The second half offense came storming out of the locker room and took over the game. Washington’s first possession of the half went for 75 yards in 10 plays, ending in a touchdown. They scored 38 points in the second half. They ran the ball more than twice as much as they threw it, and used play-action off of the run to create some explosive plays. Eason completed nine passes for 14 or more yards. This was the offense that everyone seemed to know Washington was capable of, and yet had only seen brief flashes of it since the team entered league play. Perhaps it was Puka Nacua’s inclusion in the passing game that brought life back into this squad?
The running game was strong. Washington ran the ball 45 times for 207 yards. Salvon Ahmed had 95 yards on 23 carries, while Sean McGrew ran for 106 yards on just 13 carries. McGrew has been playing well all season and this was his second 100-yard game. Meanwhile, Ahmed stepped up in big moments and scored three touchdowns on the ground, helping this offense to take a big step in the right direction in the red zone.
Same run from another angle:
Asa Turner got the start at safety (replacing Cameron Williams), but also played some nickle and OLB. The true freshman looked overall very good, albeit with one or two missed tackles, but otherwise had a strong performance with four solo tackles and one TFL.
Puka Nacua had four targets, the first of which was technically a drop, although the pass was low from Eason. Aside from that, he looked great and had three catches for 96 yards, including an amazing catch over a defender, before avoiding a tackle and dragging a player 10 yards (see below). It’s fantastic to see Nacua getting more attention in the passing game, as he provides some size, physicality, and explosive playmaking ability that seems to be lacking from the Husky’s starting wide receivers.
The pass rush. The Husky defense sacked Khalil Tate four times. On top of that, they added nine tackles for a loss, while consistently keeping Tate pressured all night. DL Josiah Bronson had a sack and two TFL’s, while DL Benning Potoa’e, OLB Ryan Bowman, and OLB Joe Tryon each had one sack and one TFL. Nice work boys!
Meanwhile, Onwuzurike also blocked a punt in the first quarter deep in Arizona territory (which the Husky offense squandered).
I’d also like to point out that sophomore OLB Ariel Ngata lead the team in tackles with 8 and actually played a significant amount of ILB throughout the night.
Turnovers. Washington won the turnover battle 4 to 1. The Husky’s lone turnover came on Aaron Fuller’s muffed punt, which Arizona converted into a field goal. Then, CB Kyler Gordon recovered a fumble, leading directly to a Washington field goal, before ILB Brandon Wellington’s scoop-and-score on Tate’s bizarre off-hand, backwards pass. DB Myles Bryant made a GREAT play by covering a ton of ground before forcing a fumble that was recovered by DB Trent McDuffie. Finally, DE Ryan Bowman batted down, then intercepted a Tate pass late in the game for good measure. Overall, Bowman had a fantastic game.
The first half offense was exactly what Washington fans did not want to see against Arizona’s sub-par defense. Especially after the “womp womp” performance in Palo Alto last week. The first offensive possession started in Arizona territory, but the Huskies couldn’t convert on a 4th and one and turned the ball over on downs. The best drive of the half ended in a field goal, and the only other possession that ended with points was off of a fumble deep in Arizona territory. It was Washington’s defense who managed to score the first touchdown of the game.
Fuller’s muffed punt. It was a rough way for Fuller, who has been the target of frustration for many Husky fans this season, to start the game. It certainly played into the narrative that some have been crafting that Fuller and a handful of other players need to take a back seat to younger playmakers on the team. Obviously, the muffed punt was not great. However, let’s give a little credit to Fuller here and point out that he recovered well and ended up having a solid game with four receptions for 60 yards and a great touchdown catch. I know this is the “bad” section, but why not be positive? Watch Fuller’s touchdown catch below:
MJ Tafisi’s injury. While making a tackle late in the third quarter, Tafisi went limp on contact and it was immediately clear that something was seriously wrong. After a scary several minutes surrounded by team doctors, Tafisi was loaded onto a cart and gave the crowd a thumbs up as it was driving off the field. The report after the game was that Tafisi suffered a “significant stinger”, but should not be out for too long. Coach Petersen briefly mentioned “a couple of weeks” in reference to sitting players after similar injuries, but then clarified that there’s no official timeline for Tafisi’s return. Despite the apparent severity of the injury, given that it was not a concussion, one can hope that Tafisi will return to the already depleted ILB rotation soon.
Did the Dawgs find their offensive mojo in this game? Let’s hope so, because next weekend they’ll be facing what has turned out to be the best defense in the Pac 12 (Cal might be better)... and statistically one of the best in the nation. The Yucks.