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Grading the Game: UCLA

After the first loss of the season, how did the Huskies perform?

NCAA Football: Washington at UCLA Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Passing Offense - C

Let’s start with the relative good. As will be the case for most of the season, the passing game was the best thing UW put on the field on Friday night. It still wasn’t great, with most of the damage coming late in the game when it was mostly decided, but Michael Penix Jr. added another 4 TDs and 345 to his season totals, giving him his best statistical season of his career. That being said, the two interceptions were poor, coming right after UCLA had extended their lead. They are the type of forced throws you want an experienced player to avoid.

UCLA played zone most of the night, dropping a lot of bodies into coverage, which UW struggled against. Per Bill C’s numbers, UW attempted 34 passes against the zone with a 55% success rate and 15.8% explosive play rate. Those numbers are not horrible, but much of the success came late in a failed comeback attempt. Where the numbers do tell the story of the game is how Penix performed against pressure - he was pressured on 15 drop backs and earned a 36 PFF grade on those snaps.

NCAA Football: Washington at UCLA Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Rushing Offense - C-

Washington didn’t try terribly hard to establish the run, with just 17 carries for 72 yards in total. Washington backs averaged 1.5 yards before contact per rush, so they weren’t getting much help from the offensive line. And with 1.4 yards per rush after contact, they weren’t breaking tackles themselves either. The fumbled pitch on the goal line squandered any momentum Washington had from their defensive stand on the prior series and is the type of unforced error you don’t want your experienced running back to make.

Rushing Defense - C+

Washington did a respectable job against UCLA’s ground game. Zach Charbonnet averaged 5.6 yards per carry and scored a touchdown, but Washington was able to hold UCLA to under 190 yards for the game. That said, UCLA did have only 10% of their runs go for zero or fewer yards (compared to 20% for Washington), and over 3 yards before contact per rush. While UCLA wasn’t gashing the UW front all night, their offensive line was making holes and Washington had a hard time meeting Charbonnet or DTR at the line of scrimmage.

NCAA Football: Washington at UCLA Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Passing Defense - D

All you need to hear about the defensive performance this game is that DTR had the best statistical game of his career, doing most of his damage through the air. Jordan Perryman was the only bright spot, but just about everyone else had a poor game. DTR did not attack downfield a ton (average depth of target 5.8 yards) but UW still couldn’t keep UCLA receivers covered. The DL and linebackers generated pressure against DTR on 35% of his drop backs, but couldn’t bring him down and prevent him from shredding the secondary. The only receiving threat UCLA had who was an actual wide receiver was Jake Bobo, and he destroyed Washington to the tune of 142 yards and 2 touchdowns, with a healthy 23.7 yards per catch.

Special Teams - C+

Washington only punted once, a nice 50 yarder for Jack McCallister. Peyton Henry drilled a 50 yarder field goal of his own. However, UW allowed kick returns of 31 and 40 yards, one of which required a soccer style tackle (of the red card variety) from UW kicker Grady Gross to prevent a TD.

Coaching - C

Offensively, I would have liked Washington to commit to the run earlier, as it seemed to be getting yards while UCLA was selling out against the pass. But, the strengths of this team are clearly at QB/WR and and I think the coaches view the run game as just a compliment, and not something they can rely on to shoulder the load for an entire game.

Defensively, the front seven did an admirable job against a tough opponent and physical run game. On the back end, I’m not sure there is much to change - they just need to win more one-on-ones. Maybe it’s getting more pressure on the QB to help the secondary, but that could lead to even more explosive pass plays if not implemented correctly by the coaches.

There was a lot working against UW in this game. It was a night game on the road after a short week, and situation which Pac-12 teams do not perform well. No UW coach has ever started their career 5-0. Washington hasn’t won two in a row at UCLA since the early 1960s. It was Washington’s first road game of the season during the same week that classes started. The coaches won’t point to any of that as an excuse, but they were factors. How Washington responds against Arizona State - another venue that hasn’t been kind to UW historically - will tell a lot.