1. Deja Vu All Over Again?
Last year, Washington’s defense was as bad as it was in large part because of repeated injuries at the cornerback position combined with a lack of depth. That resulted, for instance, in true freshman Jaivion Green playing the majority of the snaps in the biggest game of the season when the Dawgs traveled to Oregon.
We aren’t quite to the “oh no” part of the season when it comes to injuries but things are beginning to add up even if UW has only given up 29 points through 2 games. So far thouh the injuries have at least been spread out across the defense.
Defensive lineman Faatui Tuitele only played a couple snaps in the opener before getting banged up after missing most of the spring with an injury and sat out this game. Starting edge rusher Zion Tupoula-Fetui missed the game against Tulsa with an undisclosed injury suffered in practice. CB Davon Banks was the star of the first game but left the game due to injury. And then S Asa Turner only played a few snaps before winding up in street clothes after halftime.
Now none of those players are official to miss substantial time (they’re all still on this week’s depth chart which means none are season-ending). Hopefully some of them could’ve played except that the coaching staff knew they weren’t needed against Tulsa. Still, it’s not great that we’re through what was likely the easiest 2-game stretch on the schedule and Washington already is without a key contributor at every position on defense but linebacker.
If there is a spot where injuries may be stacking like last year, it’s on the offensive side though at running back. After Dillon Johnson started week one in place of the injured Cam Davis, Johnson himself was scratched for this game. He had been trying to come back from an injury of his own in the preseason and didn’t look 100% last week so it could easily be the coaches deciding to let him rest before he’s more needed against Michigan State. But given how ineffective UW’s running game has looked, it’s not a great sign...
2. Second Verse, Same as the First
Last week the most common sentiment from fans were: what’s wrong with the running game and what’s wrong with the pass rush? Well this week didn’t exactly do much to allay fears.
The overall rushing stats don’t look too bad because the wide receivers ended up with 4 carries for 39 yards and 2 TDs plus Michael Penix scrambled twice for 11 yards. If instead you look at just the running backs then they went for 49 yards on 16 carries or just over 3 yards a pop. And unlike Boise, Tulsa was trying to keep everything in front of them in the passing game and not get beat deep. It didn’t help UW’s run game. Now Washington travels to take on Michigan State.
One of the easy explanations for the lack of a pass rush against Boise was the rushing threat presented by QB Taylen Green and the need to contain him in the pocket. That wasn’t the case against Tulsa particularly when they made the switch to their 3rd string QB. Still, the only QB hit from a member of the Husky front 7 was a sack by Voi Tunuufi on 4th and short on what looked like a designed QB run that got blown up from the start.
Bralen Trice averaged 5.4 pressures per game last year when he led the country in that category. So far he has just 3 total pressures and 0 QB hits in 58 pass rush opportunities through 2 games. That’s not going to cut it against higher level competition. He (and the injured ZTF) both have to massively improve in upcoming weeks if Washington is to come close to reaching their ceiling.
3. Perfectly Imperfect
Washington’s receivers stats through the first 2 games of the year are definitely mind-boggling. If you pro-rate Washington’s WR stats to be over a full 12-game schedule they would finish like this:
Rome Odunze- 84 catches for 1,434 yds and 12 TDs plus 6 rush TDs
Jalen McMillan- 96 catches for 1,290 yds and 18 TDs plus 6 rush TDs
Ja’Lynn Polk- 48 catches for 1,092 yds and 6 TDs plus 6 rush TDs
Three 1,000-yard receivers!?!
We can be almost certain that none of that trio will finish with quite that many yards or touchdowns by season’s end. The competition will get harder and at some point UW will play a game where they actually are able to run the ball or struggle to throw it. And just think how much better those numbers would look if Odunze and McMillan had played entirely like the superstars they are?
Odunze had a pair of drops on wide open looks that would’ve potentially added another pair of receptions and 30+ yards to his tally. McMillan dropped a 30+ yard TD and then later in the possession lost a fumble that prevented a chance for another Husky score. Let’s just give Odunze one extra catch for 15 yards and McMillan an extra 15 yards and a TD (he made up some of the lost receiving yards on the drop on the catch and run that resulted in the fumble). That puts Odunze on pace for over 1,500 yards and McMillan up over 1,350 and 30 total TDs!
You have to think this was largely an aberration and that WR coach JaMarcus Shephard is going to make sure they know that those mistakes could be the difference between a win or loss down the road. Hopefully we don’t see them again.
In addition to the drops there were also way too many penalties (7 for 93) as well as a doinked field goal. One of those penalties was a roughing the kicker penalty after Tulsa had punted that put the defense back on the field. It didn’t cost UW this time but that’s already the 2nd such penalty we’ve seen (last week’s admittedly was a complete acting job). It might be time for the Husky special teams to re-think how hard they go after punt blocks and instead focus on giving McMillan space to actually make a return without risking a penalty.