Colorado Game - Position Grades

The first half wasn't pretty, but Washington eventually pulled way for a relatively easy 38-23 win over Colorado on the road using big plays in all three phases of the game. Here's our thoughts on how each position group fared in the victory as the Huskies get to 6-3 on the season...

Quarterback - Cyler Miles was efficient, but he dropped/bobbled two snaps that resulted in turnovers. Those were drive killers and kept the Huskies down for much of the first half. Miles did have two nice long throws to Dante Pettis and he fit in a nice touchdown pass to Kendyl Taylor, so you have to like some of the progression, but he still needs to make quicker decisions as he missed several wide open receivers because he didn’t recognize the coverage early enough. More than anything, while his stats were more than respectable (13 of 19 for 206 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs), he left too many plays on the field and that’s something that needs to keep improving. Grade: B.

Running Backs - Shaq Thompson just continues to shine wherever you put him. He had several big runs and some of those came when he either busted a few tackles or had to make someone miss in the open field. He was also a nice outlet on one play for Miles that netted 41 yards. Deontae Cooper didn’t get a lot of touches, but he had some positive plays including a couple of first downs. They even did a good job of picking up the blitzes Colorado came with at different times. Grade: A.

Wide Receivers - Pettis has been on the cusp of a breakout and I think this week was his first moment in the spotlight. His two long receptions resulted in 10 points while his 87-yard punt return basically put the game out of reach for the Buffaloes. It was nice to Kasen Williams get a target and he made the most of it, extending a drive by getting a first down. Taylor also had a nice touchdown grab showing strong hands while pulling the ball away from a defender. Grade: B+.

Tight Ends - Joshua Perkins had a big reception and was open on a couple of other routes. Michael Hartvigson wasn’t targeted, but he was used as a blocker and he held his own although there were a couple of missed blocks that caused running plays to go backwards. Grade: C+.

Offensive Line - The offensive line was serviceable today, but they still aren’t opening many holes. What is most concerning is that they continue to get overpowered at the snap and rarely get much of a push on running plays. Washington was down yet another lineman when freshman Coleman Shelton got dinged early on and James Atoe, who is not great in space, was forced to move outside. Mike Criste looked good at right guard, but he also had some struggles. Grade: C+.

Defensive Line - Colorado is good at getting the ball out quickly and it didn’t allow the Huskies to get a lot of pressure, but as the second half started to move along, the Huskies got after Sefo Liufau more and definitely got him on the ground if they weren’t able to get there. The Buffaloes did manage to run for 181 yards, but most of that was in the first half. Hauoli Kikaha managed to set the all-time program record for sacks when he was able to get Liufau to the ground late in the fourth quarter. Grade: B.

Linebackers - Without their best player, the linebacker at times were a step slow and took bad angles, especially in the first half. However, things got tightened up, we saw Scott Lawyer come in and replace John Timu who was struggling to get off blocks. The second half was a different story though. Not as many missed tackles and players made the most of their opportunities to make plays. Travis Feeney’s pick six was the game-changing play that took all of the wind out of the Buff’s sails. Grade: B.

Defensive Backs - Budda Baker missed one tackle and got beat for an early touchdown on another play but overall, after the first quarter, this unit stepped up its game. Freshman Sidney Jones led the team with 12 tackles, but some that is because he was targeted so much in coverage. Marcus Peters showed why he’s considered a first rounder next spring with tight coverage most of the day although he did have a missed tackle that resulted in a key first down which set up a Colorado score late in the first half. Grade: B-.

Punting/Kicking - Tristan Vizcaino wasn’t booming his kickoffs, but her put them just inside the endzone, which is exactly what the coaches want him to do. Korey Durkee had a nice bounceback game averaging 47.3 yards on four punts including one that went 56 yards and was downed inside the 20. Cameron Van Winkle hit his one attempt, this one coming from 35 yards out, and continues to prove what a solid kicker he is. Grade: A.

Coverage/Return Teams - If we were just judging the punt returns, this grouping would get an A. Pettis’ return was the first punt return for a touchdown since Charles Frederick did it against Oregon State back in 2003. However, the kick coverage teams had a poor day allowing Phillip Lindsay two long returns, however, one of them ended up with the Huskies coming away with a fumble. John Ross got very few opportunities to return kicks and he was pretty much a non-factor during the game. Grade: B.

Offensive Coaching - Jonathan Smith, for the most part, did a good job of putting Miles in a position to succeed. He used the middle of the field and asked Miles to take some shots down the field. Now, Colorado is a below-average defense, but the Huskies did what they needed to do to get the win – control the ball with the run and throw in a few shots down field in the passing game. The offensive line is a patchwork of players right now, so they will still probably struggle to slow down the pass-rush, but you can run different routes and work around it enough to be effective. It’s just a lot harder. Grade: B.

Defensive Coaching - If we only graded the first half, this would be a D grade at best. The Huskies allowed three long scoring drives and couldn’t get off the field on third down. Missed tackles and assignment busts really are hard to watch and should not be happening at this point in the season. However, the defense came out and allowed just three points in the second half, forcing three turnovers including Feeney’s 30-yard pick six. There weren’t as many missed tackles (a backhanded compliment at best) and they got after Liufau. Grade: B-.

Overall Grade - Colorado could have definitely been a trap game for the Huskies this week. On paper the Dawgs should win easily, but the Buffaloes have been so close to a win, they had to have their game with Washington circled as a possible win and they came out early and showed that very attitude. However, the coaches helped keep their guys calm and the Huskies just methodically pulled even and then away from the Buffs. Washington was supposed to win and they did with a dominant performance in the second half. You have to give them credit for that, however, slow starts like they had in Boulder against teams like UCLA and Arizona in the next couple of weeks could doom this team before it gets out of the gates. Grade: B.


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