Just about to get on a plane home to Seattle, but first, let’s get to our day-after review of the Huskies’ 35-28 overtime victory over Arizona.
Here are a few quick links to get you started:
--- The Huskies say they’re better than what they showed in Tucson on Saturday night, but they were happy to depart with a 4-0 record.
--- The Huskies stayed put at No. 9 in the USA Today coaches poll. The AP top 25 won’t be out until about 11 a.m.
--- And some additional quotes from several Arizona players and Jake Browning, John Ross, Kevin King and Lavon Coleman.
Here are some video highlights from the Pac-12 Networks:
And the audio highlights from play-by-play man Bob Rondeau:
1. Lavon Coleman, and the running game overall.
This was, by far, the fourth-year junior’s best game as a Husky. He rushed for 181 yards on 11 carries, including the big 55-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, a 44-yard run earlier in the game and a 24-yard run on the first play of overtime to set the Huskies up for a score three plays later. At several key junctures, Coleman made big-time plays when it seemed nobody else could.
It’s easy to forget that Coleman actually led the Huskies in carries as a redshirt freshman in 2014, before taking a backseat last season to Myles Gaskin and Dwayne Washington. But Coleman appears to have worked his way back into favor, and made the most of his carries on Saturday. His 11 rush attempts were the most he’s had in a game since Nov. 22, 2014 at Oregon State.
“Start with the o-line. Some of those plays were blocked very, very clean,” UW coach Chris Petersen said. “He’s a guy that his skillset is line him up deep, behind the quarterback, put the quarterback under center and hand him the ball. That’s when he’s at his best. He’s a downhill runner. His vision looked good. He’ll break arm tackles. We’re proud of how he ran.”
Said Coleman: “It felt great to play how we did and how good the offensive line blocked. The plays that everybody made were good. It’s a great win and a good thing to learn on. The aspirations we have for this team, the goal is that we want to take our time to develop when we get back to practice on Monday.”
UW also simply ran the ball well as a team, totaling 352 yards on 51 rushes. Gaskin had 85 yards on 24 carries, and while sophomore Jake Browning was sacked four times for a loss of 20 yards, his scrambles and designed runs (yes, there were two of those, including a 3-yard touchdown) totaled 48 yards on seven attempts. And the Huskies now rank 21st nationally in yards per rush at 5.36.
“Seattle media has been freaking out about our run game,” Browning said wryly afterward, “so I think we feel pretty good about it now.”
2. Things got difficult, and the Huskies still won.
Maybe it was good, in a way, that this victory didn’t come as easily as the first three. Sure, the Huskies would have liked to steamroll the Wildcats the way they did Rutgers, Idaho and Portland State. But with Stanford looming on Friday, it might not be such a bad thing that UW had to deal with a little frustration before taking on the Cardinal.
Petersen seemed to think so.
“We just really wanted to go through something that was going to be hard,” Petersen said, “and I think teams can get confidence from going through things that are hard, and they respond when it’s not going like it should, and when it’s frustrating, because those things are frustrating.”
That frustration didn’t seem to prevent the Huskies from enjoying what turned out to be a hard-fought victory.
“That is what we came here to do,” said senior cornerback Kevin King. “We didn’t come here to play two quarters and leave. Those are stressful, but those are the games you really wait for, and the games you really want. Those four-quarter fighting games, those are the games you always remember.
“You don’t remember the blowout; you don’t really learn as much from that. We are going to learn from this game. We appreciate these victories a lot, a lot more than regular ones.”
Said Browning: “I just kept thinking, how many of those did we lose last year? We were so close to getting over the hump and winning the game. For me personally, that was big time, being able to go into overtime and execute. I thought we ran the hell out of the ball, and it was really good. We just have to get better in the red zone.”
3. The defense forced key turnovers.
This certainly was not Washington’s finest defensive game, and we’ll get to that shortly. But despite all the yards the Huskies allowed, they forced three Arizona turnovers and committed only one.
The first two came in the final five minutes of the second half – first an interception by King, then a fumble forced by Darren Gardenhire and recovered by Jordan Miller on an Arizona punt return. The third, a fumble by Arizona’s Tyrell Johnson that Azeem Victor forced and Keishawn Bierria recovered, also did not result in points, as Cameron Van Winkle followed it with a missed 40-yard field goal.
But the turnovers were still significant: the first two kept Arizona from having a chance to take a lead into halftime, which, in hindsight, might have been a significant development.
1. The run defense.
If there was one area it seemed UW had a distinct advantage heading into the game, it was its run defense; the Huskies had allowed only 2.1 yards per rush to their first three opponents, and their massive defensive line seemed to pose a challenge to the Wildcats.
But Arizona showed quickly that wouldn’t be the case, slashing its way down the field for a touchdown on its opening drive before nearly doing the same on the following possession.
UW adjusted and defended the run better in the second half, particularly in a third quarter in which it allowed just 12 yards total. But quarterback Brandon Dawkins was a problem all game, finishing with 176 yards rushing on 13 attempts, including a 79-yard touchdown run and a 56-yard jaunt that set up Arizona’s game-tying touchdown with 17 seconds left.
Freshman running back J.J. Taylor also proved difficult to tackle, finishing with 97 yards on 19 carries before suffering a broken ankle in the third quarter. Arizona finished with 308 yards rushing and 7.2 yards per carry.
Washington isn’t likely to face another quarterback as fast or elusive as Dawkins, but I think most still expected a better showing against the run in this game.
“Those guys run inside zone a million times, and they’re very good at it, and those backs can find those creases,” Petersen said. “Sometimes it takes a minute for those d-linemen to fit those blocks and figure out how to get off of them and the linebackers to see things.”
2. Squandered chances to take control of the game.
Considering how many there were, this might be the shortcoming that UW finds most frustrating – and that was a word Petersen used quite a bit when discussing the game afterward.
The Huskies missed two makeable field goals – one from 45 yards at the end of the first half, another from 40 yards in the fourth quarter – they were stuffed on 4th-and-1 during a promising drive in Arizona territory, Jake Browning threw an interception at Arizona’s 1-yard line, and after Lavon Coleman gave UW a 28-21 lead with a 55-yard touchdown run with 3:15 to play, the Huskies couldn’t prevent a sophomore quarterback making his third career start from leading his team to a game-tying touchdown.
“There was a lot of frustration that we can be better than that in some areas,” Petersen said.
One of those, surely, is the kicking game, where the typically reliable Van Winkle missed both of his field-goal tries.
“He missed two, and one was off the (upright),” Petersen said. “We get knocked back in the red zone. I don’t know how far those field goals were (45 and 40 yards), but those things happen. He’s a good kicker, and the ball jumps off his foot pretty good. He’ll be back.”
3. A short week to prepare for Stanford.
This isn’t the Huskies’ fault, of course, but the schedule-makers did them no favors this week. They arrived back in Seattle just before 4 a.m. Sunday, and obviously have to prepare for a 6 p.m. Friday kickoff against the nation’s 7th-ranked team.
Petersen said the coaching staff has been planning UW’s practice schedule “for three weeks” in order to accommodate not just the Friday kickoff, but the beginning of fall quarter classes on Wednesday.
“This is really hard, playing this game on a Friday against this really good team, school starting,” Petersen said. “We’ve had to do a bunch of different things, move practice times around. But we’ve worked on it for three weeks and we think we’ve got a good plan to give us a chance to compete on a short week.”