A surprising lull the first week.
A shocking dud the third week.
A resounding “We’re back!” last week.
After four games, the University of Washington has a 2-2 record. Don’t ring the alarm and declare the Huskies’ return to prominence complete, but they may be back on track for a bowl bid.
Home games on back-to-back weekends, starting Saturday against Arizona State, might go a long way in determining if the team is headed somewhere in late December or early January, or remaining in Montlake.
One-third through the season, here are our grades for the Huskies:
The luxury the Huskies were supposed to thoroughly enjoy was having a senior as signal-caller – Jake Locker.
His season has been up-and-down, to be polite. Perhaps at no other time in his UW tenure has the Ferndale product been as heavily criticized as he was after his 4-of-20 passing effort against Nebraska, which included two interceptions.
Currently, he is No. 9 in the Pacific-10 Conference in passing efficiency (129.0), and is completing 53.8 percent of his throws.
To prove that numbers sometimes don’t tell the story, at the top of that list is USC’s Matt Barkley (163.8). And after last week’s 32-31 Huskies’ victory over the Trojans, who clearly was the better quarterback on that field in Los Angeles?
Locker could be on the verge of turning around his season.
Chris Polk and Jesse Callier have formed a formidable tandem, in part because they do different things. Polk is a bull up the middle and offers better big-play potential, while Callier might be the faster player, good for getting to the edge for the offense.
Rushing offense (175.8 yards per game) ranks sixth in the conference, but that’s a by-product of the play-calling. Not their fault they sometimes get lost for long stretches.
Lakes High’s Jermaine Kearse leads the league in receiving, averaging 107.5 yards a game. He is on pace to become the team’s first player to lead the Pac-10 since Reggie Williams’ school-record 1,454 yards in 2002.
Devin Aguilar has been dependable, too, but the offense has very little tight-end presence, and sophomore James Johnson has yet to make a dent in opposing defenses because of a training-camp ankle injury.
With all the reconfiguring and personnel switching, the unit has done one thing pretty well – protect Locker in the passing game. The quarterback has been sacked just three times.
Yet, time after time, UW coach Steve Sarkisian has pointed to protection breakdowns in his offensive line – enough that the team has inserted a little more bulk in true freshman Erik Kohler at left guard.
Still a work in progress.
With no presence on the edge, the Huskies have moved the quicker-stepping Cameron Elisara out to defensive end, switching with Everrette Thompson. Still, Elisara is not a natural pass rusher. On the other side, Talia Crichton seems to be a hit-or-miss adventure.
Only one of the defense’s eight sacks have come from an end (Crichton).
Alameda Ta’amu continues to fight double teams as the line’s only bona fide threat. Nobody seems to get off blocks very well.
What more can Mason Foster do from the outside? He leads the Pac-10 in tackles (48) and forced fumbles (two), and is easily the defense’s most reliable player. By season’s end, he could be the league’s most valuable defensive player.
Too bad there is only one of him. Middle linebacker Cort Dennison is a natural communicator who sometimes does not stand up physically. Depth is an obvious concern.
For the most part, it has held its own. To create secondary pressure on opposing backfields, UW defensive coordinator Nick Holt has dialed up blitzes by his defensive backs, leaving Desmond Trufant and his cornerback counterparts on their own against receivers.
The secondary has given up only one pass play to a wide receiver of 40 or more yards – Nebraska’s Brandon Kinnie (55 yards) – and has eight pass breakups, though only one interception by reserve Gregory Ducre.
Coverage units are showing small signs of figuring out how to keep returners in check, so they won’t automatically reach the UW 40-yard line.
Erik Folk (7-for-7 on field goals) has been as automatic as they come, one of three Pac-10 kickers not to miss an attempt. Punter Kiel Rasp is becoming more reliable with each passing day.
Fullback Zach Fogerson dinged up his left arm, had it wrapped up and left practice midway through. Sarkisian said X-rays were negative for fractures. … Starting left guard Erik Kohler (flu) was not at practice. Gregory Christine got the majority of snaps with the No. 1 offense. … Inflammation limits tight end Michael Hartvigson (shoulder) to no-contact drills. … Coming off a USC game in which he was in for eight plays, wide receiver James Johnson will continue to play sparingly – 15 to 25 plays, Sarkisian said Cody Bruns and D’Andre Goodwin have the advantage.
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 email@example.com
Arizona State’s Vontaze Burfict will not start against UW. Find out why at blog. thenewstribune.com/uwsports.