Turnover creation - This team showed a hunger for creating turnovers again. They took the ball away four times. I especially loved Ezekiel Turner’s fumble creation after getting beat on a play. It showed the kind of hustle I think this team has started to develop under Chris Petersen, and continues to show that the defense can create turnovers with their backs against the wall.
Run defense - The overall defense couldn’t have been much more stingy in general, but the run defense deserves a special shoutout. They held Portland State to 0.8 yards per carry. Even against an FCS opponent, that number is incredible, especially considering the Huskies put in the second unit very early.
Greg Gaines - A big part of why that run defense was so devastating was Gaines. The big man led the team in tackles as a defensive tackle with two for a loss and made his presence felt on just about every play he was out there. He looked a lot like Danny Shelton during his senior season.
Chico McClatcher - The speedster looked unstoppable whenever he got the ball. He scored touchdowns on a third of his touches and just about broke for more on the touches where he didn’t score. This guy is going to be a nice weapon if he can maintain this level of play against Pac-12 competition.
Myles Gaskin - This was Gaskin’s best game of the season. He averaged more than seven yards per carry and scored on a run and a catch. He looked the most yet like his old self, almost impossible to tackle and ready to break off a big run on almost every play.
Lavon Coleman - This was the best I think Coleman has looked in years. Along with his nice special teams fumble recovery, he looked explosive once he got the ball in his hands. At least to me, he made a case for being the number two running back again.
Jake Browning - The competition was weak again, but I think Browning deserves some more praise for his overall performance in the non-conference slate. In three games, he has thrown 12 touchdowns with just one interception and a 70 percent completion percentage.
Ezekiel Turner’s interception - Turner made one of the craziest interceptions you will ever see. Unfortunately, because the wrong call was made on the field and a proper camera angle was not available, it won’t go down in the books, but that was simply one of the best plays we are probably going to see all season.
No injuries - The injury situation couldn’t be much better after the non-conference slate. There wasn’t much to be gained against the likes of Rutgers/Idaho/Portland State, so maybe the most important thing to me is it appears the Huskies will make it a quarter of the way through the regular season without losing a player for significant time.
Punt protection - Is there a reason it seemed like every punt was half an inch away from being blocked?
Penalties - A string of bad penalties in the third quarter stalled the game for the Huskies. Obviously it didn’t affect the game, but it is something that could make the difference in a game against a Pac-12 opponent.
Kick ass! But does it mean anything? The Huskies weren’t really challenged for much more than a few seconds throughout the entire non-conference schedule and very much looked the part of their Top 10 billing to begin a season where almost no team has been able to do that. But does it mean anything? Does the Huskies’ dominance against miniscule competition show that they are just a finely tuned machine ready to pounce against better teams, or was it simply them beating up on teams Arizona or Cal or Washington State would have pulverized too? Really hard to say.
Offensive Line? The offensive line was the one shaky part of the Husky team throughout the non-conference slate. They weren’t awful, but they regularly let in pressure and failed to dominate in run blocking against the softest competition they will see all year. Will this unit hold the team back in Pac-12 play?
Going to Arizona? The state of Arizona has been a house of horrors for the Huskies for 10 years. Getting their first conference win of the year in the Grand Canyon state would be very symbolic for the Huskies if this is the year they can turn the corner from mediocrity. Can they finally show up down in Arizona?
Arizona? I don’t really know what to make of the Wildcats. They look like the same team they have always been under Rich Rodriguez, but their offense was strangely sluggish in their first two games and it’s unclear if Brandon Dawkins or Anu Solomon will start Saturday night. My gut instinct tells me Arizona isn’t very good this year, but I know better than to write off a Pac-12 team after non-conference play.