It has been a long time since the Huskies were able to take on the Sun Devils in Arizona and walk away with the victory. The years kind of blurred and there was another streak that Husky fans were more concerned with, so this one somewhat slipped some minds. That is no longer an issue, however, with the Dawgs taking down the Sun Devils in a dominant victory. In victory (and in defeat) the Dawgs get Internet awards, and these are the best awards around, don’t you know (I don’t; I’ve never won one of these)?
Offensive Game Ball: Chico McClatcher
No, McClatcher wasn’t the best offensive player for Washington; that would easily be John Ross, setting a school record with 12 catches. McClatcher earned the game ball by truly announcing his return from his knee injury with his longest play of his career. His 75-yard receiver screen opened up the floodgates of touchdowns for the offense.
McClatcher opened his season strongly, averaging 82.8 yards from scrimmage over four games, and Husky fans were raving about the three-headed receiving trio of targets for Jake Browning. After his injury, the 5’7 speedster was relegated to the third option. He still is behind Ross and Dante Pettis, but a healthy McClatcher opens up the playbook to fly sweeps and more “ball in space” plays.
Anyway, McClatcher had a good game and it’s good to see him be successful at football because more offensive weapons can never be a bad thing.
Defensive Game Ball: Budda Baker
This time the game ball went to the best player on that side of the ball for the game. Baker was asked to do everything for the Husky defense. Victor had been the best Husky blitzer before his injury. Saturday, that was Baker, notching a sack and a half.
Baker is usually moved around the formation and oftentimes is asked to defend the slot as a nickel corner. That comes with a lot of run support responsibilities. For his size, Baker’s ability to take on blockers in the run game is phenomenal.
After Baker’s solo sack, he was again lined up as the nickel corner. Manny Wilkins threw a screen to Kalen Ballage that was successful in getting an offensive lineman into Baker’s way. It didn’t matter. The safety is listed at 192 lbs. and was able to work past a blocker and take down the 6-3, 230-lb running back for a gain of a single yard. Budda Baker can do it all.
Most Impressive Play: Kevin King’s one-handed interception
As many Seattle sports fans know, Pete Carroll increased the demand for long cornerbacks in the NFL, with Pac-12 alum Richard Sherman setting the precedent. Physically, King profiles better than the former Stanford cornerback. His Husky combine numbers compare favorably with Sherman’s NFL Combine numbers.
King is an amazing athlete all-around, competing with Budda Baker and John Ross for the best overall performance at the Husky Combine over the offseason. His interception showed all of that in addition to the wide receiver-like ball skills he possesses.
King’s play on this is outstanding both in terms of athleticism and technique. King starts a yard off the line of scrimmage but doesn’t press. His patience is superb as he doesn’t turn his hips until N’Keal Harry commits to running up the sideline. Harry has a lot of space to work with, being lined up inside the numbers. At that point King squeezes the receiver to the point where, even if Harry is able to come up with the catch, coming down in bounds is going to be nearly impossible. As soon as King sees that Harry is tracking the throw, King turns around to locate the ball in flight. That’s where his athleticism and ball skills take over.
Most Encouraging Takeaway: The ability to generate a pass rush
Pete Kwiatkowski would prefer the Huskies always rush four, every single play. He doesn’t want to have to blitz constantly in order to get to quarterbacks. With the loss of Travis Feeney to graduation, the Dawgs were going to need someone to step up to generate an edge rush. Joe Mathis was able to do that until a foot injury sidelined him for likely the remainder of the season.
Since then, the pass edge rush responsibilities have fallen on Psalm Wooching and Connor O’Brien. Neither has the dynamic talent of Mathis, so Kwiatkowski has had to get creative, and sending Azeem Victor after the passer was one such method. With Azeem’s leg no longer allowing him on the field, sending Baker and other members of the back seven has become the preferred method. It worked, with the Dawgs registering six total sacks.