1. Banked into the Corner Pocket
Washington hoped to have a much improved cornerback duo this season. They imported Oklahoma State transfer Jabbar Muhammad and got Elijah Jackson healthy to fill those roles on the outside. Muhammad mostly lived up to the part on Saturday allowing just one catch for five yards plus a PBU. Jackson on the other hand...let's just say he struggled.
Boise's first big play came on a deep ball where Jackson got beat over the top without safety help. He was also called for a pair of DPI's and missed tackles on a pair of Ashton Jeanty touchdowns. All in all it was 4 targets on non-penalties with 4 completions for 107 yards and a TD. It was rough.
When the Huskies rotated through though it gave Davon Banks a chance to make an impact. And he made the most of it. Banks had 4 PBUs (last year the team leader had 4) and almost had a pick except for good defense by the WR knocking it away after Banks jumped the route. The coaching staff might not make the change next Saturday against Tulsa, but Banks certainly earned playing time this weekend at Jackson's expense. And if we see this discrepancy in performance for another week then that move may become permanent.
2. Rush Uh...
When Cam Davis went down with a season-ending injury it raised questions about UW's running attack. Mississippi State transfer Dillon Johnson won the job but had been returning from an injury in camp and gradually ramped up. Unfortunately, it looked charitably like Johnson was still not yet at 100%. He was hesitant rather than decisive on his cuts and finished with 7 carries for 12 yards plus a TD and a long of just 4 yards. His early struggles before UW largely abandoned their run game is part of why the Dawgs went scoreless in the 1st quarter.
Part of the Huskies' run game struggles was Boise's defense. The Broncos were aggressive attacking the line of scrimmage whether on run plays or quick outs. UW's wide receivers were repeatedly blown up trying to block from the way Boise flew to the football. The O-line probably could've blocked better as well.
It was only one game so we can't say definitively that we learned it's impossible for UW to run the ball. But we certainly learned that Ryan Grubb is willing to abandon it after a quarter if it isn't working to go to UW's bread and butter: the intermediate passing game.
It’s also worth taking the time to give a shout out to Will Nixon who clearly looked like the better back on Saturday. He finished with 6 carries for 48 yards as the backup and similar to Banks/Jackson at corner, we could see another change in the starting lineup if Nixon continues to look this much better than Jackson moving forward.
3. Container Store
Last season the Huskies often struggled when playing against mobile quarterbacks. Bo Nix ran for 55 yards and a TD. Dorian Thompson-Robinson ran for 53 yards and a TD. Jayden de Laura ran for 41 yards. Washington gave up at least 34 points in all of those contests. It looked like Taylen Green who averaged better than 50 yards on the ground per game last season including multiple 75+ yard TDs would be set up for success.
Instead, Green’s running really didn’t make much of an impact on the game. He ended up scrambling for a pair of first downs but had a long of 13 yards as Washington managed to keep him bottled up in the pocket for much of the game.
The decision to focus on keeping Green contained had an impact on the numbers for UW’s vaunted pass rush. Starting edge duo Bralen Trice and Zion Tupoula-Fetui combined for just 1 pressure and 0 QB hits per Pro Football Focus. Last year they averaged better than 1 sack per game as a duo. Instead, the Huskies as a team had just one sack when Edefuan Ulofoshio came on a blitz and was able to beat the running back in pass protection combined with Green holding on to it for too long before trying to bail.
Given that last year Washington’s edges often went full out towards the QB at the expense of keeping contain, it was good to see they’re capable of doing otherwise when necessary. Washington will see plenty of good rushing quarterbacks this season with Nix, de Laura, plus Cam Rising, DJ Uiagelelei, and Caleb Williams. They’ll need to show similar discipline in those matchups. Although ideally while showing that discipline they’ll be able to simultaneously collapse the pocket and still get QB hits. Because all of those QBs have much better accuracy than Green and can still dice up the Dawgs through the air.