Weekend Thoughts (Week 3)

Washington got themselves off to a 2-0 start by downing Illinois 34-24 on the road in Chicago for their first out-of-conference road win since 2007. While any win is good, especially on the road vs. a BCS-level school, there are definitely still things to work on. Here are some thoughts from the game as well as a look at what we saw while watching the rest of the Pac 12 play this past weekend...

Washington Gameday Observations...

-- Washington still managed to roll up over 600 yards on offense, despite 12 penalties and two turnovers that either halted drives or severely curtailed their momentum. Both of those situations need to be addressed, especially the penalties, but this offense can be scary good if they eliminate the stupid penalties and mistakes.

-- Danny Shelton is playing at a very high level right now. Sure, he doesn't put up big numbers, but that isn't what his job calls for. When he was out, Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase got big yardage straight up the gut of the Husky defense. He pursued well outside of the tackles and even got a little pressure up the gut, allowing Josh Shirley and the other defensive ends and linebackers to have a field day getting pressure off the edge.

-- If there is a better tailback in the country than Bishop Sankey, I'd like to see him play. I'm not saying he's the best in the country, but right now there isn't a back I'd take over him. He's leading the nation in rushing after two games and, as long as he and the starters along the offensive line stay healthy (knock on wood), he could easily put up school record-setting numbers this fall.

-- Welcome back to relevance Jesse Callier. His 39-yard touchdown run was outstanding and when Sankey came out for a breather, he stepped in with very little drop-off. He isn't as explosive as he was before his knee injury last year, but he's close and he was explosive enough to break three tackles and make an Illinois safety look silly in the open field on his touchdown run.

-- The screen call on 3rd-and-8 late in the game to Callier was a masterful audible from Steve Sarkisian and Marques Tuiasosopo. They took advantage of Illinois' aggressiveness and made them pay for it.

-- The offensive line is playing better than I've seen them play since the Apple Cup back in 2010 when Chris Polk ran all over the Cougars that day. They also kept Keith Price clean for most of the day although the senior signal-caller was sacked twice, that had more to do with a) coverage down field and b) Price running into the rush instead of away from it.

-- If John Timu is out for a significant amount of time, that could really hamper the Husky defense. With Timu out in the second half, Illinois exposed Thomas Tutogi's lack of quickness and ran the ball, seemingly at will, something they couldn't do with Timu in there.

-- This Husky team has more speed than I've seen since I started covering the team back in 2003.

-- Jaydon Mickens is coming into his own. He's playing at an All-Conference level right now and that should open things up for Kasen Williams to make more plays.

-- I can't forget about how Kevin Smith is playing as well. Smith had some huge catches for the Dawgs on Saturday and has really proven that good spring and fall camps can lead to big seasons. So far, he's lived up to the praise Sarkisian heaped on him before the start of the season.

-- Marcus Peters is fast becoming a player that Husky opponents don't want to throw at. For most of the afternoon in Chicago, he shut down his guy and rarely did Scheelhaase throw his way.

-- Saturday was easily Josh Shirley's best day as a Husky. Three sacks (initially he was credited with four during the game), four quarterback pressures and seven tackles including two tackles-for-loss. His pressure of Scheelhaase at the end of the game, resulted in a wobbly pass that Greg Ducre easily intercepted.

-- Overall, this is the best the Huskies have looked to start a season since 2000 and, while the team would tell you they are taking it "one week at a time", fans and analysts can look ahead and easily see them beating Idaho State and Arizona at home the next two weeks before a big matchup with Stanford the first weekend of October.

Pac 12 Weekend Observations...

-- While they still have yet to play anything resembling competent defense, California is an explosive team offensively. Jared Goff isn't playing like a freshman and his 31 for 53, 371-yard, three-touchdown, one-interception performance vs. Ohio State last week was pretty impressive.

-- Getting back to the Golden Bears' defense, almost everyone they face should be able to put up huge numbers on them. Ohio State tailbacks had gaping holes to run through and, once they broke through, they didn't see a Cal defensive back until they were about 10 yards down the field.

-- Oregon State cannot run the ball. Their offensive line has been a patchwork so far this season due to injuries and it showed on Saturday as they weren't able to get any sort of push on the Utah defensive line. That being said, Sean Manion had a huge night throwing the ball, going 27 of 44 for 443 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions. If he isn't pressured, then he can pick a defense apart. Something the Huskies need to keep in mind.

-- Utah is just not very good. QB Travis Wilson picked things up in the second half and played much better, but they lack explosive playmakers and their defense really struggled in stopping the pass. In the pass-happy Pac 12 south, that could spell big troubles.

-- Arizona State was lucky to win their game vs. Wisconsin. There were two huge mistakes by Wisconsin on that last play, the quarterback not making sure his knee touched and setting the ball on the ground and the head coach not just sending his kicker on the field and snapping the ball with three second left instead of running that "kneel down" play in the first place. Now, that being said, the officiating crew did a poor job (big shock) of handling the situation. If they were going to rule it wasn't a fumble, they should have stopped the clock while the ASU player was laying on the ball (an obvious stall tactic) or they should have blown things dead and talked about it and then determined if it was a fumble or if it should have remained Wisconsin's ball. Either way, as I said, the Sun Devils are lucky to have come away with the win.

-- ASU's secondary isn't very good and they could struggle to stop good teams that throw the ball well. Wisconsin doesn't have dynamic playmakers at wide receiver, so that is something that the Huskies should have at their disposal if they can keep their pass-rush at bay.

-- The most impressive win for the Pac 12 this past weekend was UCLA's comeback win over Nebraska on the road. Not only was UCLA down 21-3 early in the second quarter, but they looked silly in falling behind that far. Their secondary looked clueless, but they did a great job from that point on, tightening up their defense on some pedestrian Cornhusker receivers and allowing their pass-rush to really get to Taylor Martinez. I am not completely sure, but I believe this was the first time Martinez had been held to negative yardage running the ball (10 carries for minus-13 yards) since he took over the starting spot for Nebraska back in 2010.

-- After watching Stanford struggle against a below-average Army team, I have come away believing that, at least at this early point in the season, UCLA is the second-best team in the conference behind Oregon. With Brett Hundley doing his thing both passing and running and the Bruins' defensive front-seven playing well, they look like the class of the Pac 12 South.

-- Oregon, Washington State and USC's wins last weekend were "ho hum" and expected. It was a mild surprise seeing USC put up 35 points after the way they looked vs. Washington State last week, but still, they have more athletes and talent than Boston College and so, I expected them to win rather easily.

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