A bittersweet Apple Cup for Husky fans took place on a beautiful fall Saturday in Husky Stadium. While we at the UWDP Film Study department learned of Chris Petersen’s imminent departure over the course of our numerous, regular weekly conversations with him to discuss game planning, recruiting, coaching changes, player rotations, etc., and are sorry that we couldn’t let you all know ahead of time (except in our “UWDP Film Study Premium” column), it doesn’t make the realization that this last, best effort of the 2019 Washington Huskies would be Petersen’s finale as the leader of the men in the purple and the gold.
There are parts of the above paragraph that aren’t entirely true (that we’re sorry we didn’t tell you about Petersen, etc). But no matter.
To mix things up in 2019, the Cuogs actually scored first, and held the lead at two different points in the first half, bringing the total time they’ve led the Huskies up to 17 minutes and 40 seconds of the last 420 minutes of Apple Cup play. Jimmy Lake’s defense still owns Mike Leach’s offense, but there’s no confirmation if Mike Leach has figured out who Jimmy Lake is yet, or if he’s still as unaware as he was the first time the UW secondary put the clamps on his offense.
Film at 11. Or 10, or 8, or 12:30. It’s pretty much available any time you want to check it out.
1st and 10:
It seems like every Apple Cup since before Gardner Minshew was able to grow a mustache is filled with individual and collective physical dominance from Washington’s secondary. 2019 was the Elijah Molden Show. It started early and ran all afternoon.
This play is a staple of the Air Raid. From a five-wide, empty backfield set, the Cuogs are running a screen to the inside receiver on the trips (right) side, with the right side of the offensive line getting out and down the field. The first thing to notice is some pretty spectacular recognition from the left side of the Husky defense. ILB #48 Edefuan Ulofoshio is reading the right guard, sees the release and heads outside. CB #22 Trent (don’t call me OJ) McDuffie is in man coverage, playing outside-in; this allows him to see the blcok develop. He comes up to contain the outside, but doesn’t go willy-nilly attacking and giving up leverage. Last is NB #3 Molden, who, within a single back pedal step, is up and attacking the screen, through the shoulder of the man blocking him. Well, blocking is a bit generous here, as Molden pushes the WSU receiver backward four yards, and the ease with which it happens almost keeps Molden from seeing the screen man as he runs by. It’s possible that the block was actually some sort of Vaudevillian attempt to distract Molden instead of physically impede him (and either way, it’s a comical attempt). Ballcarrier meets clothesline, and the results are about what you’d expect.
3rd and 3:
The refs huddled after this play and determined that WSU’s receiver #1 was “in the area” of this pass. There are alternate realities where that’s true. And on grand enough scales, like “King County” or “North America,” it’s also true. But on the Friday after Thanksgiving, in Husky Stadium, there’s just no way in Hades that this was anything but intentional grounding to avoid what was a pretty good three-man rush from the Huskies.
There’s nothing particularly fancy here. What we have is a nice individual move from DT #8 Benning Potoa’e, who had himself a very nice Senior Day. He’s playing the nose tackle, right over the center. At the snap, he gives a slight angle to his left, to get the center to shift his weight. Then, it’s a hard slap/punch to the center’s head to keep him moving that direction, and give Potoa’e some momentum back to his right. WSU’s right guard, who was originally looking left to help out on OLB #9 Joe Tryon, is too late to react back and help on Potoa’e, who shows a good combination of speed and power to slip upfield. The coverage is outstanding, so this rush is more than quick enough to get into the backfield. With a little extra push from Tryon, Potoa’e just narrowly misses out on a sack here as WSU’s QB is able to get rid of the ball on his way to the turf - and was then justhisclose to completing the ball. To #1, who was in the area.
2nd and 2:
This is a similar screen pass to the first play, except WSU is in a balanced, 2x2 formation. WSU doesn’t have the same numbers advantage to the outside, so this play requires the left tackle to get out and block a defender in order to work.
There’s a couple of really nice efforts here, first by NB #3 Elijah Molden and ILB #48 Edefuan Ulofoshio (of course), but WSU really hurts itself with the poor pass on this play, and the QB’s body english isn’t able to adjust the throw after it leaves his hand. The high throw, and the resulting jump, twist, and restart, keeps Molden in the play. Without that extra motion, the receiver is probably cutting right off of his left tackle around Molden (into the waiting arms of Ulofoshio, of course). Instead, Molden is in the play, and a pretty tenacious effort on his part allows him to get the tackle-for-loss. With so many small, fast bodies (the Huskies spent most of the game with five underneath zone defenders) ready to fly to the ball, the Cuog screen game wasn’t terribly effective.
1st and 10:
The college fade, from one hash mark out to the opposite sideline, against man coverage, is like the Crane Technique of offensive football - If do right, no can defend.
