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Grading the Game: Portland State

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I’m feeling generous today.

NCAA Football: Portland State at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Grading a game like what we saw yesterday is not as easy a task as it might sound. First of all, whenever you grade a game against an FCS opponent, the challenge is akin to trying to grade a pilot on his landing. Sure, I appreciate it if my coffee doesn’t spill and if the pilot doesn’t invade my quiet space with narcissistic chattering. But the exercise is, essentially, a pass-fail one.

The other issue is this: I just don’t watch these games as closely. Between the PAC-12 Networks not being offered in HD in my region and the fact that last night was Oktoberfest at the Gasthaus in Stillwater, I was distracted. Let’s just say that I skimmed the game at high speed with the simple goal of being able to pass this write-up.

So, let’s get to it, Pass/Fail style:

Passing Game - PASS

Whenever you wake up in the morning and your QB is the highest rated QB in the nation, that is a good sign that things are acceptable in the passing game. Browning was accurate and aggressive about moving the ball down the field. K.J. Carta-Samuels got some run and averaged 10.3 yards on his three attempts. Between the two, the Huskies generated five passing TDs (on 21 attempts...yikes), got 8 different receivers involved, and pretty much stayed within the confines of the scheme. The pass protection looked good and the receivers seemed to be doing their jobs, with Chico McClatcher in particular continuing his trajectory toward a top-of-conference type of threat.

Special tip of the hat here to Jomon Dotson. I continue to be impressed with what he does as a backfield blocker in the passing game. It is no wonder that he has leaped into a significant rotational role.

Pass Defense - PASS

Portland State completed 11 passes on what were essentially 21 attempts (including four sacks). So, yeah, the objective data would say that the pass defense passed. The secondary, of course, had no trouble dealing with Paris Penn and his comrades. More impressive to me is the continued domination of the interior of the defensive line. Vita Vea, Elijah Qualls, and Greg Gaines are affecting every QB they play by collapsing opposing lines from the middle.

We still need to see more from the edge rushers, but there is activity. LB Tevis Bartlett’s tip on the backward pass came about as a result of such activity. I don’t know how this is going to look against stiffer competition, but it was fine for PSU.

Rush Offense - PASS

The great point of worry of Husky Nation was a point of emphasis for Chris Petersen in this game. The results were acceptable, if not sexy.

The Dawgs averaged 6.1 yards/attempt without really breaking off any huge runs. Impressively, they moved the chains with the rushing attack - 11 of UW’s 20 first downs came via the ground. That is an important rallying point for offensive linemen and a confidence builder going into Tucson.

Rush Defense - PASS

As they do against everybody, PSU wanted to establish the run against UW. They failed miserably. In fact, PSU averaged just 0.8 yards per attempt on 38 attempts (net of sacks). Again, Gaines and Vea were the stars. Between them, they generated 13 tackles and 3 TFLs. Not only was the line putting the offense on their heels, they were also going ahead and making the tackles.

It was a relatively easy day for the linebackers. Keishawn Bierria had a relatively normal 6-tackle day while two levels of backups rotated in liberally at each level.

Special Teams - PASS

The kicking game was okay for UW in this one. Tristan Vizcaino continues to stress fans out with his punting. He only averaged 37.3 yards per punt, but he did get one of his three placed inside the 20. He also generated four touchbacks on seven kickoffs in what was otherwise a bit of a pedestrian day from a placekicking perspective.

There really wasn’t much opportunity for returns in either the punting or kickoff games, so not much to comment on here.

Coaching - PASS

The Huskies wanted to get through this three game stretch:

  • Healthy
  • Experienced
  • Able to win without putting too much on tape

Check, check, check.

When you look around the PAC-12 and you see all the drama affecting other teams, you have to feel pretty good about how the Dawgs have been managed. Some programs are dealing with ineffectual QBs, some are dealing with injuries, some are dealing with shocking and debilitating losses, and some are just in flat-out crisis mode. UW is in as good a position as they could possibly be heading into conference play.