It’s hard to believe, but the Husky season is already at the quarter point. Our Dawgs’ have the record we all expected them to have after 3 games, 2-1, even if they’ve taken a strange route to get there.
September started with a game against Eastern Washington where the Huskies were outplayed in almost every area of the game. They got the win, but panic ensued around Husky nation and people were upset. Next, Hawaii came in and the Dawgs came out on fire. They jumped to a 21-0 lead and seemed like a team who could compete with the best of the best. Then they let Hawaii back into it and held on for a victory. The Huskies were 2-0 for the first time since 2007 but neither victory provided a ton of confidence in the team.
Yesterday, they went into one of the toughest places to play in the country. They stood toe-to-toe with Nebraska in the first half, and by all accounts would have had the lead going into halftime if it weren’t for a terrible call. Then, the third quarter started. A three-and-out, a terrible call on a punt, a touchdown, a fumbled kick-off, a touchdown, a turnover on downs, and a touchdown later the Huskies were down by 24.
It was a terrible stretch to watch and, judging from post-game interviews, was even worse to play in. Now that I’ve cooled off and watched the rest of the game, I’ve realized that those stretches are one of the many reasons why I love college football. On any Saturday, a team can be totally swept up in the momentum of the game and anything can happen. These players are taking calculus and history classes during the week and all of a sudden they’re dealing with poor officiating and bad bounces of the ball and they completely lose their composure. That happened to us on Saturday and I’m not saying it’s acceptable, it’s not, but that’s college football and it’s part of the reason why it’s so exciting.
Anyway, the Huskies regained their composure and went on to battle back, fighting valiantly to the finish. It wasn’t the outcome we had hoped for, but it was probably the best game the Huskies have played all season.
I’ll break down each position after the jump. Quarterback – Entering the season, quarterback was a big question mark on the team. The Huskies had Jake Locker manning the spot for the last 4 years, so a change warranted some questions. Fortunately, through the first 3 games those questions have been answered. The fan base all feels pretty safe with Keith Price at quarterback. He’s shown accuracy we haven’t seen at UW since, I don’t know, Cody Pickett? I have two areas of concern with Price. One is his durability. We have seen him take some big hits and he’s running around on two bad knees right now. The other worry I have is interceptions. Price is a playmaker and that has its positives and negatives, one of the negatives is interceptions. We’ve seen 3 interceptions on the opponent’s side of the 50, which takes away points. All in all, Price has been very good and is one of the brightest spots on the team (not all of these position reviews will be so long).
Running Back – Chris Polk has been Chris Polk. He has willed his way to 100 yards each game and has been impressive doing it. He hasn’t broke off any long touchdown runs, but thinking back that has never been his game. We may have all talked ourselves into an even better version of Chris Polk during the off-season (if that’s possible). The truth is, Polk has never had the breakaway speed some backs do, but he’s twice as tough as any back I’ve seen. He’ll break off some long runs before the year is over but he doesn’t have a huge burst that people seem to be looking for, myself included. All that being said, he’s the most consistent and best player on the team and one of the best in the conference. Jesse Callier has been very ordinary, and hasn’t had any huge moments (although he’s had some nice moments in the return game). Johri Fogerson comes in sometimes, I think. Bishop Sankey’s career can only go uphill from here on out after his fumbled return on Saturday, maybe that was his plan all along. Good move, kid.
Wide Receivers – They’ve all been good. James Johnson has maybe been the best one of the bunch so far, which is a great bounce back for him. Kearse has recovered from a sprained ankle and has been his touchdown-making-self. Aguilar had a huge game against Hawaii. Kevin Smith has been on the field and done some nice things in the return game. Kasen Williams is seeing more playing time each week and looked like one of the best receivers on the field against Nebraska. There have been a few big drops, but otherwise this group has been very good and very deep.
Tight End – ASJ has had some great moments already. It’s easy to see what all the hype was about. His blocking appears to be improving every game, which is a great sign. He does appear to get all of his catches out of the way in the first quarter, but that might be a play-calling thing rather than his fault. Michael Hartvigson has been very good too, but more in a blocking role. Evan Hudson has been valuable on special teams. Marlion Barnett decided to transfer today, no one saw that coming (sarcasm).
Offensive Line – This group has been ordinary, nothing more and nothing less. Colin Porter and Erik Kohler appear to keep improving. Senio Kelemete has been the most steady player on the line. I hope they keep getting more physical and wear down defenses more, but they have been steady. They’re giving Price time to pass and Polk has over 100 yards each game. Nebraska and Hawaii each have pretty solid fronts. The line was bad against Eastern but has improved since then.
Defensive Line – Now, we move into the disappointing aspects of the team. The line was supposed to be a strength this year but hasn’t been so far. Alameda Ta’amu has been good but not great. Hau’oli Jamora continues to improve. Everette Thompson has been steady but nothing more. The other defensive end spot hasn’t seen much production from Talia Critchon yet. I expect to see more of Andrew Hudson as the season wears on. In short, what we thought would be the strength of the team has been close to a weakness. They haven’t pressured the quarterback enough (although, I will say that they have improved on that every week) and they allowed to many rushing yards last week. The middle of the line has been steady and hard to run on, and a good share of the rushing yards could be blamed on the young linebackers last week because most of the plays that got away from the defense went outside. Also, I thought there would be a lot more depth showing up here but there hasn’t at all. That may be where I’ve been the most disappointed in this unit. Again, that might not be their fault and it might be in something the coaches are seeing.
Linebackers – It’s important for Nick Holt bashers to remember that his scheme is based around linebackers running around, making plays and, to be honest, these young linebackers just aren’t there yet. Of course, I think Holt needs to adjust to that and should still be judged critically, but just keep that in mind. Cort Dennison has been amazing. Lets get that out of the way. The two on the outside of him, Princeton Fuimaono and John Timu, are suffering some growing pains. That’s to be expected from a true sophomore and a true freshman. They have made some good plays but just aren’t quite there yet. To me, that is where the defense has really fallen off. When you go from two all Pac-10 players (Aiyewa and Foster) to two youngsters, your defense will fall off. They will get better each week though. I expect to see more of Garret Gilliland as the season wears on, he has made plays when he’s been on the field and appears to be a physical player.
Secondary – Desmond Trufant had one bad half against Eastern Washington, otherwise he’s been the best player on the defense. Greg Ducre is improving but has been somewhat of a liability so far. Quinton Richardson had one of his worst games of his career against Nebraska. Maybe he’s not healthy yet, but I expect more out of him. Sean Parker, Justin Glenn and Nate Fellner have been adequate at the safety positions. I would like to see those 3 on the field together at some point, whether it be with Fellner moving to a linebacker or them switching to a 4-2-5 defense now and then. The truth is, this spot was really bad against EWU and not very good in the last 2 games either. They have to improve if this team wants to be more than average.
Special Teams – Erik Folk is great. Kiel Rasp has been okay but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Will Mahan at some point. The kickoff coverage hasn’t been very good but the punt coverage has been the best unit on the team. They’ve recovered 3 fumbles, and there should have been another at Nebraska. Trufant has especially been impressive in coverage. Both return units have been better this season.
Thanks for reading!