UCLA Game - Position Grades

The Huskies dropped their third-straight home game as they fell to UCLA by a score 44-30. Here's our thoughts on how each position group performed in the loss and what fans can take away from the game as well as what to look for the rest of the season...

Quarterbacks - As Cyler Miles continues to progress, the biggest thing now seems to be anticipating the receivers that should be able to get open. Right now, Miles just doesn’t seem to be able to find them and trust me, there were plenty of open receivers on Sunday. Some of it had to do with the early pass rush the Bruins were getting, but most of it had to do with him not finding them at the right times. Miles ran it pretty well and scored Washington’s first touchdown of the night, but there were times that he pulled it down too early instead of letting a play develop fully. Miles is still a work in progress, but he seems to be getting better vs. the better competition, something that couldn’t be said earlier in the season. Grade: C.

Running Backs - Shaq Thompson had a solid afternoon totaling 100 yards on 16 carries, but when you watch him, he’s just not seeing the holes quite as quickly as a more experienced back would. There were a couple of times that he either chose the wrong gap or didn’t choose quick enough and he was stopped for little or no gain. To be fair, Thompson is the only consistent threat for the Huskies’ offense, so it’s really tough to be too hard on him, but there were some missed opportunities for bigger gains if we’re being honest. Dwayne Washington had a nice touchdown run and seemed to run hard while Deontae Cooper showed good hands and had a big reception called back on a bogus holding call down the field. Overall, this was a solid game for the Husky tailbacks, but there were still some opportunities left on the field. Grade: B.

Wide Receivers - The receivers had just six receptions on the day, but they were open a lot more than they were targeted. Brayden Lenius gave Husky fans a glimpse of his future on a go route that resulted in a 28-yard gain and I thought the other freshman wideout, Dante Pettis, had a solid afternoon as well although he only finished with two catches for 15 yards on the day. Both freshmen will be the heart of the UW receiver corps in the next few years so it’s nice to get a look at what they can do. Mickens was flagged, incorrectly I might add, for a hold on a long gainer by Cooper, but you can’t hold that against him. Grade: B.

Tight Ends - Josh Perkins was the leading receiver for the Huskies and he definitely looked solid while getting open against a good linebacker corps and safety duo. He also had a really nice block on the edge during Washington’s 12-yard touchdown run. Overall, the play of the tight ends, I am including Michael Hartvigson’s blocking efforts as well, was solid and they appear to be figuring out their role in the new offense. Grade: B+.

Offensive Line - Without three starters, the Husky offensive line really struggled to keep the pressure off of Miles. They allowed three sacks and Miles was pressured on several other drop backs as well. While they were better as a unit blocking for the run, the overriding thing is that they needed to be better while pass-protecting and that’s something that just didn’t happen on Saturday. I thought James Atoe played valiantly at right tackle, but Micah Hatchie really struggled with Owamagbe Odighizuwa who was in the Husky backfield all night long. Also, what is up with Colin Tanigawa’s snaps the past couple of weeks? That needs to be addressed immediately. Grade: C -.

Defensive Line - Early on, the Husky defensive line looked like they could have a huge night as they got pressure, not just from the edge, but also up the middle. However, the loss of Hau’oli Kikaha to a stinger midway through the first quarter really put a damper on those prospects. Danny Shelton had a solid game and Andrew Hudson had his moments, but they weren’t able to generate much in the way of pressure with Kikaha out. The youngsters, especially Joe Mathis and Elijah Qualls, saw plenty of time in the rotation, but they were definitely a step down from the starters and UCLA put up big yards against them. Grade: C-.

Linebackers - I thought the linebackers had just a so-so night. They missed several tackles early on and were out of position on a couple of other plays that seemed to be easy reads. Statistically, Keishawn Bierria had a big night, but he was overmatched when taking on blockers and rarely made plays within two yards of the line of scrimmage. Thompson came in on a few series and had four tackles while John Timu appeared to struggle a lot during the night and gave way to Scott Lawyer on several occasions. Grade: C-.

Defensive Backs - With three true freshmen starters, you had to feel it was going to be tough sledding for the Husky secondary and those fears/feelings proved to be true as the youngsters gave up a 57-yard touchdown pass on UCLA’s third drive on what appeared to be a blown coverage by either Budda Baker or Naijiel Hale. The lack of a pass rush really hurt the secondary as well because it’s really tough to ask anyone to cover for five seconds or longer. Grade: C-.

Punting/Kicking - Other than one short kickoff that UCLA’s top return man was able to get to, I can’t think of one thing that went wrong from a kicking or punting standpoint. Cameron Van Winkle was 3-for-3 on the night while Korey Durkee averaged nearly 48 yards on four punts, dropping one inside the 25 and generally making life difficult for Ishmael Adams who is one of the top return men in the entire country. Grade: A.

Coverage/Return Teams - Washington held Adams in check most of the night and it was nice to see John Ross return a kick 100 yards for a score and not have it called back by a penalty for once. The only problems I saw on the return units was the poor field position the first couple produced, putting the offense in a hole they struggled to get out of, but other than that, the coverage and the return units were pretty good on the night. Grade: B+.

Offensive Coaching - If it weren’t for the slow start, which no one seems to be able to explain, the Huskies had a pretty solid gameplan. They ran the ball relatively well and the receivers were open several times. A lot of the struggles remain along the offensive line, which is currently depleted with three starters out, but things seem to not be quite as out of sync as they did earlier in the year when the Huskies faced a good defense. Grade: C.

Defensive Coaching - Losing Kikaha hurt and the Huskies started three true freshmen in the secondary, so they opted to play a lot more zone than normal. That being said, when they had the chance to make plays (fumbled snap inside the 20 and near pick six), they just weren’t able to come up with the ball and that hurt their overall production. UCLA went for 478 yards and scored 44 points on the defense and they weren’t really put in bad field position much by the offense. Grade: C.

Overall Grade - Let’s face it, Washington is definitely a level or two below where UCLA currently resides. Brett Hundley is one of the top quarterbacks in the conference and when you go up and down the Husky roster, you might find two or three players who would play for the Bruins. Games like this are disappointing for a fan base which is tired of hearing the mantra of “wait until next year”, but if you take a step back, it shows you where the Dawgs need to be in order to put themselves into the conference title chase. Washington is definitely improving in certain areas, but they still have a ways to go in others. Considering the talent gap and the fact that the Huskies have quite a few injuries they are dealing with, this game was a good barometer for where the program currently resides. The Huskies have three more regular season games and a bowl game, hopefully, to get better and put their best foot forward heading into the offseason. Grade: C -.

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