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Grading the Game: Montana Grizzlies vs. Washington Huskies Football

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The Dawgs took care of business against an overmatched opponent, but hardly looked flawless in doing so.

Montana v Washington Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The 2017 Washington Huskies are one of a small number of teams with legitimate hopes of winning a national championship, and when programs of that ilk welcome FCS programs onto their home turf, it should be expected that they will dominate in every phase of the game. Against the Montana Grizzlies, Washington certainly did that, thoroughly overwhelming the Big Sky team to the tune of a 63-7 final score.

Rushing Offense: B

Until early in the fourth quarter, Washington’s leading rusher was Jake Browning, who picked up 50 yards on five carries via a series of scrambles when his receivers were unable to separate themselves from their defenders. That does not seem to be a recipe for success.

For the second straight week, Washington’s running game was essentially made a non-factor. Myles Gaskin rushed nine times for a paltry 38 yards, while Lavon Coleman only carried the ball three times for 33 yards, with 30 of those yards coming on one carry. There’s no question that eight quarters make for a small sample size, but it’s worth noting that Gaskin and Coleman have earned just 170 rushing yards in the season’s first two games, both of which the Huskies were favored to win by at least four touchdowns.

Otherwise, it was undeniably fun to watch Salvon Ahmed and Sean McGrew register their first collegiate touchdowns.

Passing Offense: A

The only black mark on this phase of the game is Jake Browning’s first-quarter pick-six that resulted in the only points Montana put on the board all game. And since that play never should have stood due to an egregious uncalled pass interference penalty on the Griz player defending Dante Pettis, it hardly seems fair to knock Browning and the Dawgs for it. Browning’s evening came to an end after three quarters of play with a stat line of 22 completions on 26 attempts for 259 yards and two touchdowns against one interception, and backup quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels completed both of his pass attempts for 34 yards in the fourth quarter.

Among Washington’s pass catchers, the star of the show was senior tight end Will Dissly, who filled in admirably for fellow senior Drew Sample after the latter left the game with a leg injury. Dissly’s career stats prior to the Montana game were four catches for 47 yards and one touchdown; against the Grizzlies, he caught five balls for 79 yards and two scores, and was one measly yard away from making it three. Andre Baccellia put together a nice day by way of five catches for 58 yards before exiting late in the second quarter due to what appears to be a leg injury, and Chico McClatcher caught five balls of his own for 68 yards.

Rushing Defense: A

What else can you say to a defensive front that allowed 2.3 yards per attempt (excluding sacks) other than “well done”? As we expected, the Huskies were bigger, stronger and faster than their opponents at virtually every position Saturday, and limiting the opposing starting running back to 42 yards on 18 carries is a reflection of those advantages. Azeem Victor wasn’t the overwhelming force in his first game in a Husky uniform since last November that some may have expected, but Keishawn Bierria put together a nice game that included a strip-sack and fumble recovery in the second quarter that helped keep the game’s momentum firmly at Washington’s back.

Passing Defense: A

Again, the Washington defense’s performance speaks for itself here. Despite the expected growing pains that are commensurate with replacing three second-round NFL Draft selections in the defensive backfield, the Huskies denied Montana the chance to establish any of their receivers as reliable weapons (no Griz pass-catcher earned more than 34 yards or corralled more than 5 receptions) and limited their opportunity to create explosive plays (Montana completed five pass plays of 13 yards or longer). In addition, cornerback Jomon Dotson provided one of the most exciting highlights of the evening by way of his meandering 68-yard pick-six in the third quarter.

Finally, it would be criminal to exit this category without acknowledging how great it was to see redshirt senior linebacker Sean Constantine, whose time at Washington has been hampered by four separate injuries requiring surgery, reel in his first career interception.

Special Teams: A+

You know why.

For the second consecutive week, Dante Pettis took a punt return to the house, cementing his place in Pac-12 Conference history by tying DeSean Jackson’s career record with seven. It remains to be seen how many schools will continue to give him opportunities to take the ball to the house, rather than simply angling their kicks out of bounds to remove Pettis from the return game altogether. Also, props to Byron Murphy for making not one but two key blocks that made Pettis’ return touchdown possible.

Meanwhile, Joel Whitford is now four-for-four at pinning opponents inside their own 20-yard line, Tristan Vizcaino hit all nine of his PAT attempts, and the lone black mark against Washington’s special teams was a blocked field goal that occurred well after the starters had donned ball caps and head sets.

Coaching: A-

Games against FCS opponents are always lose-lose propositions for programs like Washington. If you execute perfectly and play a stellar game, then you’ve met expectations. If you struggle to put the inferior opponent away or (GASP!) even lose the game, then the “hot seat” talk will begin before the head coaches finish shaking hands at midfield.

In that sense, Chris Petersen and his staff did everything that could be expected of them in preparing to face an inferior foe. Washington came out of the tunnel ready to play, as evidenced by Montana’s zero offensive points and the fact that the Dawgs registered touchdowns in all three phases of the game.

The Huskies committed six penalties for 50 yards, including three procedural penalties that were the result of mental errors. In addition, Petersen was clearly perturbed by the 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty his team earned following their excessive celebration in the wake of Dotson’s interception return for a touchdown. These are all teachable moments whose importance the coaching staff will no doubt drill into their players in the days and weeks to come.


What overall grade do you give the Huskies for their performance against Montana?

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