The Huskies got their first win of the year last night at Husky Stadium against Syracuse, 41-20. The Dawgs’ struggled early on; there wasn’t any offensive rhythm and special team’s mistakes led to an early 10-0 lead for the Orange. But, then the Huskies found it. They played like the team we had planned on seeing this year. They outscored Syracuse 41-10 through the rest of the game and it wasn’t much of a contest after the first couple plays in the second half.
Jermaine Kearse had a monster day (9 receptions for 179 yards), as the offense used big plays to dominate. The defense was solid too. They gave up two or three big plays but the two touchdowns Syracuse scored were because of a special teams penalty and a turnover.
I’ll review this one by taking a look at each position. I haven’t been able to find a replay anywhere yet, FSN decided to show a replay of Wyoming and Texas instead, so I won’t be as thorough as I’d like to be but these were my first impressions from being there. Quarterback: Jake Locker was really good. He was very comfortable in the pocket and only missed one or two throws. The game-plan was to keep him in the pocket against the rush that Syracuse was going to bring and they did just that. In the second half, the throws came from a quick drop but in the first half Locker connected on some tough throws (deep outs). He was extremely efficient while showing flashes of his play-making ability; the scramble to his right in which he threw across his body to Aguilar was amazing. Don’t be upset that he didn’t have many rushing attempts (5 for 12 yards). When you’re handling a team like the Huskies were, what’s the point in Jake running and taking hits. I know it’s one of our biggest weapons but let’s save it for a game where we actually need it. Keith Price got in and completed the only pass he threw.
Running Back: Chris Polk is about as steady as it gets. He runs as hard as he can every carry and gets extra yards, although his line doesn’t give him as many holes as we’d like. He had his first 100 yard game of the season against a defense that was built up to be very good against the run. His 52-yard touchdown on the sweep was a thing of beauty, I don’t know how he stayed in bounds. He did have a fumble late, which is bad. It was one of those cool pup-up fumbles though that I love unless it happens to my team. Jesse Callier also had a solid game. The fly-sweep added to the offense was a nice touch. Obviously, the coaches felt like they had something outside. Austin Sylvester had some great blocks and was solid all game.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: Yeah, these guys were good. Jermaine Kearse was incredible. He made the tough catches and turned the easy catches into big plays. He could be the best receiver in the Pac-10. What a difference a week makes. Devin Aguilar was solid also. He always is. The other receivers weren’t heard from too much but give them credit for their blocking down-field on big plays. I don’t know what the deal is with James Johnson, that injury really hurt him in his place on the depth chart. Tight end, Marlion Barnett, had the first two catches of his career as the Huskies continue to look for answers at that position. All 3 tight ends (Izibicki, Barnett, and Hartvigson) all got quite a bit of playing time. I’d like to watch it again to see how they all blocked.
Offensive Line: These guys were much better this week. Syracuse isn’t quite as physical as BYU but they are still a pretty good front 7 and the Dawgs held their own. They didn’t give up a sack even though the Orange brought pressure regularly. There were more holes for the running backs this week although I still doubt our ability to pound the football. WE had some nice things going on outside with sweeps. True freshmen, Erik Kohler and Colin Porter, each got a series or two on the offensive line. I was impressed by Kohler despite two false start penalties. He seemed quicker than the other guards we have when he pulled and I saw him out in front of the running back a couple of times. I think he’ll be starting before too long. I didn’t watch Porter as closely. The main starting unit played most of the game though and was solid throughout.
Defensive Line: The defensive line rotated a little more this week and was better. They held the run game in check the whole game and got more pressure on the quarterback. Ta’amu looked pretty good and Talia Critchon made a few plays. The inside of our defense is solid with Ta’amu and Elisara. Sione Potoa’e rotated in and did pretty well for a true freshman. It’s the ends I worry about. They were beaten on bootlegs and often looked a step slow. Next week will be a huge test for them. All in all, this unit was pretty good yesterday. They improved from week one and need to continue to improve.
Linebackers: Our linebackers are good. Mason Foster is making it known that he’s one of the best linebackers in the Pac-10. He was the defensive star yesterday and will be for the rest of the season assuming he’s healthy. When Foster isn’t there to make a tackle, Cort Dennison is. He kind of reminds me of Foster last year. Victor Aiyewa looks okay. He had a solid day yesterday but looked lost a few times in zone coverage. The linebackers were the best unit on the defense yesterday.
Secondary: The secondary left a few receivers open yesterday but had a solid day all around. They were left in man-to-man coverage most of the time and held their own. Trufant was really good I thought. He had several pass break-ups and didn’t allow his receiver anything. He also was effective on a few corner blitzes. Richardson was good too. I don’t know if he broke up any passes but he was in the whole game so the coaches must have been happy with him. Greg Ducre got his first career interception towards the end of the game. The corners were pretty good. Where is Adam Long? Nate Williams plays the run well and is a good leader of the defense. He got beat once in coverage but that was on a broken play. Both free safeties were good from what I saw.
Special Teams: Well, this was again the weak link on the team. The coverage units were bad but the return units were better. We have to get better field position next week. We’ll have a punt blocked next week unless we get better in that area. In brighter news, Erik Folk is really good.
A Few More thoughts:
- The Huskies often went to their nickel package. This consisted of 3 lineman, 3 linebackers, 2 corners, and 3 safeties. This was a good package for the Dawgs as the Orange had trouble on 3rd down conversions. I like having both free safeties, Fellner and Shamburger, on the field at once.
- Pressure on the quarterback was much better thanks to some clever blitz packages by Holt. In that nickel package, Foster rushes most of the time. That seems very effective.
- I really think the defense is more comfortable this year with knowing where they are supposed to be. Even after bad plays I saw players correcting each other.
- How good is Syracuse? I still don’t know but they weren’t bad. They are on their way up and, since they play in the Big East, they’ll be in a bowl game.
That’s all for now. I’m sure we’ll have more thoughts later. If you have any, let us know in the comments and I’d love to discuss them. Same goes with questions. Thanks for reading!