Down close to the goal line, which keeps the defense somewhat compact, the Huskies have two tight ends tight to the formation - #87 Cade Otton in line on the right side, and #1 Hunter Bryant as an H-back to the left. This is an RPO - the line and backs are running an inside zone split, with Bryant sealing the back side. The safeties are both narrow, and the cornerbacks are in press-man coverage. There are only two receivers in the route. On the offense’s left, that might be Aaron Fuller running a post route. On the bottom #4 Terrell Bynum runs a fade. Eason sees the numbers and knows what he’s doing before the ball is snapped; from the hash mark where the ball is snapped to the far sideline is 100’; time and space mean that there’s always going to be an open spot to make this throw. Eason’s delivery here is textbook; it’s wide and to the near pylon as opposed to the back corner. Frankly, the coverage isn’t even “bad” here; it’s tough to be much better. But that pass is about as close to perfection as you should reasonably hope to see.
2nd and 19:
Stop Cuog on Cuog Violence!!
Great awareness here by OLB #9 Joe Tryon. He’s lined up right over the left tackle on this play. At the snap, he takes a hard charge at the left tackle; the left guard is giving a little bit of help. As Tryon’s initial charge is thwarted, the guard turns his attention to the nose tackle (#91, Tuli Letuligasenoa). Tryon’s push has created a little bit of separation, and he turns on the jets to slice inside the left tackle (since the guard is no longer paying attention to him). The guard feels the inside rush a little bit too late, but still manages to turn and lay a nice blow on....the left tackle, who’s in chase mode over the much-more-athletic Tryon. Nice technique, fellas, but finish the block out next time. Echo of the whistle.
2nd and 6:
This is how the Huskies have used Hunter Bryant to crush zone defenses.
WSU shows Cover 2 (with two high safeties), but right before the snap, you can see the cornerbacks starting to bail. The safety on the wide side has the flat, so he’s got to get all the way out to the sideline. Bryant is in the slot, right on the hashmark to the wide side. He drives down the field at the snap, and you can see the safety hustling out of his way. Bryant then turns and sits down behind the linebackers (this play gives a great view of the “shell” forming) in the underneath coverage. He’s fast and athletic enough to get behind them; something the WSU mesh concept doesn’t make happen against UW, forcing them to settle for lots of short gains. Jacob Eason sees that safety heading out, and this becomes a really simple play - throw to the big guy between the two linebackers underneath.
2nd and 7:
Super slick little screen pass here.
The Huskies start with two tight ends to the left. H-back #87 Cade Otton comes in motion to the right. There’s play action at the snap, and Otton does an absolutely all-caps fantastic job of selling the pass block here. He holds it a beat, then a beat longer, then waits at the line to really sell it....
The outside linebacker over Otton sees him staying in, and retreats into pass coverage. By turning and running, though, he misses the UW offensive linemen who are releasing downfield to block, tipping off the screen. It probably wouldn’t have mattered, as he likely just gets blocked, but closer to the play.
Easy throw to Otton, who shows that he’s actually a really good athlete. 25 yards down the field, and he’s finally dragged down. Great design, great execution. It’s the lack of patience that usually dooms a play like this, but from Otton selling the pass block, the linemen waiting to release - the timing was great.
2nd and 6:
CB #19 Kyler Gordon earned the starting spot at the beginning of the year, and had a rough go of things. He was brought back in slowly, and by the end of the year, was playing really good football. This might have been his best snap of the season.
WSU is in a 3x1 formation, with trips left. Two inside receivers on the trips side are running deep, clearing out the coverage. The outside receiver then runs a slant. The running back runs a slow release to the outside, with the thought being that the outside slant will be open, but if not, all of that action will open up the running back for a catch-and-run down the sideline.
Great discipline by the coverage on that side of the field. All three defenders stay in their zones, passing off receivers until the ball is thrown. Then, all three attack. This break by Gordon is fantastic; Max Borghi is dangerous with the ball in his hand out there as a receiver because he’s fast and he’s a very physical runner. Gordon is up in a flash, but then breaks down and collects himself. The superman leap is maybe not ideal, but anyone that watched Gordon jump at one of the high school combine deals a few years ago (wasn’t it a 41” vertical? Something like that?) knows that he actually sort of is superman getting off the ground. He also follows the cardinal rule of jumping to make a tackle - if you leave your feet, you’d better damn well make the play. Boom, yo.
Good stuff. Just real good stuff. The defense grew up at the end of 2019, playing its two best games in the last three. Sound, solid, swarming. Gang tackling. Intimidating in its discipline and execution and the small-space punishment it can dole out. Still able to sneak on 14 men without the refs noticing....The longer the game wore on, the more and more it looked like 2019 was the lull we all hoped it would end up being, and not the fall. There is so much to like heading in to 2020, Husky fans.
Chris Petersen doesn’t coach the defense per se, but he coaches the coaches and he coaches the culture. He was a part of what may have been (and still could continue to be) the most dominant defensive era in Husky football. Built and execute in the most boring way possible, which might be proof of Petersen’s influence. On Friday, Film Study game balls would’ve gone to Elijah Molden on defense (narrowly edging Trent McDuffie) and Jacob Eason on offense (narrowly edging Terrell Bynum). But as it stands today, a salute to Chris Petersen is most definitely in order. Thanks, Coach.