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Utah Rewatch Diary- 1st Half

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What went wrong for the Dawgs early in this one before they turned things around?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 28 Utah at Washington Photo by Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Welcome to part 3 in our re-watch diary series where we’re going back and reviewing each of Washington’s 4 games from last season. Because it turns out that I write a lot of notes when watching a game, I’ve once again divided this up into a 1st and 2nd half article. It turns out in this game, that really matters.

Remember when reading this half, it all gets better.

DEFENSIVE DRIVE #1- 15:00 1ST QUARTER

  • First play of the game it looks like Jackson Sirmon is in position to snuff out a run for no gain but he can’t bring Wilmore down and it’s a gain of 4 for Utah.
  • After playing Oregon State and Arizona it didn’t seem like it was possible to torch UW’s passing defense. Keith Taylor is within a half step of Utah’s Bryan Thompson down the sideline but Jake Bentley somehow sneaks it in perfectly. Thompson made a diving one-handed catch for a 33-yard gain just before Taylor could catch up or Asa Turner could get over in time to help.
  • 2 minutes into the game and it already hits hard that we’ll never get to see another game from Utah RB Ty Jordan after he tragically passed away in the offseason. His first carry wasn’t anything special but he was electric throughout this game and would’ve undoubtedly become a star in his time at Utah. RIP.
  • In the 4th quarter against Arizona the Huskies had a tough time with their backup defense bringing down Grant Gunnell when scrambling. On 3rd and 8, Jackson Sirmon has Jake Bentley dead to rights for a sack outside of field goal range after zooming in unblocked on a blitz but misses his 2nd tackle of the drive. As Bentley escapes the pocket, Josiah Bronson also slides off of him.
  • A nice pass rush and QB hit by Faatui Tuitele on 2nd down forces Bentley to throw the ball away before getting taken down. And on the next play again Tuitele beats his man and forces the Utah RB outside where he’s taken down for a loss of 5 by Elijah Molden. Best 2-play stretch of his career by far for Faatui.
  • ZTF bails the Huskies out on 3rd and long as UW rushes 3 but has both ILBs spying Bentley to prevent another scramble. Still, ZTF soundly beats Utah’s left tackle and takes down Bentley before he can throw it away, knocking the ball loose, and allowing Jackson Sirmon to get the recovery for a turnover.

OFFENSIVE DRIVE #1- 10:53 1ST QUARTER

  • The broadcast points out that at this point UW is averaging over 250 yards per game on the ground and all 4 running backs average better than 5 yards per carry. That’s about to change...
  • The Huskies after a 1st down slant throw to Puka Nacua run the offense out of a phone booth. All 11 offensive players are within the space between the hashes and Utah correspondingly has a 10-man box. Kamari Pleasant manages to break 2 tackles to win the numbers game back and get a 1st down.
  • After the O-line protected Morris so well in his first 2 games the question was what would he do under heavy pressure? On 2nd and long he throws it incomplete over the head of a double covered receiver. On 3rd down Morris gets rid of it just before getting sandwiched while scrambling to his right and throws it straight to a Utah defender camped out 5 yards in front of a double covered Terrell Bynum. By far the worst throw/decision of Morris’ young career at that point.

DEFENSIVE DRIVE #2- 7:58 1ST QUARTER

  • The defense does a good job forcing a 4th and 4 but Utah just outside of field goal range decides to stay aggressive. Sav’ell Smalls tries a speed rush on the outside but is shoved past Bentley by the Utah right tackle. That creates a clear open lane and Bentley is able to shamble through it for a first down as the linebackers were preoccupied with some shallow crossing routes.
  • Utah runs a jet sweep with Ty Jordan and Sav’ell Smalls is the unblocked guy on the edge who can’t find the right angle as Jordan skirts right past him. Jackson Sirmon contacts him 3 yards past the line of scrimmage but Jordan still manages to gain another 5 yards down to the 7-yard line.
  • The cameraman got juked on a play action naked bootleg and so did Josiah Bronson who waited about a full second before deciding the RB had taken the handoff. That meant that he both was too late to try to tackle the RB and left no one going after Bentley. It became a battle between Elijah Molden and a 6 inches taller Bentley with a full head of steam at the 1-yard line and Bentley easily jumped over him. Touchdown and Utah takes a 7-0 lead.

