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Grading the Game: Arizona

Washington kept Arizona at arm’s length all game.

NCAA Football: Washington at Arizona Zachary BonDurant-USA TODAY Sports

Passing Offense - B

Explosive is certainly relative term. In some ways the final numbers speak to a good game - QB Michael Penix Jr. averaged more than 9 yards per attempt, and seven different Huskies caught a pass of at least 15 yards as Penix himself finished with 363 yards on 30/40 passing. But, the numbers will also tell you this was a game in which Penix checked down frequently, threw zero touchdowns, and was sacked twice. Courtesy of our Twitter/X account:

If this was going to be the check down game, it also needed to be the yards after catch game to keep drives alive. WR Germie Bernard was pretty consistent moving the chains (I’m counting the red zone fumble towards rushing offense since it was on a jet sweep) and lead the team in yards after catch with 88. RB Dillon Johnson caught all 5 of his targets for 48 yards, all of which were caught behind the line of scrimmage.

While it wasn’t the biggest day for the downfield passing attack, there are a couple big plays worth highlighting. Facing a 3rd-and-14 on their third drive, Bernard found space in the middle of Arizona’s defense and Penix found him just beyond the sticks for a precise 15 yards. The Huskies scored a touchdown on the drive to make it 21-7 in the second quarter. The next play is one people probably remember. Facing a 3rd and 16, Michael Penix found TE Devin Culp who made an incredible catch over an Arizona defender for 18 yards. The Huskies punched it in on the next play to take a 28-10 lead in the second half.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 30 Washington at Arizona Photo by Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Rushing Offense - A-

The coaches put a lot on RB Dillon Johnson’s shoulders, giving him the only significant carries in the game, and he finished with 91 yards on 16 attempts, plus 2 touchdowns. The last four plays of Washington’s first drive all featured Johnson:

2nd-and-12: run for 18 yards

1st-and-10: catch in the backfield and run for 18 yards

1st-and-10: run for 4 yards

1st-and-10: run for 4 yards, touchdown

It was critical to establish Johnson and his physical running early in a game where Arizona was going to do anything and everything to not get beat over the top. PFF credits 74 of his 91 rushing yards as after contact, and his physical running got the yards needed in the dying seconds of the game to seal a victory. Unfortunately it wasn’t all good, as WR Germie Bernard fumbled inside the 5 yard line when Washington was threatening to take a 3 touchdown lead.

Passing Defense - B-

Arizona QB Noah Fifita didn’t threaten deep very much and only had a handful of pass plays go for more than ten yards downfield, most of which came on Arizona’s final drive of the game. He did find space behind the linebackers, in the 10-19 yard range, and went 6/8 for 71 yards and two touchdowns. PFF credits him with no “big time throws” in the game so it’s not like he was beating the Huskies with incredible tight window completions, they were just getting beat by an admittedly very strong receiving corps. Arizona mostly found success passing, albeit not for a ton of yards per attempt (5.9).

S Vincent Nunley got his first start, and after being injured all of last season it was great to see him get an interception. Despite edge pressure leading to a poor Fifita underhand toss thing that Nunley picked off, the Huskies managed just one sack on the night. EDGE Bralen Trice’s sack was the only QB hit registered from the edge players, and just one of three total from the whole team. Arizona has good tackles, but with 39 pass attempts, you want to effect the QB more.

Washington v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Rushing Defense - B

Arizona had just two rushes go for more than ten yards and finished with 3.5 yards per carry and no touchdowns. DT Tuli Letuligasenoa forced a TFL on the first Arizona play of the game and his leaving with a leg injury impacted things. DT Ulumoo Ale was also credited with a TFL. LB Ralen Goforth made a nice tackle on an Arizona fourth down play that looked like it could have gone for significant yardage. They converted and kept the drive alive but it would have much worse without that Goforth tackle. While a solid performance, PFF credits Arizona running backs with forcing 9 missed tackles (Washington had 6 for comparison sake).

Special Teams - A

Nothing really notable happened on special teams except for the onside kick late, which UW recovered to seal the game.

Coaching - B+

Try as coaches might, sometimes they just can’t get a team to avoid looking ahead. Facing the prospect of an off week before what’s looking like the biggest Washington - Oregon match up in history, it’s possible that just maybe the team was not as locked in as they might normally be. The 12 penalties for 125 yards certainly back that up. At the end of the night, this was a comfortable victory that was never was close as the score indicated - Arizona never had the ball with a chance to win the game. Maybe this was a game to stick to the run more, but it seemed outside Dillon Johnson the coaches didn’t want to establish any other running backs. Ultimately, it was a road win to open conference play at a place Washington has not had a ton of dominant victories over the years.