That sucked. To the grades.
If the Eastern game was Jacob Eason close to his best, the Cal game has to be him close to his worst. The quality of opponent plays a large part here, but I saw a significantly less comfortable QB commanding the offense. He got zero help from his receivers (more on that below), but more worrisome was that he seemed to sense pressure too early and break the pocket when he had open receivers downfield. The interception wasn’t a great throw - I like trusting in Hunter Bryant to make the catch but he has to place the ball on the outside shoulder. He had Aaron Fuller open deep for a potential touchdown later in the game but he overshot him. He finished 18/30 but there were at least 5 terrible drops from the receivers that lower his completion percentage. Despite that, this was not the performance you were hoping for against a top defense - it was just more of the same that we’ve seen out of the QB position the past 5 years. Hopefully this is rock bottom and he bounces back.
Running Back: B
The running backs I thought played decently well and were the only functional part of the offense. Salvon had one of his best career games with 21 carries for 119 yards and a beautiful TD run on 4th down in the first half. The 21 carries for Ahmed is his career high and he had some nice runs late in the game, wiggling between the tackles and using his eye popping acceleration for extra yards. Richard Newton looked solid again and it’s safe to say he’s the new #2 back, averaging 4.7 YPC.
Wide Receiver: D
Multiple drops from senior wide receivers is just not good enough. They can’t grow taller, magically become faster, or enhance any other physical attribute. But they can catch the ball when they’re open, and they failed to do that on multiple occasions. Only three WR in total even caught a pass: Fuller, Baccellia, and McClatcher. Fuller had a bad drop late in the game where Washington had to settle for a field goal on the drive. Andre Baccellia had a chance at a touchdown but couldn’t drag his foot in the end zone. Again Washington settled for a field goal on the drive. That’s 6 points that could have been 14.
Tight End: B
Hunter Bryant and Cade Otton got a ton of usage this game and we can expect to see that continue all year with the thin numbers at TE. They finished with 4 receptions a piece, and Bryant’s YAC ability was on display for all to see, as he always managed to get a few extra yards when it seemed he was about to be stopped. Cade Otton showed great hands and that he can be a very reliable short-to-mid range threat in the pass game. The blocking from both of them was solid.
Offensive Line: C
They allowed 4 sacks and 7 TFLs - not good enough, especially at home. Not all the sacks were their fault as Eason took off early a couple times, but the line play is still not where it needs to be. Newly converted OL Cory Luciano got called for a false start on 4th and 1 from the two yard line, causing the Huskies to settle for a field goal, yet again. Luke Wattenburg got beaten a few time as well, and was called for a hold on a key drive.
Defensive Line: C+
They started off the game strong, getting tons of interior pressure, but faded as the night wore on. Seeing Tuli get a sack was awesome. However, when it mattered most, they failed. Marcel Dancy only got 7 carries, but he made them count, to the tune of 72 yard and two touchdowns, running right through the heart of the Husky D. It is slight concerning that Levi Onwuzurike hasn’t quite made his presence felt yet.
This is partially on the LBs, but they did a very poor job as a defense keeping contain. Ethan Garbers constantly kept drives alive by scrambling for short 4-5-6 yard gains. He was credited with 13 rushes. Thirteen! The DL and LBs let him outside the pocket all too often. Just one sack and TFL from this group (Tuli) is not good enough.
Too many missed tackles for the second level of the Husky defense. In the middle, Kyler Manu and Brandon Wellington led the team with 5 tackles a piece, with Wellington getting a TFL early too. He looks good shooting gaps into the backfield but I worry where he was on those gut punching runs from Cal. Jackson Sirmon got plenty of time as well and finished with 3 tackles. Both Cal RBs got at least one 20+ yard run in the game which means linebackers that are either taking poor angles, or are getting blocked by OL at the second level. No one in the middle had the presence you want to see from a MLB.
The play from the outside linebackers wasn’t pretty either, though Laiatu Latu had his moments. Joe Tryon had a good stat line - 7 tackles, a TFL, and a sack - but on a few occasions whiffed in the backfield and was a main culprit in losing outside contain. Outside linebackers have a big role in creating turnovers through QB pressures, and Cal’s offense had ZERO. They also had no TFLs on either Cal running back.
It should have been painfully obvious after moving Myles Bryant to one safety spot, and putting a true freshman at the other that this was going to be a position that went through some growing pains, which we saw Saturday night. Cam Williams had a running back bounce right off him and lead to a touchdown - both he and Myles Bryant finished the game with just two solo tackles a piece. I didn’t think the secondary necessary had a bad game, but like the DL, they gave up big plays when it mattered most. On Cal’s final drive, Chase Garbers completed passes of 19 and 27 yards. Combined with Kyler Gordon’s poorly timed PI, it moved Cal to practically the goal line, giving them an easy field goal for the win.
Special Teams: A
Peyton Henry is the player of the game for me. He drilled all 4 of his field goals including a 50 yarder to put the Huskies in the lead late. Punting was on point and Joel Whitford did a good job of flipping the field. Sean McGrew had a long kick off return to open the game, and overall special teams looked sharp. If anything I expected weird special teams things to lose us the game, but instead the unit nearly won the game for the Huskies.
For all the griping about the defense, they still held Cal to just 303 total yards and only 6.2 yards per per pass. But it was the critical moments that Washington lost - most notably on Cal’s final drive where untimely penalties from the Huskies and clutch play from the Golden Bear offense which decided the game. The defense got decidedly beaten when it mattered most, and preparation for those moments is on the coaches. That side of the ball needs to grow up quickly because teams with more firepower than Cal are coming up on the schedule.
Offensively, the team will probably look a lot better against Hawaii and BYU. But it remains befuddling as to why none of the young wide receivers are even sniffing the field. I can’t imagine that one of Austin Osborne, Puka Nacua, or Terrell Bynum are so much further behind the starting trio that they can’t have a positive impact on the field, in a game. My gut says we aren’t going to see much of those guys until at least midway through the season. But on Saturday against Cal, it could not have hurt to try some new bodies, because what was out there was not working.