Running backs: Lavon Colelman. That is all that needs to be said about this group, but because UWDP readers expect more than just two words per group, I guess I should expand a little bit. Coleman put together the best game of his Husky career so far, totaling 181 yards and one touchdown, which came on a pivotal 56 yard touchdown run that put the Huskies up 28-21 late in the fourth quarter. He looked like an elite running back as he displayed great vision and hit the open holes decisively. Not only that, but he also showed a very impressive burst once he got to the second level. Finally, Coleman did a remarkable job keeping his legs moving after first contact, best exemplified by his first down run in overtime. He was hit around the ten yard line and dragged multiple Arizona defenders nearly six yards. He looked determined to score that ball and nearly did, as he set up the Huskies game winning touchdown score. It was an absolutely phenomenal game for Coleman, who has obviously put in a tremendous amount of work transforming his body this off-season, and that hard work paid off Saturday.
While Coleman’s performance left Huskies fans ecstatic, Myles Gaskin’s performance left most fans perplexed, and slightly concerned. On paper, Gaskin’s performance was far from poor, as he finished the game with 85 yards on 24 carries. However, it was the way it looked that left fans concerned. The sophomore running back seemed to lack the vision that made him so successful last season, as he missed multiple open holes. When he did find the open holes, he seemed to hesitate a bit, which limited his ability to break off the game breaking runs fans have come to expect from number 9. He also seemed to get taken down by arm tackles more often than normal, and also came up a bit hobbled multiple times.The Huskies are still waiting on Myles to put together a truly dominate performance, and the Huskies will need their star sophomore running back to up his game if the Huskies are going to contend for the Pac-12 North title. Grade: A-
Quarterback: Sophomore quarterback Jake Browning put together a solid performance altogether, as he finished the day 14/21 for 160 yards, two passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown, and one interception. Browning looked locked in early on, completing 10 of his first 11 passes. He continues to develop chemistry with John Ross III, who he connected with on a nice slant route that tied the game at 14 all in the second quarter. He also threw a monstrous blind side block that freed up Ross on a reverse. The block was pivotal,the Wildcats most likely take down Ross for a significant loss without it and UW fans destroy the Internet with a flurry of angry messages about Smith running a reverse in Wildcats territory. Instead, Browning laid the wood and Ross did the rest.
Browning also showed off his ability to run Saturday. I don’t think any Huskies fans will mistake Browning for Jake Locker anytime soon, but he did show a great ability to make positive plays with his feet when he couldn’t find a teammate to connect with through the air. He also made a great read on the goal line when he opted to keep the ball and run it in himself.
That being said, it was a far from perfect game for Browning. He held onto the ball for too long at least twice and both plays ended in sacks (the Huskies surrendered four sacks on the day). He also under threw Gaskin on third down at the start of the fourth quarter, which was intercepted. It was Jake’s worst play of the day, as the Huskies were on the outskirts of the red zone and were looking to extend their 21-14 lead. Not only was Gaskin open and most likely scores if Browning puts more touch on it, but he also turned it over, something that he can’t do on third down in scoring territory. Browning also threw a ball behind Darrell Daniels, that if he delivers accurately most likely ends in a touchdown. It is hard to completely fault Browning for the miss, Arizona ran a nice stunt rush up the middle that forced Browning to rush the throw. Still, it was a missed opportunity nonetheless. Browning also missed Chico McClatcher on a slant route that, if he delivers on the spot, most likely goes for a score as well.
Overall, Browning put together a solid, yet far from perfect performance. I was going to give him a B, but his block was awesome and also pivotal, which earned him a bump up.
Wide Receivers: This position group put together another solid performance as they continue to exceed fans and pundits preseason expectations. None of these players stats really jump off the page, but they also seemed to make plays at crucial moments. Browning connected with Dante Pettis twice to move the chains on third down in the second half, and made an athletic touchdown catch in overtime, which ended up being the difference. Chico McClatcher also put together another solid game, as he finished the day with two catches for 72 yards. It would’ve been nice to see the Huskies incorporate the sophomore wide receiver more, as he is a serious weapon. This groups blocking continues to be much improved this season, as they did a good job sealing the edges Saturday.
