Passing Offense - A
Not much could have gone better for the debut of the new look Husky pass game. PFF awarded Michael Penix a 93 pass game grade for his 345 yard, 4 touchdown performance. He was never even hit as the offensive line kept him clean all night, and he found open receiver after open receiver, showing off an impressive arm. Eight different UW players caught at least two passes, including running backs Cam Davis and Will Nixon. It’s one game against a questionable defense, but this pass game looks diverse and explosive.
Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan got open and caught nearly everything thrown at them; McMillan had a drop but redeemed himself with a TD on the next play. He played a third of the snaps of Odunze, but it is worth noting Taj Davis scored an 88 grade from PFF and had the highest yards per catch on the team with 24. Ultimately, the pass game was the backbone that allowed Washington to have its first punt late in the 3rd quarter, win the time of possession battle, and generate 29 first downs.
Rushing Offense - C
Not bad, but also not the performance you would want to see against a Kent State defense that was one of the worst in the nation last season. The three backs who got carries - Wayne Taulapapa, Will Nixon, and Cam Davis - averaged just 3.7 yards per, but did score two touchdowns. The run game didn’t hinder a Washington offense that scored on its first six drives, five of which were touchdowns, but it also failed to establish itself meaningfully in the game. Nixon and Taulapapa also fumbled, though luckily were able to recover both.
As much credit as the offensive line deserves in pass protection, they failed to do enough consistently throughout the game to help the running backs. Hopefully, teams will have to respect the pass game, and it will soften things up when Washington decides to keep the ball on the ground. Something to monitor as the season progresses.
Passing Defense - C-
This is where things get tricky. Holding your opponent to less than 200 passing yards on 6.7 yards per attempt and 3 interceptions, on paper, is a solid game. However, is anyone encouraged by the play they saw from the secondary on Saturday night? Washington DBs have set a lofty bar in recent years so anything short of elite would be a regression, but this was more of a step back than many had hoped for. The corners in particular had trouble with Kent State’s stud WR Dante Cephas. He’s a great player but new starter Jordan Perryman missed a couple tackles and let him get open too frequently. Mishael Powell had a nice tackle for loss on a screen play but struggled in coverage as well. The safeties were a bit better, Alex Cook especially. Asa Turner had two interceptions to kill Kent State drives, but also missed a few tackles, and ideally your safeties are some of your surest tacklers on the team.
The pass rush showed some spark, but too many times had QB Collin Schlee in their grasp only to let him slip away, finishing with just one sack. Schlee is a big, mobile quarterback who will give a lot of teams trouble this year but 50 yards on scrambles is too much. That said, Sav’ell Smalls looked lively, as did Bralen Trice. In fact the four primary edge guys - Smalls, Trice, Jeremiah Martin, and ZTF - finished with 13 quarterback hurries. And despite ZTF not having the splashiest game, PFF gave him the second highest grade on the defense (76). Despite missing out on too many sacks, this is an exciting and talented group for the Huskies.
Rushing Defense - B-
An encouraging start for the front seven who held one of the best rushing attacks in college football to under 150 yards (3.8 YPC) and a single touchdown. It was not perfect, but the middle linebackers looked more physical and ready than last year to meet players in the hole, Alphonso Tuputala especially. The sophomore finished with a team high 8 tackles and a tackle for loss. The the DL and linebackers look noticeably improved from a year ago, but there’s still work to be done here.
Special Teams - C-
No major gaffs like blocked kicks or allowing return touchdowns, but special teams must improve. One punt was only 20 yards, and kickoff coverage was poor. Giles Jackson fumbled a return, and when defending, Washington allowed too many long kickoffs (28 and 52 yards).
Coaching - B+
Washington thoroughly beat a solid team and showed more life in four quarters than it did in forty-eight quarters last season. The offensive scheme is simple for quarterbacks but challenging for defenses to handle and it finally looks like the players are being put in positions to succeed.
Good special teams play is usually a sign of a well coached and solid team, which is keeping this from being an A. Of course, I could also ding the coaches on the defense and run game, but this game was never in doubt and showed a refreshing change of pace after last season’s debacle. Ultimately, that’s what they needed to do. It is just a one game sample size, but it demonstrated that these coaches have a plan and real ideas in place.