldn’t convert.
Rush Defense: C+
The Beavers actually outrushed the Huskies on the day with a 5.9-yard average against 5.6. Much of this was delivered in the form of Victor Bolden’s 75-yard TD fly sweep. However, the Huskies were softer up the middle than what we’ve come to expect. Reserve RB Tim Cook earned most of his 108 yards going right through Elijah Qualls, Vita Vea, and Greg Gaines.
I’m not going to overstate this very relative grade. The difference between 5.9 yards per and a more Husky-like 4 yards per is probably a few small details in a few particular plays. For instance, check out that Bolden 75-yard scamper:
Connor O’Brien, a reserve filling in for an injured Joe Mathis, got caught losing leverage just as JoJo McIntosh was cut down by a stellar OSU block. That’s it. If O’Brien plays that play the same way we’ve seen Mathis play it a dozen times this year, Bolden is bottled up or forced back into his help.
It wasn’t a great day for the rush defense. They can do better.
Pass Defense: A-
Sure, Victor Bolden had a few nice moments making plays of extreme difficulty, but I thought that this was still one of the best showings of the season by the UW pass defense.
I was especially impressesd with the play of the secondary. Budda Baker had what was probably his best game of the season. He was active as both a centerfielder and a nickel back (a lot as a nickel back) and was basically erasing his opponents whether they showed up on the run or the pass. Other than the bad angle he took on the Bolden TD, he had a pretty flawless game complementing a strong all-around effort from the DBs.
Oh, and did you keep watching long enough to see that ridiculous interception by Austin Joyner? Hutzah!
The pass rush looked pretty good even in the absence of Mathis. In fact, O’Brien may be a better pure pass rusher given what I saw in one viewing. He showed a quick first step and some nice closing speed. It was interesting to see how Coach Malloe rotated O’Brien, Psalm Wooching, and Benning Potoa’e throughout the game. He had each player rotate liberally on both sides of the line from series to series in an effort to keep OSU on their toes while booking some reps for UW’s two reserve rush ends.
Rushing Offense: B
Think back to where we were with the rushing offense a year ago at this time. When you watch how dexterously the UW offensive line can now pull two (sometimes three) linemen and create numbers advantages on either side of the line for their backs to exploit, it is hard to not marvel at how much improvement there has been.
The backs have certainly taken advantage. Gaskin had a fantastic night with 128 yards, a TD, and a 7.1 yards-per average line. He was his normal patient self in setting up his blocks and darting into the holes that were plowed. He was in the OSU second level all night.
The other backs weren’t quite as stellar as Gaskin. Dotson and Coleman both had plenty of opportunities, but both looked a step slow, at least while the game was still being played with mostly regulars. It was fun to see Ralph Kinne and Gavin McDaniel each get some running during the second half.
Special Teams: D+
UW really got nothing going on Special Teams all night. The return game was pretty much not a factor on kickoffs or punts. The coverage units were just okay. Placekicking was decent with two made 25-yarders. Punting was a sore spot, again, as UW finally had one blocked. UW gave up an onside kick. Sigh.
I’m sure Chris Petersen will be spending quite a bit of time focusing on improvements in special teams this week with a tough road trip to Utah looming. UW can’t keep tempting fate with this aspect of the game and still expect to cruise to the conference championship.