Game Analysis - Cactus Bowl

Here's our view on what went right, what went wrong and some areas to focus on as the Huskies head into the offseason with a 30-22 loss to Oklahoma State in the Cactus Bowl...

Turning Point/Play of the Game: With Oklahoma State leading 30-22 and about 2:30 remaining on the clock, the Cowboys faced a 3rd-and-2 from their own 35. In came DT James Castleman who had scored the first touchdown of the night. The 6’2”, 300 pound senior motioned from left to right across the formation and appeared as if he would be used as a lead blocker for RB Desmond Roland. However, instead of running the ball, the Cowboys opted to pass and freshman QB Mason Rudolph found Castleman open in the flat for the first down. Instead of tackling him, several Huskies bounced off of the huge man with the ball in his hands and he rumbled 48 yards to the Washington 17 where they were able to run the clock down to :43 seconds before handing the ball back to Washington after missing a field goal.

Offensive Player of the Game: WR Jaydon Mickens had one of his best nights as a Husky. Sure, he’s had better nights statistically, but it was the way he made plays and helped keep drives alive that really helped set a tone for the Husky offense in the second half. Mickens finished the night with seven receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown and he also went 31 yards for a touchdown on a perfectly executed reverse early in the third quarter.

Defensive Player of the Game: No one distinguished himself. Sure, a couple of players had big tackle numbers, but there were so many missed tackles and blown assignments that we’re not going to choose anyone here.

Handouts to the standouts: So nice to see Kasen Williams end his Husky career on a high note. The senior wideout made several spectacular catches on the night and finished with five receptions for 73 yards; John Ross really struggled in coverage and he also made several bad decisions on kick returns, however, his 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown gave the Huskies new life and showed why he’s one of the deadliest return men in the country; Budda Baker made a huge mistake not warning John Timu about a short punt that ended up bouncing off the senior linebacker and into the arms of the Oklahoma State long snapper, but he did finish with four tackles and his first interception of the season, a nifty one-hander that showed his outstanding ball skills; Sidney Jones looked solid outside and almost came up with a huge interception late in the third quarter; Shaq Thompson filled up the stat sheet with 10 tackles, but the cast on his left arm really hampered him and caused him to miss some tackles he usually makes.

Stat of the game: A couple of stats that stick out include OSU’s 293 total yards to Washington’s 113 at the half as well as Washington winding up with zero points on two turnovers that both resulted in possessions starting inside Oklahoma State territory.

Needs work: Tackling was a huge problem, but even worse was how flat the team came out of the lock room to start the game. Contrast that with how they played in the second half and the Huskies win this thing going away, but heading into the locker room down 24-0 at half time, the Huskies needed to play a near-perfect half and, while they came close, it wasn’t good enough.

Bottom line: For all of the momentum the Huskies had after the Apple Cup win to end the regular season, they lost quite a bit of it in the bowl loss to Oklahoma State. On paper, the Huskies were the better team. Their offense was gelling, the defense was one of the best Washington has put on the field in years and they featured three All-Americans who had monster seasons. The problem, as noted above, was the fact that UW came out flat and gave Oklahoma State a lot of confidence early on. The one constant for most of the season has been the play of the defense and they definitely had their struggles, but the offense needs to be better than they have been. The offseason will be all about finding players to step up for the players they are losing and continue the process of getting the team to buy into the program that Chris Petersen and the staff are implementing. It’s going to be a long eight months for Husky nation, but there are definitely some things to be hopeful about and spring ball is only three months away. Top Stories