I promised a more thorough review of last Thursdays game and here it is! Five days, a trip to Yakima and about 8 hours of homework later. I did finally finish watching the game last night and I had a few thoughts about the game. I’ll go by position and add in some thoughts about coaching here and there. Before I begin, I think this was probably the best coached Husky game since Rick Neuheisal was coach. Seriously. I’ll get into more detail as the post goes, but as a whole this was an incredibly coached game for the Dawgs, scheme-wise, personnel wise and on the motivational side. Anyway, here we go, by position.
Quarterback – Keith Price has been a somewhat forgotten man through 4 games this year. He doesn’t have the numbers that he had last year and won’t end up with as impressive stats but he has progressed. Last Thursday, Keith played the toughest football game he’s ever played. It wasn’t his best but it was very good. He was tackled in the pocket over 10 times, while only three of those turned out to be sacks. This is a testament to him standing in the pocket and not rushing things. At one point it looked like he couldn’t feel his right arm. I’m not sure why Stanford was never called for a roughing the passer penalty because they went high and hard many times. Anyway, Price was accurate and threw well even with the amount of duress he was under. He had 3 passes dropped that would have given him about 40 more passing yards and 3 more first downs. He generally had less than 2 seconds to throw. Three plays before the Huskies game-winning touchdown Price lined up under center and killed the running play that was called. This audible essentially sent the receivers deep. The ball was snapped, Price dropped back and was pressured from the outside so he stepped up into the pocket. His outside receiver (I couldn’t catch the number) made a double move and was about to break free but a Stanford linebacker got a hand on the ball. It was a brilliant call by Price and a beautiful play, it was just a .1 of a second too late. The game winning touchdown could have come 3 plays earlier than when it did and it would have looked a lot more conventional. Price was a great decision maker and game-manager. I hope his body feels okay.
Running Back – It sure looks like Bishop Sankey has found his niche. He’ll never be Chris Polk. He’s not a bruiser and isn’t as patient. But, he’s hitting the hole harder and faster every week. Hugh Millen pointed out on KJR today that the Huskies use more of a zone-blocking scheme this year instead of a weak-side pulling guard, man-blocking scheme. This allows Sankey to hit the hole faster than we saw the last few years because you don’t have to wait for that guard to come across. So, maybe Bishop didn’t find his niche, maybe Sark found his niche for him? It takes a humble and good coach to adjust his scheme to fit his players and Sark has continually done this. That’s overlooked an awful lot. Moving Kendyl Taylor provided an unexpected boost to the Husky offense and he did some good things on Thursday. I’m guessing he’ll see more and more time as we go. The fun thing to think about is that these running backs are only going to get better. No one playing right now is older than sophomore status. Sure, they’ll cause a few headaches but the more I think about it, the more I think this year is setting up for a special 2013.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends – Quite a bit has been made of ASJ not getting only 2 receptions against Stanford. There was no other tight end who caught a pass either. What isn’t being said is that ASJ had a block on Chase Thomas that helped spring Bishop’s 61 yard run. No one is talking about how Evan Hudson lined up at fullback a few times and got into the second level to give Sankey some other big runs. The tight ends will be used in different ways as this season goes on but don’t think they played an insignificant role on Thursday. Every receiver was fairly inconsistent aside from Kasen Williams. Kasen turned 2 yard gains into 7 at least 3 times. The plan was to get him the ball in space and he showed why that was a great game plan that Sark never went aways from even when it was getting frustrating. Anytime another receiver wants to step up though, feel fee!
Offensive Line – Yes, the pass blocking was pretty horrendous. It’s a big problem that needs to be solved right away. But, they were playing a very good front seven. To their credit, the line did run block well. It doesn’t matter how you get yards and points as long as you get them. No one expected the Huskies to be able to rush for 150 yards but they did and that was because the line opened few holes. I do think they wore Stanford down a little bit. Where the Oregon defense is used to being on the field a lot because their offense scores in a hurry, Stanford is exactly the opposite. I imagine that the Cardinal generally win the time of possession battle and they didn’t on Thursday night. The Huskies, especially in the first half generally were on the field for at least three minutes on offense every time they had the ball. It doesn’t seem like much but that adds up, especially when your defense is getting three and outs. I might be the only one, but I think the Stanford defense was tired and they looked it on the Huskies last drive. Shane Brostek got his first career start at right guard and looked pretty good in run blocking. Him and James Atoe next to each other is probably my favorite configuration of the line. When they’re on the right side, holes seem to open up a bit more. The Huskies most successful running plays were runs off-tackle or which would follow Atoe, Hatchie, and, on the final drive, Criste. The right side of the line seemed to open more holes, as I mentioned earlier, but the left side of the line did pretty well too when I re-watched the game.
Defensive Line – Stopping the run starts up front, so here you go. I don’t know much about defensive lines so I won’t try to explain anything and there wasn’t a ton that stood out. Pio Vatuvei got extensive action. Josh Banks saw his first action of the season and made a very good tackle on Stanford’s last drive. Not a lot shows up in the box score from these guys but they freed up space for the linemen to make plays. It took Josh Shirley about a half to get his pass rush going but he was definitely felt in the second half. This group continues to get better.
Linebackers – The Dawgs haven’t had linebackers tackle like they did in this game since who knows how long. If you think back to the game, think about how many times Stepfan Taylor broke free from a tackle for extra yards. It didn’t happen. Even re-watching the game, I can’t think of a time. Tutogi, Timu, Fuimaono (although he didn’t play as much), Feeney, and Shaq were all in position and made the tackles. I’m still amazed. Their pursuit was incredible, their tackling was the best I’ve seen from a Husky defense, and their effort was off the charts. I don’t expect them to be able to keep this up but if they do then what was thought to be one of the Huskies biggest weaknesses has all of a sudden become one of the best positions on the team. As one of my favorite wrinkles that Wilcox threw in, Talia Crichton played a hybrid linebacker. He rushed the passer some but he was used to stop the run a good amount. It was just another big body who wouldn’t be pushed around.
Secondary – Desmond Trufant was the only corner on the field about 30% of the time for the Huskies. What a responsibility that was and he handled it extremely well. Right now he’s an all-conference player and is deserving of All-American recognition. Two pass breakups, one interception and shutting down one side of the field. The other corner spot is a bit concerning still but they did okay this game. Marcus Peters saw quite a bit of time on the field. Especially in the second half. Sean Parker played a great game, blowing up screens and flying around. The defense looks fast and he is one of the players that looks the fastest. Travis Feeney lined up as free safety sometimes to stop the run which was another wrinkle. Justin Glenn also played a good game with a couple of pass-breakups. There were a few blown assignments but that’s to be expected especially when there was such an emphasis on stopping the run.
Special Teams – Travis Coons was the first half MVP. He made a career long field goal, had a pretty good yards per punt average and punted one left-footed which saved the Huskies field position. That was a great play that I’m not even going to try to explain. Marvin Hall is fast and will break a return soon. He’s been very close in the last two games. He’s a game changer and I’m glad Sark pulled the red-shirt off of him. Not literally. They don’t actually wear red-shirts.
After watching the game again, this game was something that all Husky fans should feel proud of. But, it’s time to turn our attention to our bitter rival down south. It’s been fun to bask in this game. I doubt we’ll have this feeling next week but it seems like these Dawgs like to surprise.