The Washington Huskies put on their best performance of the 2017 season Saturday against the best team they have faced to this point in the form of the Colorado Buffaloes, who like Washington had cruised through a relatively easy non-conference schedule. Colorado jumped out to an early lead by scoring a touchdown on the opening drive but were stymied for virtually the rest of the game, as the Huskies outscored the Buffaloes by a margin of 37-3 for the final 50 minutes of the contest.
Rushing Offense: A-
Any game that results in a career-best performance for Washington’s bell cow running back is going to grade well here. Myles Gaskin took advantage of Lavon Coleman’s concussion-related absence from the squad Saturday by posting the first 200-yard day of his career on 27 carries, and added two scores to bring his season total up to five. The Huskies took a bit longer to start playing their best ball than their fans would have liked — through the first quarter, Washington earned just 10 yards on five attempts — but the quality of the team’s depth helped them asserted themselves over Colorado in the fourth quarter, when UW’s linemen won their battles at the line of scrimmage with a much greater consistency than they had in the first half.
Passing Offense: B
Saturday was certainly one of Jake Browning’s more forgettable outings, as the veteran signal caller went 11/21 for 160 yards, one touchdown and one pick. Considering that Colorado’s secondary lost three all-Pac-12 performers from 2016, it has to be considered at least a mild disappointment that the Dawgs weren’t better able to capitalize in this phase. That being said, the success of the Husky running game meant that UW didn’t need to play perfectly through the air in order to win comfortably, and Browning’s 43-yard touchdown pass to Quinten Pounds gave us an early lead candidate for “play of the year,” even if it was a poor decision by Browning to throw into double-coverage. Lastly, Chico McClatcher’s season-ending ankle injury is an unfortunate development that will test the depth of the receiving corps later this season.
Rushing Defense: A-
Colorado’s biggest weapon in this game was always going to be Phillip Lindsay, and it comes as no surprise that his physical brand of running spotted the Buffs an early 7-0 lead after punching the ball into the end zone on Colorado’s first drive of the game. After that initial series, though, the Dawgs held Colorado to just 47 yards on 13 carries for the rest of the first half, all while UW erased that early deficit and built up a 10-7 halftime lead. By the fourth quarter, Washington’s defensive front seven was dominating the line of scrimmage, in part because UW’s lead forced Colorado’s offense to throw the ball, but also because Greg Gaines and Vita Vea eat up blocks like nobody’s business.
Passing Defense: A
With Byron Murphy out for the next six weeks thanks to a broken bone in his foot, UW fans felt justifiably worried about how the defensive secondary would fare against a Colorado offense that featured a capable quarterback in Steven Montez and a bevy of talented wide receivers. After securing three interceptions (including one pick-six) and not allowing a single receiving touchdown pass, suffice to say that they passed with flying colors. Myles Bryant provided the highlight-reel touchdown while Jordan Miller secured the third and fourth picks of his career, and the Dawgs limited the Buffs to just two explosion pass plays of 20 yards or more. If there’s any room for criticism here, it’s that Washington’s pass rush still has a long way to go before it can be considered elite, though Shane Bowman and Levi Onwuzurike are quickly establishing themselves as the best the Dawgs have to offer in pressuring opposing quarterbacks.
Azeem Victor comes free on a blitz to sack Montez. Washington's defense has been turning it up lately pic.twitter.com/IUuPHtoSpn— Billy Marshall (@BillyM_91) September 24, 2017
Special Teams: F
Dante Pettis didn’t house a punt return. What else is there to say?
Special Teams (for real this time): B+
Truth be told, special teams just simply wasn’t a factor in this game, which means that this grade is more about missed opportunities than anything else. In particular, the Dawgs left seven points on the field thanks to two missed field goals (close misses, but misses nonetheless) as well as a shanked PAT on the part of Tristan Vizcaino. On the positive side, Vita Vea blocked a punt and was credited with a 17-yard return, which makes my heart happy in ways I had previously never dared to imagine.
The Huskies came out flat in the game’s opening drive in which the Buffs put seven points on the board, but that’s all it took to kick the Dawgs into gear. For the Huskies to go on the road and hold the defending Pac-12 South champions to three points for the final 50 minutes of the game is a feat worthy of praise, and one that many fans might be at risk of overlooking. Not every team that gives up a game-opening touchdown on the road in a night game has the wherewithal to immediately course-correct, and it’s a testament to the quality of coaching Washington possesses that they were able to do so. In addition, the Dawgs drew just three penalties for 20 yards, none of which came at too high of a cost or at a particularly inopportune time.
What overall grade do you give the Huskies for their performance against the Buffaloes?
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