UW/Washington State Game - Position Grades

Rivalry games are always a tossup, however, the Huskies parlayed a great defensive effort into one of the most lop-sided Apple Cups in over a decade as they downed Washington State by a score of 31-13. Here's a look at each position group and how they performed in the final game of the regular season...

Quarterbacks - Jonathan Smith showed a lot of confidence in Cyler Miles, throwing the ball 41 times, with 39 of those attempts coming from Miles. For the most part, the third year signal-caller made good decisions. He stood tall in the pocket, picked the right times to run and he protected the ball well aside from a throw that was a tad behind Jaydon Mickens that eventually was picked off. Grade: B.

Running Backs - On the face of it, the running game looks like it got going pretty well – 37 carries for 188 yards (5.1 avg) and two scores. However, a closer look reveals that the Huskies got two long runs from Dwayne Washington – TD runs of 51 and 60 yards – and that means that the other 35 carries resulted in just a 2.2 yard average. Lavon Coleman was inconsistent in his decision-making and was stopped for negative yardage or short yardage several times when a better decision appeared as if it would yield a longer gain. You can’t totally discount the two big runs because they were backbreakers for the Cougars’ defense, but in order to be successful against good teams, you have to be more consistent in the running game. Grade: C+.

Wide Receivers - The receivers blocked pretty well and when the ball hit them in the hands, they generally came down with the ball although they did have a few drops. They certainly didn’t have the dropsies like the Cougar receivers who had at least eight drops. Kasen Williams again saw some targets and made the most of the opportunities he was given although he did drop a touchdown pass that he was held on. The Huskies ended up settling for a field goal when they could easily have been up four more points. Grade: B+.

Tight Ends - Smith has been saying for a while that the Huskies want to continue to integrate Joshua Perkins into the Husky offense and we saw that trend continue with the junior hauling in three receptions for 51 yards as well as the final Washington touchdown. Michael Hartvigson also had a big reception that went for a first down, extending a drive. Blocking was so-so, but for the most part they held their own. Grade: B+.

Offensive Line - Washington State has a big defensive line and because the Huskies didn’t throw the ball down the field much, the Cougars stacked the box which made it tough sledding as far as running the ball was concerned. The offensive line did pretty well in keeping the WSU pass-rushers at bay, allowing just one sack while Washington dropped back to throw 46 times. It was nice to see Ben Riva get some reps at right tackle and I thought this was one of Micah Hatchie’s best games of the season. Overall this was a good, not great, effort by the offensive line, but there is still a lot or room for improvement. Grade: B.

Defensive Line - The Husky defensive line was probably the biggest reason the Huskies were able to shut the Cougars out for three quarters. Evan Hudson had a monster game while Andrew Hudson, Danny Shelton and Hau’oli Kikaha were their typical disruptive selves. The play of the front four is a big reason the Huskies didn’t need to blitz much and that allowed them to drop seven and sometimes eight into coverage. Joe Mathis continues to be a nice presence off the bench while Taniela Tupou and Elijah Qualls both looked good in relief appearances as well. Grade: A.

Linebackers - The starters – Honestly, there wasn’t a lot for the linebackers to do in this game. The Huskies rarely blitzed and a lot of the time, John Timu, Travis Feeney and Shaq Thompson were dropping back into coverage. Grade: B.

Defensive Backs - With a prolific passing offense like Washington State’s, the assumption was that the young Husky secondary would really struggle to keep up. That’s what makes the final results even more impressive. Vince Mayle, a record-setter outside for the Cougs had one of his worst games and the Huskies did a great job of shutting down most of the short, dink and dunk routes that are so prevalent in Mike Leach’s offense. Budda Baker forced a huge turnover on the turning point play of the night while Kevin King and John Ross were also opportunistic, hauling in interceptions of their own. Grade: A-.

Punting/Kicking - Cameron Van Winkle hit his only attempt – an 18-yarder – while also hitting all four of his extra points. Tristan Vizcaino ended up with two touchbacks, but he did kick the ball out of bounds late in the game, giving WSU good field position late in the game, setting up their first score. Korey Durkee continued his solid punting, averaging over 43 yards per punt while hitting two over 50 yards and dropping all four inside the 20. Grade: A-.

Coverage/Return Teams - Azeem Victor got a 15-yard penalty on the opening kickoff, hitting the Cougars’ return man who had kneeled down for a touchback. The redshirt freshman recovered though and he wound up making several big hits on kick returns. There were no punt returns and while a lot of that can be attributed to Durkee’s outstanding punts, the coverage units also had a hand in forcing fair catches and downing the ball inside the 20. Grade: A.

Offensive Coaching - So, were the 41 pass attempts a result of Smith’s growing confidence in Miles or was it because of Washington State piss poor pass defense. Probably a little bit of both. The Huskies were balanced offensively and the two big runs by Washington were backbreakers for the Cougars. Overall this was a solid night from an offensive coaching standpoint, playing things relatively conservatively as their lead grew larger, allowing the Huskies to milk the clock and impose their will upon the Cougars’ defense. Grade: B+.

Defensive Coaching - The Huskies got a great push up front from their senior-laden defensive line and that allowed Pete Kwiatkowski to call a relatively vanilla defensive game. The entire defensive staff has done a great job with their side of the ball and Jimmy Lake definitely has to get consideration for assistant coach of the year with the way he’s gotten his youngsters to play in the secondary. Grade: A.

Overall Grade - What a great way to close out the regular season. The Huskies dominated the Cougars on the road, imposing their will on their cross-state rivals pretty much from the start of the game. They didn’t get too sophisticated or tricky, choosing to just let their offense grind things out while making things very difficult on the WSU offense with a great pass-rush and opportunistic plays in the secondary. The team is definitely improving and seems to be coming together as they head into bowl preparations and they definitely look like they are building momentum as recruiting will really start to hit its stride over the next few weeks. Grade: A-.

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