OFFENSIVE DRIVE #2- 2:13 1ST QUARTER

  • An ineffective 3 and out for UW as they go quick pass to Bynum for 1, run with Pleasant which gets strung out for -1, and crosser to Bynum who is well short of the marker. Utah on 3rd down played a typical UW defense as they went cover 2 and forced everything short then swarmed and made the tackle. The old Seahawks run it on 2nd and long did not help things.
  • A nice hard tackle by MJ Tafisi on the punt as the Utah returner caught it with a full head of steam and then was quickly flattened. So at least that’s something.

DEFENSIVE DRIVE #3- 0:04 1ST QUARTER

  • And the 1st quarter ends on a scramble by Bentley to pick up about 6. How fitting.
  • A nice play by Sav’ell Smalls who evades the left tackle and meets the Utah RB at the line of scrimmage single-handedly holding him to a gain of 2.
  • Then on 2nd down Molden makes a stop for a short gain and a 3rd and 7 pass only goes for a gain of 4 and the Huskies force the punt which once again is fair caught inside the 10. A bad addiction for UW punt returners.

OFFENSIVE DRIVE #3- 12:05 2ND QUARTER

  • Starting the drive at their own 8-yard line the Huskies go conservative with heavy formations and consecutive runs up the middle with Sean McGrew that only net a combined 5 yards.
  • The interception Morris threw earlier was by far the worst pass of his college career so far but this one was his 2nd worst. Morris tries to hit McGrew in the flat but the pass hits Utah’s corner in the hands and fortunately for the Huskies he unnecessarily dives and drops it in the process or it would’ve been a pick-6. If the pass had been on target then McGrew would’ve been hit immediately for no gain. Instead Morris threw it about 5 feet to McGrew’s left and right at the charging corner. A little bit of pressure up the middle forced Morris to backpedal just before letting go which likely led to the accuracy problem but it’s an inexcusable throw for a starting power conference QB.
  • Another good job as the gunner by Kyler Gordon forcing Britain Covey to call a fair catch rather than get blown up. Stay safe Britain.

DEFENSIVE DRIVE #4- 10:25 2ND QUARTER

  • On 1st down Utah runs an end around with TE Brant Kuithe and Cooper McDonald is responsible for the edge. He takes a step inside at the snap which means he’s ultimately a step slow to get back outside and it’s a gain of 9 before Jackson Sirmon can get over to the sideline.
  • Ty Jordan with a phenomenal run for Utah that brings them all the way down to the 5-yard line. Both Cooper McDonald and Keith Taylor dive for Jordan’s ankles just past the line of scrimmage and come up grasping nothing but air. Both safeties got washed out which left Trent McDuffie the last line of defense and he shoves him out of bounds at the 5.
  • Utah goes hurry up off the big play and credit the UW defense for keeping him to a short gain immediately after getting gashed. Unfortunately after another short gain the Utes were able to punch it in on 3rd down. Alfonzo Tuputala was giving Edefuan Ulofoshio a breather and he is dragged across the end zone line by the Utah running back. Touchdown Utah 14-0.

OFFENSIVE DRIVE #4- 7:55 2ND QUARTER

  • In real time I remember that I wasn’t nervous quite yet provided that the Husky offense, not backed up inside their own 10, was able to put together a consistent drive and put points on the board.
  • Sean McGrew sure made it look like the offense was going to take off. He takes a checkdown pass for 6 yards on the first play of the drive. Then he jukes the right corner out of his shoes and scoots past him before finally driving his helmet into the safety’s chest and keeping his legs moving to pick up an extra 4-5 yards at the end of the play. It’s a gain of nearly 30 and by far the biggest play of the night to that point for UW.
  • It didn’t seem like Utah appreciated McGrew’s quality running as the next play was a throw-away over his head and Utah’s LB blindside decked McGrew from the back even though he made no attempt to catch it. On 2nd down there were 3 Utes in the backfield before McGrew was handed the ball and he loses 2.
  • A checkdown to Bynum creates a 4th and 4 outside of field goal range and Lake feels the urgency and keeps the offense on the field. Washington waited until there was 1 second left on the play clock to snap it but get it off and Puka Nacua easily beats his man on a slant and picks up the first down.
  • Cam Davis makes his first appearance of the game and gets a toss left on 2nd and 6 but it isn’t great blocking and he is forced to dive forward for a gain of 1.
  • Morris on 3rd down chooses to take a deep shot and Bynum had a shot at it but couldn’t figure out which way to turn his head back and didn’t see the ball in time at the back corner. If the ball had instead been thrown to the corner so Bynum didn’t have to turn against the grain it’s probably a TD but the coverage didn’t allow for a slightly misplaced ball.
  • For the 2nd time this season, indecision on 4th down likely costs Washington a chance at points. The Huskies tried to catch Utah off guard by running Race Porter up as if he was going to take a snap under center likely hoping for an offsides. However, they only get lined up like that with 3 seconds left so there wasn’t any time for Utah to really react or to call a timeout when it didn’t work. Instead it’s a delay of game and Henry misses the 40-yard field goal when it looked like it would’ve been good from 5 yards closer.

