The Huskies won 44-27 on Saturday evening, but don’t let the score fool you. It was 37-0 after three quarters, climbing to 44-6 before a TON of Garbage Time points (against the Huskies’ backup defense) made the game look a lot closer than it was.
You really can’t say enough about, well, the starting defense at least. We had five sacks and seven tackles for loss. Zion Tupuola-Fetui had two more sacks to lead the way, Ryan Bowman had a sack, Edefuan Ulofoshio had a sack and five tackles from the linebacker spot. Elijah Molden had another strong game in coverage. Indeed, the defensive backs across the board had a fantastic night; they were as sticky as ever! The Arizona quarterback, Grant Gunnell, had – by the second half – the most despondent look I’ve ever seen on an opposing quarterback. He was getting beaten up in the pocket, he couldn’t find anyone even remotely open, and it looked like he wanted to give up and hide under a rock until the game ended. It’s to his credit that he was able to hang in there and rack up some cheap stats at the end; he finished with 259 yards passing on 27/39 with 3 touchdowns.
However, I went through and did the math: from the point where Arizona got the ball with less than a minute left in the third quarter, through the end of the game, when they scored all of their points, Gunnell was 17/23 for 219 yards. Meaning, when the game mattered most (for almost three entire quarters), he was 10/16 for 40 yards. At that point, you can kind of understand why this defense might have an opposing quarterback whimpering like a child whose sandcastle was just kicked over by a local bully.
Offensively, the Huskies absolutely steamrolled over Arizona’s defense. Dylan Morris came out firing early in the first half, ultimately throwing for 230 yards on 15/25 passing, with 2 TD’s. With such a huge lead to play with, once again Morris wasn’t asked to do a whole lot. But, I thought he looked a lot more comfortable back there. His accuracy in the short-to-intermediate range is tremendous! He’s making lots of smart decisions on when to run and when to hang in there and take a hit as he’s throwing the ball. If anything, his long-ball accuracy leaves a little to be desired (he was long on most of them, then seemed to try to over-correct and came up short, allowing those passes to be knocked away), but this is a minor quibble. I’m liking most of what I’m seeing from Morris; he’s certainly exceeded my expectations through two games.
Of course, the run game was just as elite as it was last week. As a team, the Huskies ended up running it 45 times for 233 yards and 4 touchdowns. For those keeping track, that’s a two-game total of exactly 500 yards on 96 carries (5.21 yards per carry average) with 7 touchdowns; that’s pretty insane! Richard Newton led the way with 81 yards on 8 carries (bolstered by a late 54-yard TD), but it was a team effort, with a committee of four backs sharing the ball pretty evenly. This is a DOMINANT running team, and a force to be reckoned with the rest of the way.
Before moving on, I would be remiss if I didn’t shout out some receivers. Tight end Cade Otton led the way with 7 catches for 100 yards and a TD. Puka Nacua had only 1 catch, but it went for 65 yards and a TD (the breakaway speed on that kid is top notch; I’d love to see him get the ball in space more often and see what he can do with yards after catch). Ty Jones had 2 catches for 33 yards and Terrell Bynum had 1 for 20 and another rush for 13 more yards. There were a few more drops though, that would have me pulling my hair out if I had any on my head. That needs to stop, posthaste!
There’s some bad news for all of you post-Thanksgiving Apple Cup fans: the Cougs apparently have too many COVID cases and thus not only had their game this past weekend canceled, but are also on the shelf for this Friday night’s would-be Apple Cup. That doesn’t mean there definitely won’t be an Apple Cup this season (the last year we didn’t have one was 1944); if things shake out as expected (i.e. more games get canceled due to COVID), the conference will be all too happy to reschedule it later this season. Indeed, it’s been bandied about that should the Huskies not be playing for the conference title in mid-December, the game could be shifted to that weekend, as opposed to playing whatever Pac-12 South team we would’ve played.
That leads to what will happen for the Huskies THIS weekend. There was chatter yesterday that we might get to play undefeated BYU (so, you know, it wouldn’t be the Apple Cup, but we’d still get to play the Cougars). I find this SO entertaining; there are rumors all over the map. Some outlets are saying that BYU is afraid to play a team as good as UW because they’re 9-0 and therefore in the hunt for a playoff spot. This is the first week where the College Football Playoff rankings come out, and some are saying BYU wanted to see where they stood first before agreeing to play the Huskies. Obviously, if they’re not in (or near) the top four when those rankings are released, they’ll absolutely want to play the Huskies to bolster their resume! But, if things are looking good for them, why would you risk a defeat and blow your chances?
Of course, on the BYU side, they’re officially saying all the right things. They apparently want this game against UW locked down sooner rather than later, but the Pac-12 has a rule saying we have to wait until Thursday, just in case any other Pac-12 teams have their games canceled because of an opposing COVID outbreak. Which, unfortunately, seems like it’s going to be the case.
I read, as of last night, that the Huskies are preparing to play Utah this week. The Utes are 0-1 so far, with two canceled games (they lost at home to USC this past weekend, and didn’t look particularly good doing it). Utah is scheduled to play Arizona State this weekend, but it sounds like the Sun Devils – whose last two games have been canceled – are not out of the woods of their own outbreak. Beggars can’t be choosers and all of that, but if I had my druthers I’d rather play BYU.
The Huskies didn’t quite get into the Top 25 this week, but from the “Others Receiving Votes” category, we received the most (meaning we’re effectively 26th in the AP rankings, and 29th in the Coaches Poll). So, a BYU game (8th in both polls) would’ve been HUGE from a national perspective. At this point, only Oregon (9th in the AP, 11th in Coaches) and USC (19th in the AP, 18th in Coaches) are ranked from the Pac-12. No one else is really even on the radar (though Colorado, like Washington, is 2-0). From what I’ve seen, the Pac-12 just doesn’t look great. USC is LUCKY to be 3-0 at this point, and only looked good this past weekend against Utah. Oregon struggled at home against UCLA. Cal has looked atrocious (even losing to the Beavs this past weekend). Stanford has yet to win a game. And ASU is about to have their third game taken away because of the pandemic.
Honestly, it feels like the top two teams in the conference are Oregon and Washington, which is a blessing and a curse. The Ducks should have no trouble going undefeated heading into our showdown on December 12th, and the more I’m seeing from the Huskies, the more I’m expecting us to do the same. The shame of it all is we’re still unranked; I was REALLY hoping we’d be in the Top 25 after killing the Wildcats (maybe a byproduct of how close the score ended up looking; if we’d beaten them 51-0, we might be in there right now). I know for a fact if we went on the road and escaped BYU with a victory, we’d jump right in there (and probably leapfrog USC in the process). At that point, going undefeated and winning in Oregon still might not make a difference, but it would be cool to whiff the Top 10, even in a wacky season like this one.
Regardless of who the Huskies play this weekend, there’s no doubt in my mind this is a great football team. It makes me long for what we could’ve done in a COVID-free universe, where we got to play our original schedule. Leading off with a win over the hapless Michigan Wolverines would’ve been VERY sweet, I can tell you that much.