The Washington Huskies returned home for their conference home opener matchup against the Arizona State Sun Devils last night.
It was a hard-fought game for the Huskies and in the end they were able to protect their lead, and win 27-20 in from of a near sellout crowd.
The Huskies defense was magnificent and senior inside linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven notched 20 tackles. For Burr-Kirven it was the most tackles by a Husky player since 1996 when John Fiala recored 22 against Arizona State.
Offensively, quarterback Jake Browning had his best performance of the season and played extremely smart and efficient.
Momentum wise, the Huskies are currently on a three-game winning streak and improved their record to 3-1 on the season.
We will now take a look at how each position group for the Huskies fared last night and also how the coaching staff graded out…..
The talk all season has been about Jake Browning’s performance and last night he certainly answered his critics. He finished with a stat line of 15 of 22 for 202 yards and three TD’s. Browning had no turnovers which played a vital part in securing the game. What was impressive was his decision-making and his throws were pinpoint and accurate. Browning looked and played like a fourth-year starting quarterback should. A
Earlier last week, head coach Chris Petersen alluded to the depth at this position. Last night, the entire “Stable” was used and the production at this position didn’t disappoint. Paced by its two stars in Myles Gaskin (21 carries for 86 yards) and Salvon Ahmed (10 carries for 71 yards), the offense was able to control the game and help take pressure off of Browning throughout the course of the game. Very inspired effort from this group. A-
WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS
In terms of reliability, the wide receivers have really come into their own this season, and shown themselves as a true strength of the team. Aaron Fuller continues to be the reliable #1 option, and Ty Jones continues to make strides towards stardom as witnessed by his spectacular TD catch. The Tight Ends are improving every week as Browning is starting to throw to them more. The coaches use a “strength in numbers” approach from this group and they were the subject of concern coming into the season by many. A–
There had been recent chatter about the performance of this group lately and last night they made a giant leap forward. It seemed as if this was the first time all season that they were in total sync with each other. The pass protection was great as Browning had time to throw the ball and keep his eyes down the field. The run blocking still isn’t perfect but there is improvement overall and reason for optimism going forward. B+
Often and early, it seemed like the middle was getting gashed for yards and the Sun Devils were having their way running the ball. One of the strengths of the defense is the ability to plug the middle on a consistent basis, but there were too many yards given up last night. Overall the defensive line played good and helped keep Arizona State QB Manny Wilkins in the pocket but stopping the run will have to improve going forward. B-
The opportunity to make a lot of tackles with the Sun Devils running backs getting to the second level was prevalent last night. Ben Burr-Kirven was a beast all game long with 20 tackles, and threw his hat into the ring for the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week for a second consecutive week. The pass rush off the edge improved for the most part, but it’s still not perfect with guys running past the quarterback sometimes and no sacks. B+
This group is always the biggest strength of the entire team and last night was no different. Jordan Miller provided blanket coverage all night on N’Keal Harry who was held to 5 catches for 20-yards total. The safeties were their usual physical selves as they were able to limit the amount of explosive plays from the Sun Devils. These guys are the tone setters on defense and they did a great job of keeping everything in front of them. A
During the game last night, this group was sort of a mixed bag. Peyton Henry continues to prove himself as a consistent field goal kicker and is gaining more yardage on his kickoffs. The return of punter Joel Whitford was a much-needed fix on special teams with his hang time and placement. Where the Huskies didn’t look good was on kickoff coverage. They gave up too many yards throughout the night and usually they don’t do that. Petersen said they need to look at film and clean that up. B-
You have to give the coaches credit for having the team ready to play against an opponent that the players wanted revenge against. Defensively, the schemes and game plan looked solid from Jimmy Lake as he found a way to shut down Harry and Wilkins. Offensively, Bush Hamdan found a way to settle Browning down and play more confident football. The knock here goes to Petersen for that poor play call to start the game, which he owned up to after the game. Overall, a great effort by the coaches. B
Overall, it was a good effort and performance from the team as conference wins are tough to come by as Petersen said. What is crazy about this team is that even though they won the game last night, it still doesn’t feel completely right. For a top-ten team, the Huskies still haven’t punished an opponent in the manner that they should. Momentum is building and peaking at the end of the season is most important, but it still feels like we are missing something. Not a bad problem to have while still being 3-1. B-