I’ll try to keep this short.
Pass Defense - B+
Hard to blame the loss on a unit that largely did its job. There were fourth quarter completions that ultimately allowed Montana to score, but they passed for only 105 total yards and 4.3 per attempt. WR Samuel Akem, who could be in the NFL soon, was held in check with only two catches and a long of 8 yards. However, it is hard to go beyond a B+ for this part of the defense since they didn’t cause any turnovers or big plays to change the momentum. Sure, they mostly shut down an over matched opponent, but they didn’t do anything extra to put the team over the top.
Bookie Radley-Hiles got a face mask penalty on his first play as a Husky. Can’t say Oklahoma fans didn’t warn us.
Rush Defense - C+
This is where things start to get bad for the defense. While the final numbers don’t look horrific - 3.7 yards per rush and only 1 TD - the tape tells a different story. Quite frankly, the front seven were completely handled by Montana’s offensive line. The DL couldn’t get off blocks or contain QB Cam Humphrey’s scrambling, and the tackling by the linebackers was poor. Montana ran the ball 34 times and Edefuan Ulofoshio only had 3 solo tackles. A player like that should be living in the backfield against an FCS opponent. The team totaled just one sack, from Cooper McDonald, and 5 tackles for loss. Those numbers are unimpressive against Cal, no less Montana.
The defense isn’t truly at fault for this loss, but if this one game is any indication, the problems of the last couple of years have not yet been solved. The secondary is still largely great, but this team can be weak against the run, and they struggle making plays in the backfield.
Pass Offense - D+
Not much to say here that everyone couldn’t see with their own eyes. This grade is a D+ and not a D because of the injuries at wide receiver - not having Bynum and Odunze there hampered them. Left with just 3 scholarship receivers (more on that below) Cade Otton pretty much carried the entire pass offense, and that is about it. Otherwise, Dylan Morris was atrocious and played by far his worst game in his short 5 game career. Even being shorthanded, they should still dominate a team like Montana. What they ended up with was 4.9 yards per attempt, 3 interceptions, and no touchdowns.
Rush Offense - D
After the talk of the head coach and offensive coordinator all year, the performance of the run game was particularly difficult to stomach. Let’s start with the offensive line: the experienced unit was simply awful. UW running backs rushed 21 times and generated a measly 70 yards. Dylan Morris had rushers in face all night and they allowed 8 tackles for loss against an undersized FCS defensive line. They simply wanted it more. The only running backs to get opportunities were Richard Newton and Cam Davis. Newton had a few okay runs but needs to do much more if he’s to be the #1 back. Davis offered next to nothing. It was a surprise not seeing Sean McGrew get at least one series with the offense struggling so much.
Special Teams - B
Like the defense, the special teams were fine, but needed to be dominant against an FCS team. Trent McDuffie had a nice play downing a punt near the goal line. Peyton Henry started the reason off on the wrong foot missing his one field goal attempt, a 50 yarder.
Coaching - F
This loss ultimately falls on the staff for failing to prepare the team and getting them ready to play with focus and emotion. It doesn’t matter what happens for the rest of the Jimmy Lake tenure, this is a stain that might not ever get removed. Lake has spoken with a lot of bravado about the expectations for this team, and I am not sure calling what happened on Saturday “failing to deliver” even comes close to encompassing it.
Offensively, this team still has no identity and OC John Donavan has failed so far to instill one. In last year’s shortened season, it was all about “run the damn ball” - and run the ball they did. One would then think that down to just three scholarship wide receivers after the first drive of the game, the coaches would turn back to the strategy they seemed so passionate about last year. Instead, Donavan called 23 rushing plays and 46 passes. When the already weakest position group on the team was suddenly devastated by injuries, they seemingly doubled down on trying to have that group win the game. Having only 8 scholarship wide receivers on the roster is not typical for a college football team, and is something that should have been addressed even more during the off season. Instead, it has already been a contributing factor to the worst loss in program history.
That isn’t the only puzzling decision. I am not saying Sean McGrew was going to win the game for the Huskies, but not giving a single snap on the field to one of the more explosive backs on the team? Scott Huff deserves a hefty amount of blame as well. This is his season to finally prove his recruiting chops are worth something on the field. While he’s seemingly done great developing tackles Jaxson Kirkland and Victor Curne, the interior of the offensive line, in particular the guards, got pushed around on Saturday. If left and right guard are a revolving door during the season, it’s hard to see the offense getting any stable footing.