Tight ends: This group did a solid blocking In both the running and passing game throughout the night, which makes up for their lack of a presence in the box score. It was nice to see the Huskies pull out their jumbo packages with multiple tight ends on short running situations and have success. Will Dissly’s false start in the first quarter on fourth and one, a play that would’ve resulted in a first down, and the touchdown pass that went off a Daniel’s finger tips knock this group down a bit.
Offensive Line: For the first three weeks Huskies fans rightly fretted about the offensive line’s inability to generate a significant and consistent push against inferior opponents. While Arizona’s defensive line is far from being an elite unit, it sure was refreshing to watch the Huskies dominate so thoroughly in the running game. The Huskies finished the game with 352 yards on the ground and controlled the line of scrimmage on that side of the ball for the majority of the game.
It wasn’t a spotless performance however, as the Huskies did surrender four sacks on the day, and were beat on a stunt in the fourth quarter, that if properly diagnosed and blocked, would’ve likely resulted in a Huskies touchdown. Also, this group had a handful of holds and false starts that need to be worked on going forward.
Defensive Line: Yeah, not exactly this groups best day. Actually, it was the entire defenses’ worst performance in recent memory, and this group is no exception. The Huskies defensive line had no answer for quarterback Brian Dawkins, or freshman running back J.J. Taylor early, as they simply gashed the Huskies both up the middle and on the edges. Credit this group though for a big fourth down stop in the first quarter, which may have kept they game from getting out of hand early. This group did do a much a better job in the third and fourth quarter against Dawkins. However, Vita Vea’s inability to sack Dawkins after getting both hands on him on 2nd and 25 late in the fourth quarter was inexplicable.
Needless to say, the Huskies will need this group to play much, much better against Christian McCaffrey and Stanford on Friday.
Linebackers: Much like the defensive line, the linebackers were simply embarrassed by Dawkins and Taylor early on in this game. Psalm Whooching’s missed tackle on Dawkin’s in the second quarter after having him dead to rights in the backfield, just to watch Dawkins break off a 75 yard touchdown run was particularly frustrating.
Azeem Victor’s 10 tackles was a bright spot, as was Joe Mathis’s performance, as he posted six tackles one sack and one tackle for loss.
Grade : C-
Secondary: This group also struggled throughout the day and didn't play nearly up to their abilities, but they did put together the best day of any defensive group. Kevin King came away with one impressive interception, and the group seemed to tackle pretty well as a whole. However, the Wildcats had more success more through the air than most would’ve thought. Budda Baker did finish with 10 tackles, but he made uncharacteristic mistakes. He seemed to take poor angles at times, and severely misread Dawkins’s divine intervention like pass to Shun Brown at the end of the fourth quarter. Also, Darren Gardenhire got tagged with two Passer interference calls, one which was a bad call, and one where he was badly beat.Grade: B-
Special teams: A big mixed bag for this group. Gardenhire laid a massive hit on Nate Phillips and forced a fumble, which the Huskies were able to recover. However, the big red flag for this group was Cameron Van Winkle’s two missed field goals. This was arguably Van Winkle’s worst performance as a Husky, and frankly, the Huskies should be thankful they were able to escape the desert with a win despite leaving those six points on the board.
Coaching: It was very disappointing the Huskies defense was so thoroughly dominated on defense to start the game. Everyone knows that the Wildcats want to run the ball and play with tempo, and the fact that they were able to have so much success despite lacking a real passing threat was frustrating. However, the Huskies did seem to make adjustments in the second half which slowed the Wildcats down. On offense, credit the coaches for the team’s ability to dominate on the line of scrimmage, particularly on the ground. However, fault the coaches for that terrible counter run play call on 4th and.1 that resulted in a turnover on downs.
Finally, credit the coaches, and the players, for responding time after time, even when it seemed like everything was going against them, and for ending the streak in the desert. Though this was an ugly win, it was undoubtedly a step in the right direction. The Huskies have been unable to win these types of close road games for the last ten years, so the fact that they were able to pull this one out despite playing poorly is a positive sign. This was the type of close game the Huskies were unable to finish last season, so credit them for getting it done Saturday.