There’s really not much to focus on here. There were some individual good efforts by several players. For example, DL Levi Onwuzurike had a solid game. Heck, if you looked at Aaron Fuller’s stat line you might even say he had a good game, which of course, he did not. He was targeted an astonishing 17 times(!) and managed to catch just nine of those passes.
Richard Newton. He was off to what appeared to be another solid performance for the redshirt freshman. Newton was one of the only players on offense who seemed to be able to reliably pick up yards with every touch, rushing for 64 yards on 10 carries. That is... until his injury. We’ll cover that later. But the running game was really the only bright spot in this game that I can easily identify. Removing the negative yards from sacks, the Huskies averaged 5.5 yards per carry, which is very good. Those touches were split between Newton (10), Salvon Ahmed (6), and Sean McGrew (3). Which is why it’s so puzzling that the running game was nearly abandoned later in the game, or at the very least it’s odd that we ran the ball less than 40% of our offensive plays. I’ll gripe more about this later, but let’s just take a quick moment to say “at least we ran the ball well”.
Now, onto everything else...
The passing offense. Between Aaron Fuller, Andre Bacellia, and Hunter Bryant, there were a combined 5 drops. Bryant dropped a sure touchdown. Fuller slipped, leading directly to an interception as the DB was able to go up uncontested for the ball. Jacob Eason had a bad game too, but much of that can be attributed to not having much help. Regardless, a few questionable decisions and completing just 16/36 passes looks pretty dang bad. One “younger” receiver, third-year sophomore Terrell Bynum, caught a pass for nine yards. At least that’s something...
The run defense. Cameron Scarlett ran for 151 yards on 33 carries. That was the first 100 yard game of his collegiate career. Near the end of the game, he repeatedly was able to convert third down runs by pushing the pile. Additionally, Stanford started the game with only seven scholarship linemen. They ended the game with six. Three were freshmen. The Huskies got pushed around by young backups. That, and again the tackling was poor with 13 total missed tackles. If you’re not sure of the significance of that number, that’s A LOT of missed tackles. Washington’s inside linebackers combined for only 6 solo tackles. That’s not a lot. Not even close.
There was almost no pass rush from the Husky defense. They managed just a single sack against Stanford’s diminished offensive line and applied very little pressure on Stanford QB Davis Mills.
Richard Newton’s injury. After a good start to the game, Newton was rolled up on and apparently injured his left foot. He had to leave the game and offensive production seemed to fall off even further after his departure. Newton has averaged 5.1 yards per carry this season while rushing for 326 total yards.
Third downs. The Huskies converted two of their 12 third down attempts. To put it bluntly, that’s trash.
The coaching. l’m always hesitant to heap condemnation on coaches, especially the offensive coordinator, because questioning things like playing calling is one of the easiest yet most flawed criticisms that fans regularly throw out there. However, this quote from center Nick Harris is pretty damning, even if he didn’t intend for it to be:“I think (Stanford) made some good adjustments that I don’t think we were particularly prepared for. They kind of game-planned us a little bit on certain things.”... Yikes.
On top of that, I think it’s fair to question Petersen’s decision to go for it on 4th and 2 at Stanford’s 13 yard line at the start of the 3rd quarter. Yeah, making a field goal there wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the game on its own, but that seemed like it was way too early in the game to forgo points when you can even the score with a field goal.
Speaking of which, panicking towards the end isn’t the greatest plan either. In Washington’s final three drives, the first of which started near the end of the 3rd quarter, the Huskies passed the ball 13 times and had exactly zero runs (unless you count Eason’s sack as negative running yards... which college football does). We all understand the need to pass late in the game while the clock is ticking down, especially when Stanford is playing their game and eating up a ton of the clock on offense. But the Huskies didn’t run a single running play in the 4th quarter. How can you justify exclusively passing when it wasn’t effective for nearly the entire game? Why double down on something that hasn’t been working when the game is on the line? ‘Twas an odd choice.
Will the young receivers finally get an extended look next weekend? Coach Pete insinuated that they’re considering their options in this regard, but I’m sure they do that every week to some extent. In fact, of course they do. As much as we’d all love to see the coaches give the younger players a chance to step up and prove themselves, don’t be surprised if the same duo of Fuller and Bacellia see just as many snaps against Arizona.
How long will the Huskies be without Richard Newton? As of yesterday, the word is that the extent of Newton’s foot injury is still unknown. The small amount of good news? Coach Pete hinted that the injury might not be as bad as first thought. We’ll have to wait and see.
Will a third running back step in to replace Richard Newton? Most likely we’ll see a regular tandem of Ahmed and McGrew moving forward, with some added touches for third year junior Kamari Pleasant. Pleasant, while not quite as dynamic as Newton, is a similar size and could be used in some goal line situations. At this point it seems likely that the only other scholarship RB on the roster, true freshman Cameron Davis, will red shirt. Again, we’ll have to wait and see how this situation plays out.