Epic defense - The Husky defense did everything they needed to do to win the game. They gave up just 17 points, with three of those points coming off a turnover which put them in a bad spot. Up front and against the pass, the Husky defense was lights out all game and never really looked outmatched against one of the most talented teams in the country.
Defensive line - The Husky defensive line dominated for almost the entire game. Gaines, Qualls, Vea, Johnson, and Turpin looked like an elite SEC front and forced Alabama to have to work for everything they got. Had their offense supported them better by keeping them off the field, they could have really snuffed out Alabama’s offense.
Hurts defense - The Huskies played Alabama’s quarterback just about perfectly. They just about forced him into two turnovers, kept him in the pocket to force him to rely on his shaky passing game whenever he dropped back, pressured and sacked him, and delivered hits whenever he ran.
Touchdown drive - For a brief moment there, it looked like the Husky offense was going to find a way to move the ball against Alabama’s vaunted defense. That one touchdown drive was a genuine thing of beauty.
Touchdown pass - Browning’s touchdown strike to Pettis was a perfect ball which rewarded Pettis for an excellent route and gave the Husky offense a rare celebration for the day.
Browning’s pooch punt - Browning’s beautiful pooch punt which pinned Alabama at their own goal line could have been the difference in the game.
Vizcaino punts - He had a couple average ones, but Vizcaino’s huge punts gave the Husky defense the support they needed and bailed out the Husky offense a few times.
The team didn’t back down - The Huskies were not Michigan State last year, they weren’t USC in the opener or Florida in the SEC Championship Game. Just a couple of hours away from Alabama’s home, they took Alabama’s punches on both sides and kept the game within reach until about a third of the way into the fourth quarter. The Huskies put themselves into a position where a couple bounces going their way would have put them in a one-possession game against college football’s best team in what was effectively a road game.
Offensive futility - There were a lot of reasons for this (such as playing a historically elite defense) so I won’t go into too much detail, but the offense simply didn’t find a way to get things done against a huge challenge. It’s excusable, but still a frustration.
Turnovers - Worse than the general futility were the two turnovers which prevented the Huskies from keeping within one possession. The pick six was a great play by a great player, but was the kind of play you can’t have happen. Ross’s fumble cost the team three points and seemed to end any remaining spark of offense the Huskies had.
On the other side, the Huskies weren’t able to make the turnovers happen which would have swung the game. Baker missed a chance at an opening interception which could have shaken Hurts. Wooching made a great play to force a fumble, but then couldn’t finish the play with a recovery.
Field position - Starting with Ross’s poor choice to take the ball out of the end zone on the opening kickoff, the Huskies had another game where it seemed like they were fighting against field position all game, which made a huge challenge even bigger.
The third and long Alabama first down - Scarborough’s last touchdown run is the one which made the highlight reel, but the real damage was done a few plays when Alabama ran for a third and long first down on their own goal line. The Huskies had a chance to make things change late in the game, but couldn’t hold up against the run for three straight plays as Alabama’s line blew open a huge hole for a run that ended the contention (if not the clock).
Alabama’s first touchdown drive - Alabama’s first touchdown drive was a disappopintment. Once the Huskies scored a touchdown, it seemed like with the way their defense was playing, that they might be able to hold onto a lead for a little while and shorten the game, but they immediately let Alabama roll down the field and tie the game on their next drive, putting the pressure right back on the Huskies.
Victorless - I can’t help but think that Azeem Victor would have shined in this game and not let those long runs happen right in his gap. I know Alabama was missing some great players (Eddie Jackson), but not having Victor in this game was heartbreaking.
Alabama’s class - I couldn’t have been less impressed with a program that has nothing to prove going dirty late in the game. Obviously there may have been things happening on both sides (though I am waiting on seeing any documentation of equal dirt from the Huskies), but Alabama was caught outright with some really lame dirty play. The unflagged clapping to mess with Husky snaps was proactive cheating. Jonathan Allen should be suspended for at least the first half of the championship game for the cheap shot/clip he put on Jake Eldrenkamp on the final interception.
Also, anyone who put a weak cheap shot on someone the way Allen did Eldrenkamp has no business calling anyone “soft.”
Playoff seeding - This is my last complaint about this for the season, but the Huskies should have played Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. The Tigers proved the Buckeyes should have had the lower seed—they didn’t even win their division—instead of sending the Huskies out into a near-impossible situation, playing Alabama in Atlanta.
Last chance to see a lot of greats - Don’t know who has declared early for the draft yet, but it was definitely sad to know this was the last chance to watch a lot of great Huskies suit up in purple and gold.
Best defense ever? I couldn’t have been more impressed with Alabama’s defense. Was that the best defense the Huskies have ever faced?
Stay or go? The next couple of weeks are going to be tense as around ten underclassmen have to decide whether or not they will head to the 2017 NFL Draft or come back for another year. Who stays and who goes will determine the Huskies’ 2017 preseason ranking and whether they are as high as number 2-3 or at the back of the Top 10.
Jake Browning against top defenses? I feel that 99.99 percent of college quarterbacks are the same way, but Browning simply struggles against good defenses. Can Browning take that next half step and basically turn the Husky offense into an unstoppable force?
Assistants and coordinators? You have to think a program which is firing on as many cylinders as the Huskies are right now will have a hard time keeping other programs from hiring up their assistants and coordinators? Can Petersen keep the band together going into 2017?
Momentum and magic? Even if nearly ten players declare early, I think the Huskies are still at worst a back-end preseason Top 10 team and unquestioned Pac-12 North favorite. I personally think they are a Top 5 team coming in with a great chance to get back to the Playoff, but I also know how hard that is how hard it is to replicate the momentum of a season like this one and keep the magic alive. Can Petersen and company keep the Huskies flying as a Playoff contender in 2017? I think they can, but we will have to wait and see.