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The Good, The Bad, and The Unknown: Utah

Breaking down the positives and negatives from the Utah game.

NCAA Football: Utah at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Good

ZTF. The stat line should say it all: Three sacks, three TFLs, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and a 29-yard return. Zion Tupuola-Fetui also had a fourth sack scratched out after a roughing the passer penalty. At this moment, he’s statistically the best edge rusher in the country, averaging 2.33 sacks per game. After his performance against Utah, he was also a lock to earn his third straight Pac-12 Defensive Lineman of the Week Award.

Cade Otton. His stat line against Utah: Eight receptions, 108-yards, and two touchdowns. However, his stat line doesn’t properly measure how freakin’ clutch this dude was down the stretch. He hauled in Washington’s final two touchdowns of the game, including the go-ahead score with 36 seconds left on the clock. He made multiple drive-extending plays, including a head’s up play on a botched-snap during the final drive (kudos to Dylan Morris for staying calm and delivering a catchable ball to Otton). This guy has quickly become Morris’ favorite target and right now the case can be made that he’s the greatest offensive weapon the Huskies have.

Elijah Molden. Eight tackles, one TFL, and one HUGE interception. Early in the third quarter on a third and six, Molden stepped in front of a Jake Bentley pass meant for Britain Covey and returned it 24 yards to the Utah 27. His pick led directly to a Washington field goal, bringing the Dawgs within 11 points of Utah. Molden is once again proving that his hype is real and has firmly established himself as one of the best DBs in the nation.

The second half. The different between the first and second half was night and day. We’ll cover the first half later, but the second half was highlighted by 24 unanswered points from Washington’s offense, while the defense pitched a second half shutout. Some quick second-half-clutch-awards go out to CB Kyler Gordon and WR Puka Nacua. Gordon was able to force the fumble that ZTF recovered (see above), while Nacua had not only his best game of the season but also two extremely clutch catches on the final drive. Finally, a big shout out to Morris’ for bouncing back in the second half to pull off the epic come from behind win. This guy has some serious ice in his veins:

The Bad

The first half. Woof. A young and largely unproven Utah team came out and enforced their will on what looked liked an unprepared Washington team. It was ugly. The Huskies didn’t score. Morris threw two picks. Washington’s offensive possessions went like this: interception, punt, punt, missed field goal, interception. We’ll get into more of the specifics below, suffice to say many people had written the Huskies’ chances off when they went into the locker room down 21-0 at the half. The only real scoring threat Washington amounted the entire half was a fake field goal attempt (that they didn’t attempt), which led to a delay of game penalty. After taking the 5-yard loss Peyton Henry just missed a 40-yard field goal. Again, woof.

Washington’s run defense. Utah gashed the Huskies for 215 yards on the ground, 134 of which came in the first half. The Utes ended the game with an average of 5.1 yards per carry. There were many plays where the Husky defensive line was getting blown off the ball. In one case highlighted on the TV broadcast, DT Jacob Bandes was dominated by a double-team and pushed a solid 10-yards downfield. Another factor that played into this was Utah QB Bentely’s feet. Known as a pocket passer, Bentely ended the game with 33 rushing yards (which includes the three sacks he took) on 10 carries. In the first half, Washington wasn’t spying Bentely, who took several opportunities to run up the middle when Washington’s defensive ends (OLBs) were too wide/deep while crashing the pocket. Thanks to Bentely’s surprisingly nibble feet, Utah was able to convert several third downs and extend long drives. This was largely corrected in the second half when Jackson Sirmon was used as an effective spy on Bentely (more or less effective that is - he made one too many tackles from his knees).

Washington’s running game. Despite a strong start to the season, the Huskies only managed to compile 88 rushing yards against an always stout Utah front seven. Instead of the four headed monster we saw in the first two games, Richard Newton was suited but never saw the field against the Utes. I’m sure there were reasons, but these things are always a head scratcher. Anyway, Kamari Pleasant had the most touches (12), as well as the only rushing touchdown, but a poor average of 2.8 yards per carry. Sean McGrew averaged 5.1 yards on seven carries, while Cameron Davis had just one yard on two carries. Wide receiver Terrell Bynum also added 24 yards on two carries. It appeared that Washington’s offensive line was struggling to get a consistent push, especially in the first half, and was allowing Utah’s defense to frequently blow up plays in the backfield. Given the Huskies needed to play catch up in the second half and throw more, there were few opportunities later in the game for the RBs to make a significant impact in this one.

The Unknown

What’s up with Ryan Bowman being out? The senior OLB didn’t play in Saturday’s game and wasn’t seen on the sidelines. Unfortunately for us fans, Coach Lake will never tell. That’s probably the right call for the program but it leaves us in the dark. While Bowman’s absence likely contributed to the Huskies struggling to stop Utah’s running game, it did provide an opportunity for freshman OLB Sav’ell Smalls to get a bunch of reps.

Will the Stanford game happen? If so, where? With new health regulations impacting Santa Clara County football teams, Washington’s game against Stanford will not be played in Palo Alto, if it’s played at all. Here’s the good/most recent news on the matter: