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Red zone woes squash Washington’s chances: Auburn instant reactions

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Turnovers and failed opportunities in the red zone doomed Washington.

NCAA Football: Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game-Auburn at Washington Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Washington could not have gotten off to a worse start in this game, allowing Auburn to establish physicality on the line of scrimmage the Huskies couldn’t match. Washington went 3-and-out very quickly on their first drive and immediately gave up a long punt return, putting Auburn in UW territory early. Auburn scored with 6-5 Sal Canella rising up over Jordan Miller to snag the Stidham pass. For a while, it felt like the Fiesta Bowl all over again.

However, Washington settled down and found success with—of all things—the downfield passing game. Ty Jones, Aaron Fuller, and Quinten Pounds all made impressive grabs, none better than Pounds’s one-handed touchdown grab to give Washington its first TD of the day. Other than that, Washington struggled in the red zone offensively. Peyton Henry made three field goals, but a crucial third down penalty and a Jake Browning fumble on an option kept points off the board on two other trips. It was Washington’s first redzone turnover since 2015.

The Husky defense showed up in the second half, starting to get more pressure on Stidham while also making better tackles. Auburn was held scoreless through the third and most of the fourth quarter, but got back into the red zone with about seven minutes left in the game. They punched the ball in on third down, but Byron Murphy’s great play on a two-point conversion kept it to six points.

Down 21-16 with 6:05 left in the game, it was the offense’s moment. Jake Browning converted a big 3rd-and-11 with his legs, but the Auburn D line really started to assert itself and Jake Browning and the OL could not handle the pressure.

In what was a very winnable game, and an opportunity to make a huge statement, Washington failed.

Instant reaction Dots:

  • Have to start with Myles Gaskin here, who became Washington’s all-time leading rusher with 6:10 left in the third quarter. He now holds the career records for both yards and TDs. Congrats, Myles!
  • Good lawd, the penalties. Auburn was flagged numerous times for pass interference, including one that was probably offensive on Ty Jones. Washington meanwhile hurt themselves with penalties in the red zone. One took back a Fuller TD and another put UW in a long 3rd-and-goal they couldn’t convert. Washington was hit with 10 flags for 95 yards in total.
  • Shoutout to the O-line and in particular Jared Hilbers, who had a solid game filling in for the injured Trey Adams. Same can be said of Jaxson Kirkland, who did well in his first start. Against likely the best DL they will face all season, they were a pleasant surprise.
  • Washington had four straight trips to the redzone without a score until Peyton Henry knocked a FG off the post to give the Huskies their first lead. Bush Hamdan will get criticized for his play calls, but there are execution issues to deal with as well.
  • Have to feel better about the kicking game, even though Peyton Henry was about an inch away from going 2/4 and having a totally different narrative.
  • Salvon Ahmed still needs to get more involved somehow. He only had seven touches all game.
  • It was nice to see Ariel Ngata get into the game and give the Huskies another option off the edge. Amandre Williams got a lot of snaps but struggled, missing a couple of key tackles.
  • The defensive line ate their Wheaties at halftime because they came out like a completely different unit in the second half. They were integral in keeping Auburn’s offense in check...until the final drive.
  • However, the defense wasn’t able to force a turnover, which was integral in Washington losing the field position battle. The Huskies were seemingly pinned deep all game.
  • The fast and elusive Ryan Davis gave the Huskies fits. They struggled early tackling him and keeping him contained on punt returns.
  • Aaron Fuller had 135 yards on 7 catches. Ty Jones had 2 catches for 60 yards. Pounds had the acrobatic TD. Drew Sample caught a couple key passes. The new look receiving corps should give fans some reasons for optimism.
  • Jordan Miller had a rough first game back from injury, getting beat more than a few times in coverage, including for the first Auburn TD.
  • Joel Whitford may have gotten hurt as he did not take any punts after his first. Race Porter took over and averaged 39.5 yards on his two punts.
  • Washington rolled up 402 total yards but couldn’t convert them into enough points.
  • Washington allowed Auburn to convert 9/18 on third down but could only convert 5/14 of their own.
  • Both teams averaged 3.3 yards per rush.
  • You’re never as bad as you think you are after a loss, nor as good as you think you are after a win. On to North Dakota!