With Lucas Shannon out sick today, I will stand in as the judge, jury, and executioner of the prestigious Week 2 Husky Game Awards. While Lucas did not share the nature of his illness with me, let’s all join together to wish him a speedy recovery from what I assume is most likely Mad Cow Disease. With that covered, let’s get to the awards.
Husky Game Award, Offense: Ty Jones
Jones didn’t lead the team in receptions or receiving yards, but his pair of touchdown catches were crucial in securing the early lead that didn’t grow as quickly as many Husky fans probably would have preferred. Without his contribution, the game could have become uncomfortably tight into the second half, but Jones made sure there was some breathing room.
With eight minutes to go in the first quarter, UW faced a third and goal inside the UND five. Jake Browning stepped up into the pocket with his first read covered. Jones did exactly what you would want your big-bodied possession receiver to do: he found a window of space in the back of the end zone and provided a target for Browning. The ball arrived on time, Jones got his feet down, and the Huskies were up by seven.
Jones added two more highlights in the fourth quarter when the result was already secured by a 31-3 Husky lead. He hauled in a beautiful ball that Jake Haener dropped in the bucket over the top of the defense for a 43-yard gain. Later in the drive, he held off pass interference from a UND DB and made an acrobatic one-handed TD grab on which he miraculously pinned the ball to his chest while coming down in bounds. Many speculated before the season that Jones’s combination of size and coordination would provide a needed facet to the passing attack. Through two games, he has done precisely that.
Husky Game Award, Defense: Taylor Rapp
UND found some yardage on misdirection and delays in the running game, but they had almost no success in the passing game. For the game, they averaged a miserable 3.1 yards per pass attempt. QB Nate Ketteringham was under consistent pressure, even when UW only brought 3-4 pass rushers. When Rapp came on a blitz, the pressure got even worse.
Rapp’s most impressive play came late in the second quarter. The Huskies brought five-man pressure and Rapp shot through the line unblocked. Ketteringham initially sidestepped the rush, but Rapp scrambled back to his feet and wrapped him up by the ankles to record a sack. Rapp recorded another sack and recovered a fumble that Ariel Ngata forced to fortify an impressive stat line. Byron Murphy deserves an honorable mention here, as well. He was part of a secondary that locked up receivers and made it hard for Ketteringham to get rid of the ball. He came away with three pass break-ups to show for it, but the tight coverage contributed to several more QB pressures, throw-aways, or inaccurate balls.
Husky Game Award, Special Teams: Race Porter
They didn’t look pretty, but Porter’s punts got the job done. The low, looping, knuckleballs had the aesthetic value of a high school kicking game. Every time the ball came off of his foot, it looked destined to be a 20-yard shank. Instead, Porter averaged 47 yards per punt. The longest kick careened 63 yards into the UND end zone for a touchback and a very solid net punt of 43 yards. The other three punts pinned the Fighting Hawks at their own 15, 13, and 10 yard-lines. Three punts inside the 15 and the other a net gain of 43 yards is an outstanding output from the punting game, even if the kicks were bowling shoe ugly.
Husky Game Award, Tailgate: Breakfast Burritos
Granted, I didn’t try the offerings from every Husky tailgate this week. Even so, I’m confident that Mark Orthmann’s carne asada breakfast burritos deserve the award. Homemade habanero salsa, flank steak on the flattop, fresh corn tortillas, grilled onions and peppers, avocado, and a sunny side up egg are tough to beat. It also paired nicely with a couple of Burt Reynolds-inspired Coors Banquet Beers. I defy you to find a better pregame meal.