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Three Things We Learned: Utah

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Byron Murphy is a BAMF, and has anyone on the offense heard of this newfangled thing called a blitz?

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Penn State vs Washington Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

1. You had better enjoy Byron Murphy in a Washington Husky uniform while you can

The Washington secondary struggled with some of the quick bubble screens going against Auburn but since then they’ve been lights out. Perhaps no one was more impressive than Byron Murphy, who showed that in addition to his fantastic ball skills he’s also a ferocious hitter.

Murphy was targeted 9 times against Utah (some of those the team was in zone but the receiver was in Murphy’s zone). Utah went 3/9 for 4 yards on those throws and Murphy had 4 pass breakups and made the tackle on all 3 completions including one for a loss. That’s a 37.1 College QB Rating. There were some who questioned whether Murphy was getting too much hype since he only played in 6 games last year yet appeared on some preseason All-American lists. They appear to be totally justified and it would be pretty shocking at this point if he isn’t on an NFL roster as a high draft pick at this time next year.

And Jordan Miller was almost as good locking down the left side. Utah was 3/7 for 20 yards with a PBU and an INT when going after Miller. That’s good for a 38.3 College QB Rating. When you can shut down the outside that effectively it really leaves the offense with 1/3rd of the field to work with and it makes sense that the Dawgs only gave up one TD.

2. The passing game has no idea what to do against a blitz

We pretty much knew this before the game but it was absolutely confirmed against Utah. The Utes blitzed (sent 5+ rushers) on 11 pass attempts and got pressure on 8 of them, which is good for 73%. That number was just 13% when they only sent 4. But you can get pressure and still get burned on the back end. Was that the case for Utah?

Not really. The Huskies were 2/8 for 39 yards if we subtract sack yardage when Utah blitzed and got pressure. Browning did make one really nice play where he saw the all-out blitz coming and put it up for grabs to Aaron Fuller who had one-on-one coverage outside with no safety help to result in a 41 yard completion. Throw in the plays where they failed to get pressure and it’s not much better at 4/11 for 50 yards. Still worse than 5 yards per attempt for the offense.

With Trey Adams out and Nick Harris hobbled the Huskies are going to have to figure out why there continue to be so many miscommunications along the O-line. But this needs to be a joint effort between the O-line, Bush Hamdan, and Jake Browning. The line needs to get better at recognizing blitzes and calling them out, Hamdan needs to have outlets for Jake if they can’t pick it up, and Jake needs to have better pre-snap recognition and know when to chuck it out of bounds and when to just eat the sack.

3. We’ll see the entire 2018 class redshirt barring injury

Against North Dakota the Huskies took the opportunity to let a few members of the true freshman class get in the game. Tuli Letuligasenoa, Zion Tupuola-Fetui, Jackson Sirmon, and M.J. Tafisi all got into the game during the 4th quarter. Starting this year players can play in 4 or less games and still get counted with a redshirt season.

However, none of them got in the game against Utah. It wasn’t a surprise that in such a critical opener against Auburn that we didn’t see a true freshman. And it wasn’t a surprise that with a 4+ score lead against an FCS opponent that we did some. The question was going to be whether the Huskies would continue to play any of them now that they’ve had a chance to get into their first game. It looks like that’s a no.

There are two scenarios under which I could see that changing. The first is an injury to another ILB. With D.J. Beavers and Brandon Wellington both out right now the Dawgs are already thin there. If one of the remaining starters were to miss the rest of the year I wouldn’t be shocked if either Sirmon or Tafisi was called into service rather than relying strictly on Kyler Manu and Jake Wambaugh. The other is if the Dawgs start regularly blowing people out by 28+ again so there’s plenty of garbage time. But given the Husky schedule now that ASU and BYU look like real opponents I don’t see very much of that happening.