Program Vibes - A+
We’re going to the National Championship! Nuff said.
Passing Offense - A+
An all around excellent performance in the pass game, to say the least. On the biggest stage (so far), Michael Penix Jr. threw for 400+ yards for the first time since the Michigan State game back in September. PFF gives Penix 6 “big time throws”, which is his highest total of the season. The receivers made plays downfield, and the offensive line (and some savvy pocket movement) ensured he never got touched all game. Rome Odunze and Ja’Lynn Polk each eclipsed 100 yards. Jack Westover made multiple clutch catches, and finished tied for the team high in receptions (6). Jalen McMillan had “only” 58 yards but was responsible for four first downs. I actually thought Texas was decent in coverage, but a defensive secondary has to be simply elite at multiple positions to have a chance at covering this group. More than a few times Husky receivers made catches with Texas DBs draped all over them. I think the only drop recorded all game was from Tybo Rodgers, a running back. The pass game propelled this team to the Sugar Bowl, and it ensured they won it as well.
Rushing Offense - C+
It was not the biggest statistical day for the running backs - 26 carries for 68 yards - but they were able to rush for two touchdowns deep in the red zone. It was always going to be a challenge running against this Texas front with two elite DTs clogging the middle. The back-to-back stuffs on 3rd-and-1 and then 4th-and-1 were particularly bad. But, Dillon Johnson redeemed himself converting a 4th down with a run later in the game. Penix did add an element to the run game by keeping the ball on a few zone read plays, finishing with 31 yards on three carries, accounting for two first downs when Texas did get some pressure in the backfield.
Passing Defense - B
Overall a solid game from the DBs. When Texas got into desperation mode in the end, things started looking shakier, but it was CB Elijah Jackson making the game saving play by swatting the ball away from Adonai Mitchell to secure the win. Quinn Ewers had thrown for 261 yards before that final drive and finished the game completing 55% of his passes and just 1 touchdown. He had come into the game completing more than 70%. PFF records two passes batted down at the line of scrimmage, but it felt like more watching the game. Jabbar Muhammad had three passes defended, and Dom Hampton - who usually doesn’t show up in the stat sheet for pass defense - had one, too.
Perhaps most impressive was the pass rush. Bralen Trice was a menace all night, finishing with two sacks. This was one area the Husky defense knew they could exploit against the Texas offense and numerous times they applied pressure as Ewers threw. He was able to escape the rush a few times, and did get some scramble yards (8 for 54) that kept drives alive.
Rushing Defense - C+
Texas wasn’t ripping off many much huge chunk plays, but their talented backs and creative scheme kept them ahead of the chains and “on schedule” more often than not. Quinn Ewers actually had their longest run of the night at 21 yards. Their two running backs CJ Baxter and Jaydon Blue finished with 18 carries for 123 yards, about 8.7 yards per rush. Washington had five TFLs, including two from Eddie Ulofoshio, but Texas for the most part was able to be effective with their run game when they wanted. They also forced (one maybe was caused by Texas running back running into his own blocker, but I’ll take it) and recovered two fumbles. They had come into the game having recovered two fumbles all season.
Special Teams - C
Some good, some not so good. Grady Gross gets a personal A+ for his 3/3 field goal performance, including a long of 40 yards. Kick off coverage was a little worse than we’ve seen most of the year, with Texas starting past the 25 yard line multiple times. Long snapper Jaden Green’s kick catch interference on the final punt of the game gave Texas 15 crucial yards that could have lost the game. The usually sure handed Germie Bernard muffed a punt, gifting Texas excellent field position, which led to a quick score and tie game. On the other hand, TE Josh Cuevas did recover an onside kick.
Coaching - B+
This is a tough grade to give. On the one hand, the team looked more than ready and prepared to take on a very good Texas team, on the biggest stage. And they won the game, their first January bowl victory since the 2001 Rose Bowl. On the other hand, choosing not to kneel the ball and punt at the very end nearly cost the game. The coaches obviously can’t predict the running back getting injured, causing a clock stoppage. But, it nearly caused a collapse of epic proportions and possibly one of the most gut wrenching defeats in school history.
The coaches clearly believe in their players. They don’t flinch when faced with the biggest moments, and the team pays them back in kind. They played physical football with belief in themselves. They stayed locked in until the very end when Texas punched back, nearly erasing a 13 point lead.