The Washington Huskies haven’t enjoyed a ton of success in the state of Arizona for the last, well, generation, so let’s all take a quick moment and, at the very least breathe a sigh of relief for Saturday’s 24 point win in Tucson.
That was nice.
The offense struggled to gain traction throughout most of the first half, but thankfully was able to maintain contact with the Wildcats through some opportunistic special teams play and a defense that was ran hot at least as much as it was cold in the first 30 minutes.
The second half was quite the opposite for the offense, as they scored 38 points and put up over 300 total yards, and generally wore down a small and not terribly talented Arizona defense.
To the gifcave!
(#1) 2nd and 10:
Husky fans heard all about the experimentation with Ariel Ngata (#52) at inside linebacker during the spring and into the fall, and it finally came to fruition against Arizona. Ngata spent a significant amount of time at the boundary inside linebacker (what the Huskies call the “Dime Backer”), and actually led the team with 8 tackles, including one for loss. It was by no means a perfect effort, as Ngata spent a lot of time looking like a guy that isn’t used to playing inside linebacker, but consider the experiment successful enough to try it again.
The Huskies are running a very small front here - #95 Levi Onwuzurike is the only defensive tackle on the Huskies’ three man front; he’s flanked by OLB #55 Ryan Bowman and OLB #9 Joe Tryon.
Ngata ends up making the tackle on this zone read play. And he does a nice job of filling his gap while avoiding the block of an oncoming guard. But the real key here is the work of Bowman and Onwuzurike here. At the snap, each holds his position without losing ground, and is able to extend away from the blocker in order to maintain both of his gaps. As the running back approaches, each gets a hand out and helps slow the momentum of the ball carrier. Good play against the run from a small front on a passing down.
(#2) 1st and 10:
Sort of a unique take on the old “student body right” toss sweep.
The Huskies have a bunch formation tight to the right side of the line, two of whom are tight ends. The tight end on the line, #87 Cade Otton, works a pin-and-pull with right tackle #70 Jared Hilbers. Otton seals the end man on the line, and Hilbers pulls around him as a lead blocker. Both guards are trying to get to the inside linebackers, but the linebackers, in an attempt to avoid being blocked, run themselves out of the play.
This play is designed to go wide, and then create a cutback angle. Salvon Ahmed first sees traffic when the lone receiver in the bunch (#2 Aaron Fuller maybe?) is being beaten on his block. Ahmed decides to cut at that point. C #78 Matteo Mele is thoroughly beaten at the snap, and compounds his mistake with fairly poor effort in finishing the play; the nose tackle ends up making first contact. Ahmed stumbles forward and ends up getting six, even though this doesn’t end up looking like a great play.
(#3) 1st and 10:
Arizona runs zone to their right, and two mistakes let the running back cut back all the way across the formation and turn what should’ve been a very short gain into 2nd and short.
First is OLB #58 Zion Tupuola-Fetui (who also got an extensive amount of action on Saturday, a first). He has the edge containment on the back side of the play, and you can see him get antsy feet as he watches the mesh point and the ball. Ultimately, he gets sucked too far up field and loses his contain.
Second is Kyler Manu —who overpursues to his left— and loses his gap as a result. He’s not quick enough to recover and affect the play, but Tupuola-Fetui shows good effort and quickness to end up making the tackle (albeit 8 yards down the field).
(#4) 1st and 10:
Lots of ugly all around from the back end of the defense on this one. The achilles heel of the Husky defense - the tight end with a free release down the middle of the field - rears its head again on a late touchdown drive that gives the Wildcats the lead heading in to halftime.
There’s no contact with the tight end off the line, which allows him to quickly get into his route. Both inside linebackers bite HARD on the play action - they’re up attacking the run and in no position to cover. Nickel back Elijah Molden appears to have the short flat on that side of the field. The deep safeties are late to react, and then three Huskies make lots of contact with each other and very little with the ball carrier on a not great tackle attempt - there’s two too many “big hit” shots and not enough wrapping up.
(#5) 2nd Goal:
This is well-designed play action that takes advantage of the aggressiveness of Arizona’s defense to get an unlikely receiving target open in space.
Washington attacked Arizona head-on with the running game in the first half, with very little success. Here, they show that same look with three tight ends in the formation (including one, #37 Jack Westover, lined up as the fullback).
The play is very simple. At the snap, the entire offense attacks the line of scrimmage. At the last second, the fullback, stops and sneaks out and down the line of scrimmage in to the flat. The defender assigned to cover him crashes on the QB, and Jacob Eason does a fine job of throwing a catchable pass with pressure right in his face.
Touchdown, Huskies. The third member of the team finds his first career reception going for a touchdown this season.
(#6) 1st and 10:
Arizona has two-on-two to their left, and they decide that with one of those two defenders being true freshman S #20 Asa Turner, those odds are good enough.
Turner diagnoses the play quickly and attacks, but he needs to keep his balance here. When he leaves his feet, he has to be sure to make the tackle.
Luckily, the Huskies have their own version of the Magic Eraser; in this case it’s S #5 Myles Bryant. Bryant is on the blitz, but he has no chance to make the play prior to the quick pass. Bryant stays with the play, though, and continues across to try and clean up. Turner’s attempt gets the receiver off-balance, and Bryant’s tackle ends up jarring the ball loose.
Good things happen to those who hustle.
(#7) 1st and 10:
The pin-and-pull blocking concept, this time coupled with a little misdirection in the backfield.
The fly motion and the pitch almost look like counter action here. If you look at the far left of the formation, you’ll see TE #87 Cade Otton“pin” the end man on the line of scrimmage. That frees LT #72 Trey Adams to pull as the lead blocker. Adams has an itty bitty defensive back in his sights, but isn’t quite able to make the ferocious decleating block he’d intended. But he gets enough of him to free up #25 Sean McGrew to get outside and upfield for over 10 yards. Watch the rest of the linemen work straight ahead, and then back to seal the backside of the play.
(#8) 2nd and 6:
Vintage Jake Browning. Except it’s Jacob Eason.
Stanford burned the Huskies with this “slot fade” at least a few times two weeks ago, but I’m not sure their execution was quite this perfect. Running the fade from the slot position instead of with the outside receiver gives the QB even more field to work with on this throw.
WR #2 Aaron Fuller widens his first few steps, and then it’s just a matter of making a great catch of a perfectly thrown ball. Neither of them are particularly easy here, but when it works, it’s impossible to defend. Credit to both Eason and Fuller. Simply great execution.
(#9) 1st and Goal:
It’s still a somewhat close game, but Arizona’s defense was waving the white flag at this point. At least on this play.
This is the “power lead;” a power run coupled with a lead-blocking fullback (or a tight end who motions into the backfield). This is actually quite the jumbo package the Huskies have here. In addition to Jack Westover (TE #37) who becomes the fullback, there’s tight end #83 Devon Culp on the right side, TE #87 as the H-back to the left, and OL #66 Henry Bainvalu is in next to the left tackle as well.
The left side of the offensive line blocks down (to their right), and basically caves in Arizona’s front. Westover lays down on an outside linebacker who realizes at the last minute he isn’t acutally interested in a collision. RG #59 Henry Roberts pulls to lead the play, and trips, but didn’t have anyone availble to block anyway.
The Huskies have another game this week, but I can’t remember who they play.