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Grading the game: Stanford Edition (Take Two)

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A game so nice, we graded it twice.

NCAA Football: Stanford at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback: Jake Browning was one of the many Huskies players that took full advantage of national spotlight Friday night. He was in complete command of the offense for the entire game, as he finished 15/21 for 210 yards and three touchdowns. He made great decisions throughout the day, and connected on an array of different throws. He still seems to be working out the kinks on how to consistently connect with John Ross on deep balls, but outside of that, Browning proved that he can make every throw you want your quarterback to make.

Grade: A

Offensive line: After the game the national media mainly focused on the Huskies defensive line utterly dominating Stanford’s offensive line. Rightfully so, as Stanford’s incredibly physical brand of football has been best exemplified by their dominant offensive lines’ over the years. But I’d guess that most Huskies fans were shocked by the offensive line’s ability to utterly dominate the Stanford defense for four quarters. The Huskies first possession of the fourth quarter was sheer domination. The 19 play drive lasted nearly 10 minutes and culminated in a nine yard touchdown pass to freshman receiver Aaron Fuller. it wasn’t just the touchdown pass that was impressive, but the 16 plays before. All 72,000 people in Husky Stadium new that the Huskies were going to try to run the ball and milk the clock, and you know what? They were able to successfully pound the rock and grind the clock down anyway. For the first time in at least 15 years, the Huskies offensive line was able to line up against a very, very good defense and physically dominate for four quarters. The line was able to open up big running lanes and create clean pockets all night.

Huskies fans have been scarred by woeful offensive lines for the last fifteen years, so forgive us if we still worry about the line even after this dominate performance. However, it certainly seems like the offensive line has taken the proverbial next step we have all been waiting for.

Grade: A

Running Back: This group is quickly becoming one of the Huskies strongest, most well rounded groups on the offensive side of the ball. Myles Gaskin returned to form as he posted an 18 carry, 100 yard, two touchdown performances. Lavon Coleman, the unsung hero of the Arizona game a week ago, posted a solid 11 carry, 74 yard, one touchdown performance. And Jomon Dotson also did his part, adding a seven carry, 30 yard performance. Gaskin’s performance was the highlight for this group, as the prolific sophomore running back broke the century mark for the first time this season. This group also did a great job in pass protection throughout the night as well.

Grade: A

Wide Receivers: I still think back to how concerned many Huskies fans were, myself included, were about this group at the start of the season. Five weeks in and this is arguably the Huskies strongest group on offense. John Ross III proved once again that he is more than just a deep threat, as he used an array of intermediate routes and slants towards four receptions, 82 yards and a score. Dante Pettis showed off his improved quickness and route running once again as he finished with four receptions, 60 yards and a touchdown. Pettis has been characterized as a solid player who lacks an elite skill. I would argue however that he is an elite scramble drill wide receiver. At this point I half expect Browning to find Pettis for a big gain whenever he scrambles. Chico McClatcher also put together a solid four reception, 44 yard performance, and Aaron Fuller ran a nice route for a score late in the fourth quarter.

Grade: A

Tight ends: This group did a solid job opening up holes for the running backs all game. Gaskin in particularly seemed to benefit from running behind Drew Sample all night, and Darrell Daniels also through a few nice blocks in the running game as well. David Ajamu continues to improve as a blocker as well. However, this group finished without a catch, which is definitely surprising. This is a talented group, so it will be interesting to see how they are utilized going forward. My guess is that defenses will start trying to key in on stopping the Huskies wide receivers more, which should help this group get open.

Grade: A

Defensive line: The Huskies defense as a whole thoroughly dominated Stanford’s offense, and the defensive line was a big part of that domination. Greg Gaines and Vita Vea both finished with one sack a piece, while Elijah Qualls finished with five total tackles. This group, led by their big three, completely shut down the middle of the line all game and helped collapse the pocket from the inside. Watching 330 pound Vita Vea, and 310 pound Greg Gaines generate a pass rush up the middle will never, ever, get old.

Grade: A

Linebackers: This game on the defensive side of the ball was all about senior linebackers Psalm Wooching and Joe Mathis. The two combined for sacks and ten tackles and generated near constant pass rush from the edges all game. These two played so well no recap or grade will do them justice. Just go back and watch the game again and enjoy their utter dominating performances.

Lost in the Wooching and Mathis domination fest were very solid performances from both Azeem Victor and Keishawn Bierria. Victor finished with a game high 11 tackles, while Bierra added eight. Both played a pivotal role in shutting down Christian McCaffrey’s running lanes and cut back lanes, and kept the incredibly explosive running back completely bottled up, as he finished with just 49 rushing yards.

I repeat, the Huskies defense kept Christian McCaffrey to just 49 rushing yards. I know it’s been three days since the game, but that is still incredibly hard for me to believe. But it happened, and it was glorious.

Grade: A

Secondary: This group put together another solid game and returned to form after an off night last Saturday in Tucson. It seemed nearly impossible for the Cardinal to complete anything that was remotely down field for most of the night, save for a short stretch in the third quarter. JJ Arcega-Whiteside’s touchdown reception over the out stretched arms of Budda Baker was the defenses’ only blight on the night, but outside of that, this group put together a very solid performance. Baker, for his part, finished the day with six tackles.

Grade: A-

Special Teams: As sharp as the team was as a whole on Friday, this is the one facet of the game that they will need to clean up a bit moving forward. Tristan Vizcaino failed to put the ball in the back of the end zone and elected to kick it to McCaffrey throughout the game, which almost came back to bite the Huskies in a major way, as McCaffrey returned one kick for 57 yards. Cameron Van Winkle missed his first extra point of the game, and Dante Pettis nearly fumbled a punt return early in the second quarter, which could have radically changed the complexion of this game had Stanford recovered.

That being said, there was a lot to like as well. Lavon Coleman smartly fell on a live ball after Stanford mishandled a punt early in the third quarter, and Cameron Van Winkle was able to snap his drought of two missed field goals, as he connected on an 18 yard attempt.

Grade: A-

Coaching: Jonathan Smith called the best game of his career, as he dialed up creative run plays at key moments (the delayed QB option was beautiful) attacked Stanford’s depleted corners, and milked the clock as the game wore on into the second half. The Huskies offense has been rolling since the Oregon State game last season, and it’s time the Huskies fan base give the much maligned OC some credit.

Also, credit forever underrated defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski for putting together a great game plan to shut down McCaffrey and the Stanford offense in general. And finally, credit the coaching staff as a whole for being able to properly control the player’s emotions, especially early on when they were hit with a flurry of questionable calls. The coaches also deserve a lot of credit for how the team came out in the second half and finished the Cardinal off.

Grade: A