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The Good, The Bad, and the Unknown: EWU Edition

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Eastern Washington v Washington Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

The Good

Jacob Eason. 27 for 36 passing (75% completion rate). 349 yards, a record number for any Husky QB’s first start. Four touchdowns, a personal best for Mr. Eason. Zero interceptions thrown (and no turnovers from the offense at all). Nice work, kid! The hype might just be real after all.

See: Aaron Fuller do work.

Lots of true freshmen played. Sometimes well! Believe it or not, 10 (!) true freshman saw playing time against Eastern. Cameron Williams was the only starter, but nine others saw significant playing time as well. One even scored points for the Huskies when OLB Laiatu Latu made a tackle for a safety late in the fourth quarter. CB Trent McDuffie also played a big role in making Latu’s play possible. It’s always fun to see the young guys step up and play well.

Hunter Bryant. He led the team in receptions with six, and had the second most receiving yards with 81. While he was kept out of the end zone, he proved to be a steady and reliable target for Eason throughout the game. We can probably expect a lot more of this.

The Huskies scored on five of their six trips into the redzone. The one time they didn’t score is when the coaches told redshirt freshman QB Jacob Sirmon to take a knee at the end of the game. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come, as serious improvement was needed from last year’s 56.5% touchdown conversion rate in the red zone.

Let’s give one big nod to the defense. Despite all the handwringing, it looks like the defense is going to be just fine. Given that Eastern is an FCS team (albeit an elite one), the defense still showed that they’re capable of more or less shutting down an opposing offense, and even got to the quarterback four times. Three sacks originated from the D-line, and one from an OLB, also known as the positions you would expect to produce sacks. Hopefully that means a safety won’t be leading the team in sacks this year—unless it’s because Myles Bryant has a ton of sacks, in which case, that’s dope.

Also, I want to give a quick shoutout to redshirt freshman Kyler Gordon, who played significant minutes at corner opposite Keith Taylor. While called for two defensive holding penalties, only one looked legit, and he really flashed his elite athleticism a few times. I’m very excited about this guy moving forward.

The Bad

Really, there’s not much to report on here. It’s easy to nitpick the performances of freshmen playing in their first game. It’s also easy for a very good FBS team to look good against any FCS team. However, for the sake of this article, let’s nitpick.

This play from Cameron Williams. I apologize for the quality of the video below, but you can clearly see true freshman safety Cameron Williams running across the top of the screen to make a play on EWU WR Andrew Boston. Unfortunately for Williams and the Huskies, his bad angle and arm tackle do little to slow Boston’s progress, which leads to a 64-yard touchdown. Last season, the Huskies didn’t give up a single pass play of 40 or more yards. You have to cut the kid some slack, given that he’s a true freshman and it was his first start, but we’ll need to see better from him moving forward if he’s going to keep his starting job.

Matteo Mele’s snaps. If we’re just focusing on his blocking assignments, redshirt freshman Matteo Mele actually played pretty dang well in his first college game replacing injured starting center Nick Harris. That said, it was impossible not to notice a handful of errant snaps that came shooting Eason’s way. Eason did a good job corralling the bad snaps out of the shotgun, but later QB Jacob Sirmon fumbled a snap while under center. The blame could go to Sirmon here, who could be forgiven since it was also one of his first in-game collegiate snaps, but the QB-center exchange is one of the absolute basics in football and that needs to be corrected immediately. Good thing it didn’t matter in this game.

This is really getting nitpicky, but I was really disappointed in Salvon Ahmed’s pass blocking. Specifically, with 44 seconds left in the second quarter on a 3rd-and-6 play at Washington’s own 29-yard line, Ahmed performed some of the softest pass blocking I’ve ever seen. He looked like a turnstile and it lead to Eason getting lit up by a blitzing EWU linebacker and taking a shot in the ribs. Of course, Ahmed isn’t Myles Gaskin when it comes to pass blocking, but he’s got to be better than that effort. It was pathetic.

The Huskies didn’t force a single turnover.

Unknown

Nick Harris’s health. Washington’s senior, preseason All-American center suffered a lower-body injury in the Eastern game and is reportedly week-to-week. He was walking around the sidelines in the second half and seemed in high spirits, so hopefully “week-to-week” is really just “this week.” We’ll have to wait and see.

In his first game, redshirt freshman RB Richard Newton played very well. He even scored the Huskies’ first points of the season on a 23-yard wildcat run up the middle in the first quarter. Is Newton in line to get most of the snaps that Kamari Pleasant got last year? There’s no doubt that Newton got more snaps than Pleasant in this game, and given that they have similar body types, Newton’s upside might have moved him past Pleasant on the depth chart. You can still expect Ahmed and Sean McGrew to get their fair share of touches, with Ahmed leading the way, but Newton might have earned the primary backup role with his performance in this game.

How many true freshman will burn their redshirts this season? While it appears that Cameron Williams is set to start at safety, Coach Pete has mentioned that the coaching staff was planning on playing OLB Laiatu Latu beyond the four-game limit as well. Could Puka Nacua’s physicality earn him the right to play in more than four games? Trent McDuffie got a lot of snaps at corner and was listed as second string in the initial depth chart. So was DB Asa Turner, who also saw lots of snaps in the second half. The high quality of UW’s most recent recruits is clear, as the coaching staff is going to have a hard time keeping some of these young guys off of the field.

Can the offense perform as well against a very good Cal defense next week? We all remember the 12-10 slugfest that Cal won last year. Their defense is legit and is a hell of a test for this offense in Week 2. While a performance like this week’s is probably too much to ask for, let’s hope that Eason and the boys really bring it next week.