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Three Things We Learned: Portland State

Bralen Trice, the running game, and receiver depth

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 10 Portland State at Washington

1. Trice As Nice

Husky fans will likely remember raising their eyebrows when former OLB coach Ikaika Malloe said that Trice could be better than Joe Tryon, who eventually became a 1st round NFL Draft pick. Well it’s looking like Malloe knew what he was talking about. Trice had a pretty good first game against Kent State but went supernova against the overmatched Vikings offensive line.

On 17 pass rush snaps Trice got 8 pressures with 3 hits and 1.5 sacks. On the season as a whole he now has a 41% pressure rate which is beyond crazy. For some context, Chase Young before becoming the #2 overall pick in the draft had a 17% career pressure rate. The aforementioned Joe Tryon had a 14% pressure rate in his last season.

Obviously we need to take into account the level of competition. Maybe Colorado ends up worse than Kent State but these are probably the worst 2 teams the Huskies will play all year. There’s no possible way that Trice keeps up this pace once the meat of the schedule arrives beginning on Saturday against Michigan State. But still it’s encouraging to see him be borderline unblockable against the worst parts of the schedule so that he still has room to drop in performance and still be a potential 1st team all-conference player.

While we’re here it’s worth noting that ZTF had the worst game of his career per Pro Football focus. He ended up with 0 pressures on 10 pass rush attempts with only 1 tackle and a late hit penalty. Through two games it seems like the right call to have Trice and Martin as the starting duo on the edge. Even if we thought the coaching staff was wrong.

2. Catch Me If You Can

One of the question marks coming out of the Kent State game was whether the rushing offense was broken or if it just struggled due to KSU making it their priority. Well we can say for certain now that at least against an FCS level of competition that the unit as a whole is capable of looking dominant. Washington had all 5 players who received at least 3 carries end up averaging 4+ yards per carry and the trio with 10+ carries all averaged at least 5.7 YPC.

As a whole the Huskies averaged 0.34 EPA per carry which is a 100th percentile mark per They also had a 59% success rate running the ball outside of garbage time which is what you’d expect for an offense that only failed to score a TD twice based on an INT and the clock running down before the half.

Time after time the offensive line was able to open up large holes allowing the backs to gain 5+ yards before getting touched. This was what we expected given that Portland State plays a very undersized front even when taking into account their FCS status. Their starting defensive linemen were 275 and 270 pounds. You would hope Washington’s offensive line is dominant in this situation and the fact that they were tells us that there’s still a chance that it will be at least an average unit against better competition.

It was also a welcome sight to get Richard Newton in the game and see him break off multiple 10+ yard runs including a gain of 21 on 2nd and 23 that set up a Husky TD. He forced 4 missed tackles which is just 2 short of Wayne Taulapapa so far this year on 13 fewer carries. Newton appears less equipped as an all-around pass catcher than the other backs but he showed at least initially coming off an ACL tear that he is worth being in the conversation for more reps. I still expect moving forward to see Taulapapa and Davis as the main options on standard downs with Nixon as a 3rd down pass catching back.

NCAA Football: Portland St. at Washington Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

3. Not Out of Their Depth

Last season we saw the wide receiver apocalypse against an FCS team when Terrell Bynum, Jalen McMillan, Rome Odunze, and Ja’Lynn Polk all got hurt within the first drive against Montana. It wasn’t a welcome sight then when Odunze just never got in the game on Saturday despite being fully dressed and having gone through warm-ups. It turned out there wasn’t anything to worry about (provided Odunze is in fact healthy by this upcoming Saturday as DeBoer says he will be).

Jalen McMillan just like he did against Arkansas State last year was a total stud with a dominant 5.5 yards per route run including an 84-yard TD where he went untouched. Giles Jackson had his best game in a Husky uniform with 6 catches for 105 yards. That included a stretch just before halftime where he caught consecutive passes for 20 yards each to put the Huskies in field goal range as the clock was running out. As was noted by several people on Twitter it was the first game for UW with multiple 100-yard receivers since 2016 against Cal.

Taj Davis was the lone member of the receiving corps that played to struggle with 0 targets in just 9 pass snaps. Ja’Lynn Polk had 47 yards and a TD reception on a shallow crosser which Polk ran into the end zone. Arizona State transfer Junior Alexander had his first career catch on a badly thrown ball by Penix that required him to go full extension into a hit and still fell forward for the first down. Finally, true freshman Denzel Boston came in and had a nice series with a 10-yard reception, drawing a PI penalty in the end zone, and then taking a fly sweep 2 yards for his first career touchdown.

With Odunze and McMillan the Huskies have potentially the 2nd best receiving corps in the conference but this game helped demonstrate there’s depth behind them. If Junior Alexander has to end up as part of the rotation for some reason then the Huskies can potentially survive that. I’m not sure if Denzel Boston is ready to play against Pac-12 competition as a true freshman but his initial outing hints that he looks to be a hit for a local mid 3-star prospect.