DEFENSIVE DRIVE #5- 3:51 2ND QUARTER

  • Utah starts this drive content to start running the clock down to ensure the Huskies don’t get another shot at it. They go run for 7, run for 4, run for 7, and run for -1 before UW finally forces a 3rd down with fewer than 2 minutes to go in the half.
  • The Utes run a slant and it’s the rare Elijah Molden misplay as he seemingly wanted to go for the pick but had no chance for it and as a result wasn’t in position to make the tackle. Instead, Bryan Thompson is able to do some nifty run after the catch and picks up an extra 20 yards to get into Washington territory quickly. Thompson ended up shaken up on the play as it looked like he hit the ground head first after the tackle attempt.
  • The Huskies don’t quite get a break when Bentley throws behind a receiver on another slant and the bounce hits Jackson Sirmon’s hand but he can’t make an interception. It would’ve been a spectacular play if he had so definitely not a negative play by Sirmon.
  • And another play against the Huskies as ZTF destroys Utah’s right tackle and obliterates Jake Bentley, forcing a fumble recovered by Utah’s OL. Unfortunately, as ZTF ran by his arm hit Bentley’s neck rather than his chest and he got a roughing penalty for contacting the bottom of the QB’s helmet. This wouldn’t have been a penalty 3 years ago and it wasn’t egregious contact as it was all in the arm but any contact with any part of the QB’s helmet these days is a personal foul. Utah gets the ball just outside the red zone rather than a 2nd and very long around midfield.
  • Yet another defensive breakdown on a scramble by Bentley as ZTF again beats the right tackle but Bentley moves into the vacated space just as he dives at his ankles. Sam Taimani also dives to make the tackle at the line of scrimmage but misses as well. Jackson Sirmon was next up but got shoved in the back which wasn’t called and knocks him out of position. Now the Utes are inside the 15.
  • Utah runs a slot fade after they get Alex Cook on their best big play threat Bryan Thompson. Cook gets...well cooked at the line of scrimmage and Thompson has a 3-yard head start with nothing but an empty corner of the end zone in front of him by the time Cook flips his hips. Bentley almost overthrows it but it ends up falling into Thompson’s arms with exactly enough space to keep one foot down. Touchdown. Utah 21, Washington 0.

OFFENSIVE DRIVE #5- 0:42 2ND QUARTER

  • With 2 timeouts left there’s still enough time for Washington to try to march down and kick a field goal.
  • Morris gets absolutely crushed by a Utah corner blitz on 1st down right as he lets go of the ball. That likely was the reason it was a little high and Bynum can’t come down with it as he was wide open coming across the middle of the field at the sticks. If he hits Bynum in stride it’s at least a gain of 20 and if it’s 3 inches lower probably a gain of at least 10.
  • Ty Jones gets a catch and run 1st down using the ref in the middle of the field to set a pick and gain an extra few yards.
  • Kamari Pleasant also gets a 1st down to midfield on a check down but would’ve had another 5 yards and gotten out of bounds if he hadn’t gotten tripped by the turf monster without getting touched. The Huskies use their 2nd timeout.
  • Washington winds up with a 4th and 1 from the 41 with 0:01 left on the clock and choose to go for the Hail Mary. Morris heaves it for Ty Jones but he’s triple covered and it’s easily picked off at the goal line. It was almost disaster as Utah returned it all the way back to the UW 20 before Kamari Pleasant shoved the returner out of bounds. Ty Jones likely would’ve made the tackle right after the pick but another Utah defender clearly held his arm to keep him from doing so.
  • I also had completely forgotten that on the way out of bounds the defender collided with one of Pac-12 sideline guys and he was knocked unconscious slamming his head into the ground. They mentioned later in the broadcast that he eventually was able to walk away under his own power but man was that scary as he just did not move a muscle while collapsed on top of the Utah player.
  • I’ll fully admit that at the time I had absolutely 0 hope of the Dawgs making a comeback and it seems just as unbelievable watching it again now.

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To continue on to the 2nd half diary you can click right here. It’s a good palate cleanser, I promise.