First, let's accentuate the positives from this game. Number one, Washington has perhaps the best fullback in the conference in Zach Tuiasosopo. On Kenny James' decent runs, Zach flattened his man. On the bubble screen where they had him lined up as the third guy on the "bubble," he proved to be a dangerous receiver. On his 50+ yard run where the FSU linebacker ran himself out of the play before it started, he showed speed and wasn't caught until he had motored down the field quite a ways. Zach is the biggest weapon this team has, and he looks up to the task. He's improved his hands tremendously, he finishes his blocks, and he's a real leader in the huddle. Hats off to Manu and Tina's son.
Number two, the defense was marvelous. They played a very experienced FSU offense tough, holding the Bulldogs to just 11 first downs and only two decent runs, one being a quarterback scramble where a young Husky linebacker took a bad angle. It happens.
The defensive front four played pretty well. Manase Hopoi is much more comfortable on the inside, he really had a great game against an experienced line. This game was a terrific warm-up for the 290-pounder. He showed good quicks and the ability to get off blocks. I thought Mike Mapu played well for his first Pac-10 game. Those two got pretty high marks for what they showed me.
The linebackers were very active. The defense funneled everything to number 53, and Joseph Lobendahn didn't disappoint. He was everywhere and his reads were almost always correct. He and Evan Benjamin were outstanding. Evan looks very comfortable up near the line of scrimmage. The third linebacker, Scott White, has a good motor.
The secondary is as strong as they've been in years. The safety tandem of Dashon Goldson and Jimmy Newell were excellent, never out of position, and really knew how to get the most out of their schemes. Whether they were in cover-two or press, the safeties always looked like they were ready to take the best angle at the attack point. I loved it. Goldson has three years of playing center field for the Dawgs, and he's going to be a good one. I think he will wind up in the NFL, and he'll be able to provide the big hits that have been lacking since Hakim Akbar and Curtis Williams patrolled the back 40.
And how about the corners? Derrick Johnson was nearly flawless and Sam Cunningham was very steady. The pass interference penalty he was flagged for probably would've been not called if he could've turned back in time for the ball to arrive. He was in perfect position. He was also in good shape on the deep ball completed to Paul Williams (Curtis's brother). It was just a terrific play by both QB and WR, and Sam will learn from it. Still, he was in great shape and kept it from going the distance because he was right there.
I can't say enough nice things about the way the defense played.
On offense, Charles Frederick is a weapon that needs some help. FSU bracketed him all game so throwing deep to him would've been futile. With the slow delivery of the QBs, the best bet is to hit him in stride on underneath patterns, or any pattern where a corner isn't just sitting in a backpedal, waiting for the ball to be delivered.
How about Kenny James? Wow, that kid has instincts and quick hips. He runs tough, didn't put the ball on the ground, and his vision is fantastic. This kid can be trusted in any situation and although he's not a breakaway threat, he'll get you the tough yards between the tackles, and that wins ball games. He will make this offensive line look better.
And now the negatives. First, the place-kicking was a shock. The snaps were good, as were the holds, but the third piece of that equation, a confident and well-timed boot, was missing. Evan Knudsen lost his job by missing two very important field goals that may have changed the game. Maybe not, but a 13-0 Washington lead could've changed the way FSU called their game, as well as how the Husky offense ran. I'm not saying Isaiah Stanback wouldn't have thrown the gift pick, but you never know.
Obviously you have a quandary at quarterback. Casey looks like the better decision maker, but his deliveries look very deliberate and easy for a defensive back to read. The FSU corners learned early on that they didn't have to break out of their backpedals, thus allowing them to close on the ball very quickly because they were facing the QB when he threw the ball.
If Stanback is to be the quarterback, you can't ask him to throw a ball into traffic at all. He's not ready for that. If he is your guy, you freelance it more and let him make plays with his athleticism. He can hit a home run, but as you saw Saturday, he can also slice the ball out of bounds off of the tee.
