1. The Huskies Will Survive the Post-Myles Gaskin Era
This past Saturday the Washington Huskies played a game without Myles Gaskin for the first time in about 3.5 seasons. And they won. Salvon Ahmed was also banged up going into the game but you wouldn’t know it given his performance. Watching from the stands and knowing he suffered a leg injury last week had me thinking that he would run out of bounds for no gain every time he ran outside. But it seemed like he beat his guy to the edge every single time and was always able to turn up field for a nice gain.
Ahmed averaged 8.1 YPC with a 55.5% success rate, McGrew averaged 4.8 YPC with a 58.3% success rate and Pleasant averaged 3.5 YPC with a 40% success rate. The play of both Ahmed and McGrew is something that you’ll take basically every single game. Pleasant was much more boom or bust but it did legitimately seem like the blocking was worse when he was in there. Maybe that’s Pleasant’s fault in picking the wrong holes or maybe it was bad luck. Whatever the case, the Huskies will have a competent running game in 2019 even if they don’t have a rock of consistency like Gaskin has been throughout his entire career.
2. The Slow Starts Aren’t Going Away (and we suck at coin flips)
Here are Jake Browning’s passing stats by quarter:
1st- 40/67 (59.7%), 567 yards (8.46 YPA), 4 TD, 3 INT; 141.53 passer rating
2nd- 43/59 (72.9%), 623 yards (10.56 YPA), 1 TD 2 INT; 160.39 passer rating
3rd- 33/45 (73.3%), 410 yards (9.11 YPA), 4 TD 1 INT; 174.76 passer rating
4th/OT- 27/38 (71%), 300 yards (7.9 YPA), 2 TD 1 INT; 149.47 passer rating
I could just leave those and walk away but I guess I should provide some further context. Washington has scored a touchdown on their opening drive just once this season when Myles Gaskin had a 38 yard scamper against Utah. Maybe not so coincidentally that happens to be the longest running play on the season for the Huskies.
Another maybe not a coincidence is the fact that the Utah game is the only time this season that Washington has won the opening coin flip. The Huskies haven’t been able to rely on forcing a 3 and out and getting good field position to start on offense. That Utah score is Washington’s only time getting the ball past the 32 yard line and they still only started at the 35.
There’s no single thing that’s leading to the slow starts. Part of it is field position. Maybe part of it is poor scripted play calls coming out of the gates. Maybe part of it is Jake just being too amped up and needing to settle into a rhythm. Maybe part of it is completely random and we just have an execution error during a drive that dooms a 3rd down conversion and it randomly happens at the beginning of games. But it’d be really nice if more than once every 8 games the offense could put up a 7-0 on the scoreboard before the defense has to go out there.
3. Speaking of Field Position...
The offense and special teams groups really aren’t doing the defense any favors with the field position they turn over at the end of their shifts. The Husky defense has been forced onto the field with less than 40 yards until the end zone 8 times this season and it happened again against Colorado when a Jake Browning interception was returned to the Washington 9 yard line.
The Washington Huskies have given up 139 points so far this season. 32 of those points were scored when the defense had to defend against an opponent who was almost in field goal range on the opening snap of the drive (23% of the total points). The Huskies were lucky to only give up a field goal following the Browning pick against Colorado and would’ve trailed at halftime if the defense had just given up 9 yards on the drive.
But it goes the other way as well. Washington has been one of the worst teams in the conference at forcing turnovers this year which flies in the face of what we expected from this team. In 2016 when the Huskies made the College Football Playoff they led the country in turnover margin. This season they’re 85th having forced just 9 turnovers in 8 total games. UW missed a golden opportunity to jump on a fumble in the first quarter against Colorado but let the Buffs get it back and gave Montez the opportunity to go out and complete a 37 yard touchdown pass for their only TD of the game.
As much as the Husky O/ST have put the defense in tough spots, the Husky D/ST have not set the offense up for success. Washington has just 3 possessions all season in which their starting field position was less than 40 yards from the end zone. The first two times it happened the Huskies cashed in on their short field with a touchdown. The 3rd time was on Saturday when BBK reeled in an interception with 3 minutes left in the game and UW up by 11 points. Washington might’ve been able to make it 3/3 but were in clock killing mode and so ran the ball 3 times and kicked the field goal. But the Washington offense will look a lot better if they start out close to the red zone even with their woes in that department this season.
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