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Grading the Game: BYU Cougars vs. Washington Huskies Football

What did we love about Washington’s performance against BYU? The short answer is, just about everything.

NCAA Football: Brigham Young at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

No team in the history of organized college football has ever played a perfect game. But on Saturday, in their game against the BYU Cougars, the Washington Huskies came pretty damn close.

Aside from some notable exceptions on special teams, the Dawgs were clicking in pretty much every phase possible against Saturday. Washington averaged 7.5 yards per play and 3.9 points per drive, while BYU averaged 4.0 yards per play and 0.7 points per drive. It was as complete a performance as the Huskies have shown to this point, and the fact that it came against a ranked non-conference foe made the victory all the sweeter.

Rushing Offense: A

Saturday marked just the second time that Salvon Ahmed has outgained Myles Gaskin during their college careers, though it didn’t come by much: Ahmed earned 86 yards on 10 carries, while Gaskin’s 81 yards came on 14 touches. All told, the Dawgs had four rushes of 10 yards or longer, including Gaskin’s 21-yard scamper on the first play from scrimmage and Ahmed’s 37-yarder on UW’s final touchdown drive of the day. On third down, Washington rushed four times for five yards, earning first-downs on three of the attempts. And in a sign of how thoroughly the offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage, BYU registered just two tackles for loss on the day, not counting Jake Haener’s kneel-down to end the game.

Passing Offense: A+

Jake Browning’s stat line (23/25, 277 yards and a touchdown) looks mightily impressive on its own, and it’s possible that those numbers don’t convey just how good he was Saturday night. Browning was nothing short of transcendent against the Cougars: His 11.1 yards per attempt represents the fourth-best single-game metric of his career, and in third-down situations, he completed seven of eight passes for 74 yards resulting in five first-downs and a touchdown. Perhaps most notably, for the second consecutive game he displayed none of the skittishness that marked his play two weeks ago against Utah, deftly outmaneuvering BYU rushers and finding favorable matchups with his receivers in the face of oncoming pressure.

All this was possible, of course, because the offensive line played their most stellar game of the season. Other than a sack early in the first quarter resulting from Corbin Kaufusi smartly sniffing out a play-action bootleg, Browning wasn’t pressured a single time throughout the game, and enjoyed a remarkably clean pocket on any given drop-back. Small wonder, then, that Aaron Fuller posted another triple-digit game with 107 yards on eight catches as he continues his breakout campaign. (For the record, Fuller is now the first Husky since Reggie Williams in 2003 to record three 100-yard performances in a season’s first five games. Assuming Washington plays a 14-game schedule, Fuller is on pace to finish the 2018 season with 84 catches for 1,327 yards.)

Rushing Defense: A+

NCAA Football: Brigham Young at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

In their monumental road upset of then-No. 6 Wisconsin, BYU found success in feeding the ball to Squally Canada, who took eight carries for 118 yards and two touchdowns against the shell-shocked Badgers.

Against Washington’s Death Row defense, Canada registered seven carries for 13 yards. In fact, his longest carry of the day went for six yards, which means that his remaining six rushes went for an impotent 1.2 yards per attempt.

“Suffocating” isn’t a big enough word to describe what Myles Bryant and Byron Murphy (each had two tackles for loss) joined Benning Potoa’e, Levi Onwuzurike and Taylor Rapp (one TFL apiece) in doing to the Cougars ground game. In third-down situations, BYU ran the ball four times: two resulted in fumbles, one of which Washington recovered. And while BYU did score a rushing touchdown within a minute left in regulation, it bears mentioning that A) the second-string was in the game at that point, and B) the defense was only put into that tough spot due to a Chico McClatcher punt return fumble.

Passing Defense: A

NCAA Football: Brigham Young at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

It’s becoming gospel that this year’s Washington pass defense, like several that immediately preceded it, simply does not lose the battles it fights. Suffice to say that BYU did nothing on Saturday to dispel that impression. Tanner Mangum put together a nice streak to open the game — eight consecutive completions for 93 yards and three first-downs — and his final stats (18/21 for 160 yards, and 7.6 yards per attempt) are nothing to be ashamed of, but the Huskies defense did a good job of making him earn everything he got, as BYU racked up just three explosion plays of 15 yards or longer through the air. On third down, Mangum completed eight of 11 attempts for 93 yards and four first-downs. In addition, Jordan Miller and Byron Murphy each added a pass defended to their resumes; Murphy’s nine on the season now ranks second in the conference.

Special Teams: C-

Virtually the only fly to be found in the ointment Saturday came via Washington’s performance in place kicking and punt returns. Peyton Henry made all five of his PATs but missed both of his field goal attempts, which came from 40 and 24 yards out, respectively. On the first of his two punt returns, Aaron Fuller recovered his own fumble for no gain; on the second, he found a seam to his left and earned a quality 16 yards to give the Washington offense possession at the BYU 48-yard line. Chico McClatcher’s punt return, though, is the one that caused the most angst for Washington fans of any play that evening, as his lost fumble gave the Cougars the ball just 21 yards from the end zone, and allowed BYU a chance to spoil Washington’s first shutout of a ranked opponent since 1990 with less than five minutes left to play.

Meanwhile, Joel Whitford’s only punt on the day came on Washington’s first possession of the evening. It went for 40 yards and pinned the Cougars at their own 11-yard line; all five of Whitford’s punts this season have gone for at least 40 yards, and two of them have given Washington’s opponents control of the ball within their own 11-yard line.

Coaching: A

NCAA Football: Brigham Young at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

It’s tough to come up with too much criticism for a coaching staff that by all rights should have earned the program’s first shutout of a ranked opponent in 28 years. The Dawgs came out firing on both sides of the ball in this one: The Huskies defense allowing BYU past the 50-yard line just one time before the final Cougars drive of the game, while the UW offense scored five touchdowns in their first seven drives before taking their foot off the gas late in the third quarter. The Dawgs also kept the laundry from becoming a factor in this one, committing five penalties for 40 yards (compared to BYU’s eight penalties for 50 yards).


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

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