The Huskies got past their first big hurdle this season with back-to-back conference road victories, after using a huge second half to beat Oregon State 42-7. We finally got to see Lavon Coleman really do his thing for the first time, Dante Pettis continued being a stud, and Tristan Vizcaino missed another kick.
Let’s take a closer look at what we learned.
The receiving pecking order is starting to cement itself.
It feels like I have something to say about the passing game every week, but it’s the most intriguing development on the offensive side of the ball and continues to evolve each game. Right now, Dante Pettis is the clear #1 and playing like it - through 5 games he has 27 catches for 368 yards and 6 TDs. His average of 13.8 yards per catch is a couple yards below his average last year, but he is getting more looks on screens and swing passes closer to the LOS so that is to be expected.
After Pettis, Hunter Bryant is leading the way with 10 catches for 182 yards - a healthy 18 yards per catch. The way they get him involved early in games shows the coaches value him as a major pass catching threat on the team and know he’s clearly one of the best in that department. But if you follow recruiting, you probably already knew that. Still, his accession is nice to see, even if caused partly by a lack of playmakers at WR. Bryant is seeing the field plenty, but has some growing to do when blocking, so his role will only continue to grow as that part of his game catches up. Will Dissly is getting plenty of looks as well with a thinned out receiving corps, and appears to be a reliable checkdown option.
The coaches seem to have 1-2 big plays dialed up per game for Quinten Pounds but his drop against Oregon State leading to the interception is a sign he still needs to get more consistent. Brayden Lenius has a catch or two per game giving him 9 on the season, yet has not cracked 90 yards. What role Aaron Fuller has on this offense, if any, is a mystery. He had just one catch against the Beavers, none against Colorado, and 4 against Fresno State.
So where does that leave us? Pettis and Byrant are the cream of the crop right now, with Dissly providing a decent 3rd outlet. Pounds and Lenius for now seem like the next best in line, and while not consistent, have some big play ability. How they work in Drew Sample and Andre Baccellia when they get healthy is something to keep an eye on.
The coaches are looking for answers at kicker.
Well, Tristan Vizcaino missed another field goal, this time from 42 yards. Missing a 42 yard field goal, on the road, isn’t that bad, but that it is yet another miss in a game is starting to become a worry. Failing to convert on two PATs already this year also does not provide a ringing endorsement of the kicker. After that FG miss, Chris Petersen pulled him and went with Van Soderberg, the redshirt freshman from Olympia. Going back to his Boise State days, Petersen has been haunted by a couple not-so-clutch FG kickers and he certainly does not want that ghost to emerge on Montlake. The Huskies have yet to need a clutch field goal this year (crossing all fingers and toes while simultaneously knocking on wood) as they have won all their games in blowout fashion. The way the schedule sets up the Huskies don’t figure to be in too many nail-biters but having a reliable FG kicker is not something you can ever take for granted.
Whether Vizcaino continues kickoff duties against California remains to be seen, but the smart money (and also the depth chart) says that Van Soderberg trots out onto the Husky Stadium turf on Saturday night after the Huskies score their first TD to take the PAT.
Even without an elite pass rush, this defense is still pretty darn great.
Did you know Washington and the all-mighty, oh-so-popular, in vogue right now Georgia defense (all jokes aside, those dudes are freakin’ good) are averaging the same amount of tackles per loss a game? With 33, UW and Georgia are tied. How many of you would have guessed that? The larger point is, even without creating an immense amount of havoc behind the LOS, the Husky defense is able to put the clamps on teams and be incredibly efficient, in true Chris Petersen fashion. The Huskies rank 16th nationally in passing efficiency defense and 10th in overall defensive efficiency according to ESPN.
When strictly looking at points per game, this defense is even better than last year, only giving up a measly 10.8. They’ve been absolutely suffocating at times and the secondary does not seem to have missed a beat, even absorbing the injury to Byron Murphy quite admirably (though we’ll see as the offenses get better how much we need that depth). Despite that, there still seems to be something missing - that aforementioned havoc. Don’t get me wrong, the Husky defense was amazing against Oregon State in a lot of ways: limiting them to 2/13 on 3rd downs, only allowing 8 first downs in total, not surrendering a receiving TD, forcing 3 turnovers, and limiting OSU to just 184 yards in total. But: zero sacks, just 4 TFLs, and not a ton of pressure in general. That said, it’s a testament to how disciplined this defense is and how they well they tackle that they were able to do that without a ton of pressure.
I reported last week that Ryan Bowman was the team’s best pass rusher for right now. He had a quiet game against the Beavers, not registering a stat, and it was in fact Tevis Bartlett who had two TFLs, including staying home on a reverse to blow it up. Bowman may still be the best pure rusher from the BUCK position, but Tevis Bartlett has quietly been having a very strong season at OLB: 15 tackles, 5.5 for loss, 1 interception, 1 pass defended, and a fumble recovery. Azeem Victor has been tried on the edge more, but only has 1 sack so far. If this part of the defense catches up to the rest, be it with Bartlett, Bowman, Victor, or someone else...watch out.
Go Dawgs, beat Cal.