Carl Bonnell has probably the most upside, but is he ready? He is probably ready to run part of the offense, but to beat UCLA the entire offense will be needed, so if he is to be the guy, don't make it happen until after San Jose State.
No matter how you add it up, Washington is in a situation where they can't ask the quarterback to win the games for you. Instead he must not lose them. On Saturday, two turnovers from that position in crucial times lost the game. The first pick, the one that the FSU defender called "a birthday present", Isaiah read blitz when it was really a zone. Ouch. The second gift was a botched fake handoff. That's sandlot stuff, which is unfortunately the chance you take when you play a young guy with the bullets live. The nice thing is that it wasn't a Pac-10 game, so the lesson, even though harsh, doesn't hurt as bad.
Washington is also missing two crucial ingredients on offense. They need to develop one of their young receivers into a consistent possession receiver that will take some heat off of ET. Whether it is Sonny Shackelford, Corey Williams, or Anthony Russo, someone needs to become dependable and to be able to get open no matter if it's a press or a zone. Someone strong enough to get off of a bump on the line but disciplined enough to not give away their cut and allow the defensive back to step in front.
And how bad did the Huskies miss Joe Toledo? A tight end can do so many things in terms of pulling linebackers out of the box and allowing the entire field to be stretched. Washington didn't establish the tight end at all on Sunday and that hurts a quarterback that doesn't have a quick release. To go over the top of a zone, you need a tight end to be able to stretch the middle, and it didn't happen much on Sunday.
On defense, although the unit played great, they could still use someone steady to line up next to Hopoi on the inside. They tried Milsten and Mateaki, and they were serviceable for game one. However, the guy that looked like he got the most penetration when he was in at that position was Jordan White-Frisbee. Watch for that. If he can develop into a consistent nose and allow Hopoi to create on the inside, this defense could be scary. The secondary looks beautiful, as already noted, and once linebacker Scott White learns the speed of the game, he's going to be great. He over-pursued on some plays, but young players will do that. You don't want them to play tentative, so you take your lumps now, encourage him to keep the motor on high, and just know that it will pay dividends later. You gotta love White's nose for the ball. I do. His instincts are terrific.
To wrap up, I think this team will beat UCLA in their next game. Kenny James should touch the ball 20-25 times if at all possible (IE: the Huskies don't fall in a hole early). Also, the quarterback should be Casey Paus, but he should only show option twice each half. He is not a threat to run, face facts. If the offense can get Tusi Sa'au healthy in the next two weeks, run Zach and Kenny behind him as much as you can. UCLA looked very vulnerable last weekend to that. Zach as a receiver is a nice look and helps pick up the slack for not finding the tight end open.
Isaiah should get some touches at quarterback as well, but only to give UCLA something else to worry about. He shouldn't be asked to win this game, but rather bring his athleticism into the offense and make UCLA defend another element.
Hugh Millen was asking how long you keep the "Isaiah at quarterback" experiment going. His quote of the day was, "No matter how sexy someone looks in a situation, if she keeps burning breakfast, she's not wife material."
I think Isaiah deserves a longer shot than he's had so far. I know, I know, it certainly is hard to not imagine how good he'd look with his 6-3 200 pound frame and 4.4 speed lined up opposite ET. But not yet. It's too soon.
Before I close, I want to point out what a veteran team FSU was. Clay Walker's three holding penalties are a good example. He was facing a great line and paid for it. Walker will learn from it. Vanneman got pushed backwards by this same great interior line, but he came away with some good lessons. And no injuries on the line are crucial to a big season, and Washington came away pretty much unscathed.
And last but not least, it was nice to see Brandon Ala get some heat on the quarterback. He needs to keep that motor running on high, but needs to keep his head up so if the quarterback ducks away or spins, he can react and not run himself out of the play. Still, it was great to see someone in the opposing backfield.
Just one man's opinion, we entertain all opinions as you know, so I'll look forward to reading yours on the message boards.