I am assuming that if you are reading this, you won an award in little league baseball, in Pop-Warner football or youth basketball. No, I am not talking about “MVP” or “college scholarship award.” No, I am talking about the awards we give out to the kid who is afraid to swing the bat out of fear his fingers might resemble Torry Holt’s. I am talking about the award kid who played cornerback because it was as far away from the ball as he could possibly be.
Many awards are deserved. The Husky Game Awards are not handed out as easily as a “Stop the Game my Shoelace is Untied Again Award” (yes that was me and I still find my shoelaces askew just sitting at my desk.) One must earn the right to be listed among these pages, either through valor or infamy.
Offensive Game Ball: Lavon Coleman
Coleman had the game of his career. With Myles Gaskin dinged up, the Huskies turned to Coleman and freshman Jomon Dotson for 14 carries, with most of them going to Coleman. His line of 11 carries for 181 yards and a touchdown would have been the most impressive line of the night had Brandon Dawkins not also played the game of his life, rushing for 180 yards excluding sacks, though more on that later.
The junior running back looked better than he has in a Husky uniform, that’s why it’s called the game of his career. He showed top-end speed that he never had before to pull away from a secondary. He showed acceleration through the large holes opened up by the offensive line. He showed a little bit of pop when confronting tacklers, though that was always there. The only thing keeping him from a complete timeshare with Gaskin is that he still has moments where he doesn’t quite know what he is doing.
Coleman’s emergence could play a huge role behind an improving offensive line going into the biggest game of the season.
Defensive Game Ball: Sidney Jones
As well as Elijah Qualls played, when the opposing team averages 7.2 yards per carry, nobody in the front seven can get a game ball. Jones was his typical shutdown self, though Shun Brown as a top target with Dawkins throwing him the ball isn’t exactly a scary thought. Against a Rich Rodriguez offense, every single player on the defense has to be able to tackle. Jones is at his best as a cover corner. He has proven himself more than adequate tackling as well.
Receiver screens are a common sight in any game involving Arizona, and to shut them down, linebackers need to be rangy and corners need to be able to blow up blockers. UW has both. Jones isn’t afraid to run his shoulder into an oncoming blocker to halt a receiver before he can get going. Jones finished with six solo tackles and another assist, including a tackle behind the line of scrimmage.
Most Important Play: Joe Mathis and Damion Turpin sack Brandon Dawkins in OT
In a close game, every play is important from the opening snap to the final whistle. Every play is a potential turning point in one team’s favor or another. We can have our pick of 146 total snaps plus any kickoffs. This sack was improperly credited to Darren Gardenhire on the official statsheet, which is a shame because Vita Vea, Mathis and Turpin played it perfectly.
Against a quarterback far more skilled at running than throwing, a pass rush has to be smart. Rush too far upfield and the passer will leak out. Get out of your rush lane and there is an easy seven yard run and slide up the middle. Dawkins had to be exhausted at this point, hindering his mobility, but it was still an impressive play by the entire Husky line in a crucial point in the game.
Mathis and Turpin both rush upfield on the left side, beating their blockers. Vea, playing 1-tech on the opposite side, is dealing with a double team. Pressure forces Dawkins to step up, and he is looking for running lanes when he sees Vea and starts to stutter. By then, Mathis and Turpin have had time to loop around and take Dawkins down from behind.
It is important because it showed the Huskies were learning to defend a mobile quarterback while also being one of the most critical plays of the entire game. Great play, important juncture, signs of improvement.
Biggest Point of contention: Psalm Wooching
Wooching was a point of discussion for many on Twitter during and after the game, within our own comments and also the biggest talking point of the UWDP Staff Slack chat. Wooching was the focal point of the Arizona offense. The reads and runs were oftentimes targeted at the senior. Nobody expected the former fullback to be Cory Littleton on the edge. It was hoped that he would be a solid starter who would play significant snaps and not embarrass himself.
Whether or not he is actually a liability is the question. He doesn’t provide much of a pass rush and isn’t a great tackler in space. He was at his best when he was able to go all-out and not have to worry about being disciplined or out of alignment. There are times when that works and amounts to big plays, but a Pete Kwiatkowski defense isn’t that.