Intros? We’re talkin’ ‘bout intros?
But if we do want to talk about how the secondary did good things on Saturday, continue:
A 100% Accurate and 76% Sober Rundown of Absolutely Everything
Given that I’ve started each week this season talking about the offense (don’t fact check this; ya girl’s too lazy to spend five minutes confirming it), let’s change it up this time and go defense first:
Namely, first of the first, way to go, secondary.
While I’ll always trust this secondary as long as Jimmy Lake’s around, USC’s receivers this year are nuts-o terrifying. This feels true even considering their quarterback situation (more on that in Lines of the Week) — I’d be terrified of the trio of Michael Pittman, Tyler Vaughns, and Amon-Ra St. Brown even if they were being thrown to by my great-grandma. And she’s been dead for 13 years.
Consider that Washington limited Vaughns to his season low (44 yards), Pittman to his season second-worst (64 yards), and St. Brown to his season second-worst (31 yards). Take away Pittman’s 44 yard touchdown, and he’s at his season low, too. Barring something drastic, Pittman will almost certainly eclipse 1,000 yards, while Vaughns will likely have that many yards or at least be super mega close, and St. Brown will amass more than 500 by season’s end.
For perspective’s sake, the last Washington receiver to have 1,000+ yards was John Ross. Last year, Washington’s leading receivers had 874, 584, and 491 yards.
So, yeah. The Dawgs held essentially two John Rosses — productivity-wise, not in skillset — to 108 yards. To quote the PNW (Canadian version)’s favorite Swede: “I am a fan of these things.”
And, while Williams and Molden will — rightfully so — get tons of love for their interceptions, Keith Taylor quietly had a great bounce-back game after being a bit sloppy the last couple weeks. I just want to highlight that because he did such a good job against one of the country’s best receivers that he was, naturally, barely seen at all. It’s a weird paradox for a cornerback: if you do bad, we’re gonna notice. If you good, we’re really gonna notice. But if you play out of you’re mind, by design no one notices at all.
Otherwise, the rush defense. Which, hoo boy. All things considered, it makes sense they gave up a lot; scheme-wise, the entire game plan came down to neutralizing the Trojan receivers. So, as a fan, it doesn’t bother me to see the Dawgs give up rushing yards due to that. But man, that Stephen Carr bajillion yard run involved a lot of garbage or at least garbage-adjacent angles and positioning. That being said, the fact Washington was able to have any of the “boom” of their boom or bust run defense is heartening, particularly in the red zone prior to USC’s first touchdown.
Similarly — and this has been apparent many games this year — but Washington’s tackling is far less dominant than it’s been in the past. That’s not a reason for long-term concern since A) they’re still better tacklers than almost anyone and B) Lake and Kwiat have had great tacklers their entire tenure and there’s no evidence that’s all the sudden gonna fall off a cliff. But it’ll ease my mind for Oregon and Utah if, against Stanford and then some, the Dawgs prove they can tackle players backwards and hit with a bit more force and reliability.
In other words, when MJ Tafisi gets up to speed, his thump-factor could make him an Anchorman-style “kind of a big deal.”
Also I miss Azeem and Taylor Rapp.
Lastly on the defense, the pass rush made me happy even if they weren’t doing anything stat-wise.
Considering the amount of three-and-four man pressures and the quickness with which USC planned to get the ball out, it would be short of incredible if the defensive line and edge was able to notch any real stats. They weren’t dominant by any means, but there were plenty of examples even with only three rushers where each guy did a lot against their resistance. For example, for the first Cam Williams interception, Matt Fink was clearly throwing impatiently and with poor form due to a rapidly collapsing pocket — against only three Washington defenders — that led to the inaccuracy allowing Williams to pick it off.
Overall, I have a similar feeling about this defense as I had after BYU: big fan of them forcing more turnovers, not a big fan that those turnovers were, situationally, so significant. Sure, turnovers are sexy, but I’d rather have a defense that holds teams to short enough drives where they never get a chance to turn the ball over anyway instead of a team that let their opponent into the red zone thrice and bailed themselves out with two clutch interceptions and a turnover on downs.
In other words, being “clutch” is the bomb, but never having to be is even better.
Offensively, I was pleasantly surprised with how the Dawgs’ offensive line performed against so far the best defensive line they’ve played. Even with how much of a dumpster fire USC is as a program, consider going against Jay Tufele, Marlon Tuipulotu (*sobs into Vancouver 2010 Olympics coffee mug*), Drake Jackson, and Christian Rector. Now consider keeping your offense for the most part ahead of the chains and your quarterback mostly un-frazzled. Those two sentences don’t typically go together.
Really, there isn’t that much to talk about otherwise on the offense, but one thing that’s been building all year came to fruition Saturday. I’m speaking, of course, about the revelation that vaping’s bad.
No, wait, I’m speaking about Salvon Ahmed. Namely, that sure, he’s still not your “fall forward for an extra two yards” kinda guy, but it really shouldn’t be overlooked how improved he is this year as a running back who’s more than just an insane athlete. The main Ahmed-based take we all had the last two years was “man that dude’s the Road Runner and everyone else is a bunch of Wile E. Coyotes” coupled with “but I wish he saw the field better. Whatever, you can’t have everything.” And then we’d take a bong rip and go back to freaking out about what this team looks like without Myles Gaskin.
I realize I’ve talked at length the last month over what a pleasant surprise the running game has been considering we were all a bit tense regarding post-Gaskin life. But really, most of that has been about what revelations McGrew and Newton have been and how effective this trio is. Given Ahmed’s 89-yard, clutch as shit touchdown run Saturday, it feels appropriate to “we are not worthy”-style praise him, too.
Obviously none of us have access to the inner workings of Salvon Ahmed’s brain, but it looks like his new patience is a result of trusting his line more and, importantly, trusting himself more. Old Ahmed would’ve sprinted straight into Jaxson Kirkland’s butt for a loss of two; new Ahmed looked completely confident in his ability to lay low and out-accelerate defenders. I like New Ahmed.
For all the hand-wringing Dawg fans have been up to regarding the receivers, the running game has been so comprehensive in their abilities, versatility, and trustworthiness. Wildcat ass-kickery? Check. Explosive potential? Check. Short yardage reliability? Check. Between the tackles consistency? Check. Had you told me in August that this would be the case, I would be barely short of shocked.
Lastly, my only other notes from this week were: “bwahahahahahahahahahahahahaha plz someone call up VH1 (are they still around?) and pitch them a reality show that’s just Cade Otton dragging dudes” and “PEYTON HENRY REDEMPTION TOUR KEEP TRUCKING.”
Lines of the Week
This week’s Lines of the Week brought to you by Maya Rudolph, only.
Elijah Molden and Salvon Ahmed to USC, considering a solely hypothetical situation where USC throws a goal line interception that turns into an 89-yard touchdown run:
Cam Williams to Matt Fink:
Cam Williams to Matt Fink, second time around:
Probably Matt Fink to his mom or whomever tried to comfort him postgame:
Do good things, don’t do bad things, and bow down to Washington.