The Huskies got their first win against UCLA at the Rose Bowl since the Eisenhower Administration (approximately) on Saturday night. Yet many Husky fans still feel a since of foreboding after the team let an inferior opponent back into the game in the second half. Even if the performance was not pristine, you can’t win road games in conference without a few standout performances, so there are definitely some Huskies worthy of game awards.
Offensive MVP: Aaron Fuller, 5 receptions, 100 yards, 1 TD
Fuller continued his breakout season with yet another 100 yard receiving game. Early in this one, the Bruins crowded the box to deter the Husky running game. That left Fuller in single coverage and he made the most of his opportunities. He was especially productive in the first half, which happened to coincide with the Huskies’ period of dominance in the game. The two plays that primarily earned Fuller this award were both long receptions. One was a 46-yard bomb over the middle on which Fuller got himself open and found the deep pass. Fuller caught his touchdown on a sub-par ball from Jake Browning. He had to readjust to an under-thrown pass and beat a defender who was in good position.
Myles Gaskin also deserves credit for putting up an impressive stat line with what appeared to be a bad shoulder. Gaskin totaled 116 rushing yards on 27 carries for a relatively pedestrian 4.3 yards per carry. He also found the end zone twice. Gaskin was a crucial cog in the lone second half touchdown that helped put the game away. He would be an excellent choice for offensive MVP, but Fuller gets the tiebreaker with his big play efficiency.
Defensive MVP: Levi Onwurzurike, 5 total tackles
Ben Burr-Kirven once again put up the gaudiest defensive stat line with 15 total tackles. It was Onwurzurike, though, who made the biggest positive impact for the Huskies. In a defensive performance marred by missed tackles and big runs by UCLA, Onwurzurike was a disruptive force. He frequently got off of his blocks and created a push into the backfield, both in the passing game and the running game. While his individual stats don’t paint him to be particularly productive, he occupied blockers and created lanes for linebackers like BBK to get to the ball carrier. The fact that they happened to miss those tackles- especially in the pass rush- is separate issue.
The analysis of the defense in this game will require some additional film study because the Huskies approached the game with a slightly different scheme than we have seen in most of their other contests. Jimmy Lake called more blitzes than usual, presumably in an effort to put extra pressure on a true freshman QB with accuracy issues. Dorian Thompson-Robinson rose to the challenge in this one and found holes in a soft zone defense after he slid away from the pressure, so many of those play calls ended up unsuccessful. Nonetheless, it begs the question of whether they were unsuccessful because they were the wrong play calls or because individuals missed their assignments. Without a doubt, it was easy to see lots of missed tackles in both the pass and run games. When receivers found open spots in the soft zone coverage, though, it is harder to tell whether those holes existed by design or due to a defensive error. As a result, it is more difficult than usual to attribute credit or blame to individual d-backs.
Special Teams MVP: Peyton Henry
Henry has struggled again this year with missed FGs on very makeable attempts. In this game, he made his one chip shot from 26 yards. Perhaps more importantly, his six kickoffs in the game yielded six touchbacks. With the way the Huskies tackled on Saturday, preventing six potential returns might have been more important than we realized at the time.