It was the best of Eason, it was the worst of Eason. On Saturday afternoon against Utah, we saw Jacob Eason do it all - and that’s not necessarily a good thing. He made some unbelievable throws into tight windows - the 3rd and long early to Marquis Spiker sticks out - as well as multiple really nice touch throws. He threw for 316 yards and 4 TDs but it took 52 attempts to get there, which are hardly the efficiency numbers we want to see. However, it was his turnovers that ultimately are the story of this game. Jacob Eason continues to show that when operating from a clean pocket, he’s about as good as anyone in football. But once he has to start moving around, things get bad quickly. His fumble came on an ill advised scramble where he couldn’t get the few yards needed. He also tossed two picks, one of which was returned for a TD. Both throws went into triple coverage which he should not have made.
Running Back: C+
It’s hard to get a grip on the running backs because yet again, their usage was so limited. Salvon Ahmed had 14 carries, and Sean McGrew had one. All other carries were from receivers or tight ends. Ahmed looked decent out there, and Utah certainly made life difficult. However, he still is not as decisive as I think fans and coaches want him to be. He is showing improved patience, but sometimes Ahmed just needs to plant his foot, and jet. He finished averaging just 3.6 yards per carry.
Wide Receiver: B
Considering Puka Nacua was out, this was a nice game from the receiving group. It was great to see Marquis Spiker get involved and his 21 yard catch converted a key 3rd down. He used his size to position his body really nicely between three Utah defenders, and come down with the ball on a contested catch. I continue to like what I see from Terrell Bynum as a very steady and reliable slot option. He has been making tough catches over the middle while covered for a few games now, and finished as the leading WR in terms of yards and catches. Jordan Chin keeps making the most of his opportunities too. He doesn’t get a ton of snaps, but it’s clear the coaches are rewarding him by giving him a play or two every game. The Fuller and Baccellia duo combined for 7 catches and just 53 yards. Fuller did catch the last TD in the game which might have given UW a fighting chance if they converted the onside kick. But, he also had the second false start penalty on that dreaded series of plays in the 3rd quarter after Washington recovered a fumble while up 21-13.
Tight End: B+
Can’t ask for too much more from this group, and the usage of Otton and Bryant is exactly what this offense should aim for. Bryant in particular was explosive and showed off his hands, speed, and strength. For a player as talented as he, this game represented his first multi TD effort of his Husky career and just his 4th and 5th touchdowns all time. To come against a defense like Utah is even more impressive. Cade Otton, while not as explosive, caught everything thrown his way (except the interception in triple coverage) including a few really impressive catches where he showed some nice body control and hand eye coordination. However, he did have a false start that led to an avalanche of Husky penalties right after UW had recovered a Utah turnover. It would have been an A- but Devin Culp’s drop on 4th down was a back breaker,
Offensive Line: C
Utah statistically (and probably actually too) is the best run defense in the country, so it wasn’t hard to imagine they would stifle the Huskies on the ground. But the way the OL unit wilted as the game went on is a very bad sign. Not just running, but giving Eason time to throw. Eason was sacked twice, and the line let in just 4 TFLs, but it was far from the kind of performance you want to see from an experienced offensive line late in the game, no less this late in the season.
Defensive Line: B+
At this point in the season, it is abundantly clear that the defensive line needs to lead the way in the Husky defensive front. They might have been the best unit on the field for the Dawgs, helping limit Zack Moss. He ended up with 100 yards exactly, but on 27 carries, and the DL overall did a nice job getting off blocks and playing physical. Levi Onwuzurike was really good and felt like he finally had his 2019 breakout game. Benning Potoa’e also showed up a few times, and Taki Taimani continues to show that incredible athleticism for his size. Tuli registered just one tackle but he was right in the thick of things. The defensive line had arguably their best game of the season.
I really should break this out into inside and outside, because the performances have been so wildly different between the two units. On the interior, walk-on Edefuan Ulofoshio and freshman Jackson Sirmon got more run in the middle than they have all season, which is about you need to know about the state of the inside linebackers. Sirmon did have a very nice physical tackle on Utah’s two point conversion to keep them out of the end zone. Ulofoshio made a nice tackle on a screen pass but also allowed himself to get stiff armed very rudely by Zack Moss on a touchdown run. Unless the defensive line was getting off blocks, the linebacking unit struggled to make any plays or tackles. When the DL made it easy for them, sometimes they could clean up.
Outside, it was an entirely different story, with Joe Tryon approaching “terror off the edge” status for his game, in which he had 3 TFLs and 2 sacks. Ryan Bowman had a sack and a TFL as well. As a team they finished with 4 sacks and 9 TFLs, some of the better numbers they’ve posted this year.
It was a similar story that we’ve seen all year from the DBs. They look generally pretty solid - young, but extremely talented. However, when it comes to an opponents key 3rd or 4th down conversions, especially late, they get beat and are unable to make a play. Considering Tyler Huntley was practically on one leg, and was dealing with a UW rush a lot of the afternoon, he was nearly flawless. Even if you don’t consider those things, he was damn near perfect, hitting 19/24 for 284 yards and a TD. He passed for 11 yards an attempt. Keith Taylor looked more solid tackling today than in games past, and even got a TFL. He was the team’s leading tackler, too. Elijah Molden is really good closer to the line of scrimmage and on short passes, but can get beat deep, and it showed against the Utes. Overall, not good enough from the defensive backs.
Special Teams: B+
On the one hand, the Huskies almost beat the #9 team in the country and were able to limit a strong Utah run game after struggling in that regard early in the season. Washington’s passing attack seems to be taking steps forward and has performed generally well against two good defenses in a row. The tight ends were heavily involved. But, the inconsistent run game and inability to close out when in a clear position to win is concerning. The team is young in spots, but this lack of an ability to play with a lead is due to much more than youth. The coaching simply has to get figured out in that department.
From an Xs and Os perspective, the coaches totally abandoned the run in the second half: Eason had 35 attempts while the run game had just 8. This is puzzling especially after weeks of hearing from Coach Petersen and Bush Hamdan how the offense needed to lean on its strengths more often i.e., the run game and experience of the offensive line. It was nice that we didn’t see the wildcat, but the dreaded speed option returned. Jake Browning was at least half-way mobile, but it does not seem like a play at all suited to Jacob Eason’s strengths.
The Huskies now face Oregon State on Friday night, in a game that is not looking quite as easy as it was in August.
What are your grades?