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The good, the bad, and the unknown: Utah

The good, the bad, and the unknown of Washington’s 31-24 win at Utah

NCAA Football: Washington at Utah Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Good

Pettis to the house - Dante Pettis created a play that should go down in Husky history as one of the biggest kick/punt returns in program history. He got some blocks, but he really sparked the play himself by rolling the dice and running backward from the first tackler. Just like his game-winning touchdown catch against Arizona, Pettis stepped up and made a heroic play just when the Huskies needed it.

Myles Gaskin - This was maybe the best game of Gaskin’s career because he was so great in a huge game when the Huskies really needed it. Not only did he have a huge yardage game and a really nice touchdown run where he made the score happen, he did a lot of it on his own by making players miss and extending runs.

Offensive line - The offensive line had a couple of pass protection breakdowns, but oh man, did they dominate in run blocking at times against a very good Utah front. There were times in the game where the offensive line made it look like the Huskies were playing Idaho again instead of Utah.

John Ross - He didn’t have a lot of catches or a lot of yardage, but Ross again made the big plays and the big touchdown catches when the Huskies needed them. Huge credit for him holding onto that second touchdown where he bobbled a tough catch on third down.

Browning’s punt - Browning’s pooch punt to the one-yard line played a huge role in the Huskies winning the game the way they did. It was a tough day for him passing, but he ultimately made one of the five biggest plays of the game on special teams.

Bierria’s sack - Bierria’s sack on the last third down of the game was the lone big play made by the defense and it was huge. He not only made a really nice play to get through the line, he also knocked the ball out and created a fumble that most of the time isn’t going to bounce right back to the opponent and would usually have ended the game.

Finding a way to win - Like the Arizona game (but on a bigger scale against better competition), the Huskies went on the road, took a team’s best shot, didn’t play that great themselves, and found a way to win.

The Bad

Browning’s interception - I like Browning’s fire and confidence when it comes to taking shots, particularly in a stage of a game where the Huskies could have delivered a knockout shot, but his interception was simply a really bad play. He stared down his receiver and the result changed the shape of the game.

Penalties - The Huskies killed themselves with a couple of really big, really stupid penalties. The first was Azeem Victor’s “talking” hand gesture, which gave Utah a first down on the goal line after a third down stop. Later came the Psalm Wooching roughing-the-passer call, which extended Utah’s last touchdown drive when it otherwise would have been a three-and-out. Victor also had a backbreaking face mask on the goal line, but that’s an effort penalty; nothing you can do about that. *I don’t love the first call and the second one was a horrible call, but Victor and Wooching still need to know to not do things like that. More on this next though.

Officiating - This was a horribly officiated game. I haven’t complained about officiating yet this year, so it tells me the Pac-12 refs have improved, but this was a bad day for the crew. Utah has a legitimate gripe about the potential blocks in the back on Pettis’ return (though I don’t think they are the automatic calls some suggest) and they had more than twice as many flags than the Huskies, but I am going full homer to point out the numerous missed or questionable calls which led up to that play which went against Washington.

  1. Troy Williams looked short on a third and long scramble for a first down on Utah’s first drive of the second half and it wasn’t even measured.
  2. Later on that drive, it looked like Utah had a false start on a third and short conversion. If you noticed, Greg Gaines was furious.
  3. Wooching’s roughing-the-passer penalty was a joke.
  4. Especially considering that if you call that, you need to call the light helmet-to-helmet on that huge hit Browning took on the next drive.
  5. I’ll admit, I didn’t see it at the time, but it looked like Browning thought the Utes had 12 guys on the field on his fantastic punt.
  6. There were two holds in the end zone on Utah’s incomplete third down before Pettis’s punt return TD. That should have led to a safety.
  7. I will give the crew the Victor hand gesture personal foul, but with all the chippiness going on between Troy Williams and the Huskies, it was disappointing they never found a flag on Williams, particularly when it looked like he gave the Huskies double middle fingers.

Run defense - Those who were worried about Washington’s run defense after the Oregon State game may have been right. At times, Joe Williams gashed the Huskies on the ground. I will give the run defense credit for holding the Utes and Williams to less than five yards per rush, but overall they seemed to struggle a lot more than I thought they would.

Third and long defense - The two that hurt the most were when defenders had Williams nearly sacked and let the lightly mobile QB escape for first down runs. Overall, the third down defense struggled, particularly on third and long as the Utes went 6-16 on third down.

Browning’s hits - Browning took a couple of really hard hits again. I know some of these are unavoidable, but the offensive line and Jake allowed him to take a couple really bad hits, one of which looked to really smash his throwing shoulder. These are the kinds of plays which could wear on him over time.

Not turning over Williams - The Huskies failed to create a turnover against what might be the Pac-12’s most turnover-prone quarterback in Troy Williams. They squandered three or four chances to pick him off on Utah’s opening drive, which could have gotten in his head from the get-go. Instead, they let Williams off the hook.

No Joe Mathis - The Huskies really looked to miss Mathis. The lack of pass rush and the ability to finish a sack were obvious, but they also defend better when they have Mathis’s size and ability to hold up against the run on the edge. It’s going to bad if the Huskies can’t get Mathis back soon.

The Unknown

Injuries and returns? The Huskies missed Jake Eldrenkamp and Mathis and it showed. When will the Huskies get back their standout senior at guard and their best pass rusher?

Run defense? The Huskies overall did fine against the run in a lot of ways, but have teams figured out that attacking the Husky defense on the ground might be the best way to have success?

Back-to-back road game blues? Cal does not look good and I think the Huskies should be fine against an all-offense, no-defense team which reminds me a lot of the Oregon squad Washington beat 70-21 on the road. Even so, back-to-back road games scare me, especially coming off a battle like the one the Huskies had in Utah. Will the Huskies come off sluggish against Cal?